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Starting over

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Reinvention

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Every time there is a major shift in our lives, and in the past couple years since I was regularly posting here on Montana Ranch Girl there have been a few, we have to take control of who we will choose to be because of the shifts.  Change means reinvention.

I think myself, as well as many of us, struggle with embracing change. And it seems like the more I resist the roller coaster of change in my life, that the more change comes my way.

Dramatic changes bring with them fear, loneliness, and anxiety. While we cope the best and the only way we know how, we often isolate ourselves, when what we really need most is to be embraced by others.

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Me at chemo.

 

When first diagnosed with cancer, for the longest time, I refused to believe that change was in the realm of possibility. I’ve since learned that change can happen quickly and at any point, especially when it’s not convenient. Before cancer everything in my life seemed to be just about perfect and I couldn’t accept that my life soon could and would be very different.  I had to learn that acknowledging change is allowing it to happen as it unfolds instead of approaching it from a place of fight or flight, either through denial or resistance.

Like most adults I’ve reinvented myself several times before.  I’ve never been happy waiting for my future to find me.  But after cancer I had forgotten that I had to choose reinvention.

I finished chemo in January of 2014 and radiation in March and was supposed to take a pill form of chemo until September.  The pill form of chemo created other health issues, including severe blood clots and cysts.  After getting a second opinion from a dear friend of mine who happens to be an oncologist, I went against my oncologist wishes and stopped taking the drug in July.

 

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My beloved Zoey died of cancer June 16, 2014

 

My treatments put my mind in a chemical haze making it hard to write or string sentences together.  Physically depleted I could not go back to work at the ranch so I took a job in town that made me miserable.

And then I turned 40.  I didn’t take this birthday gracefully.  I was certainly not where I wanted to be in my life at this age.

I quit my job in town and went back to work at the ranch, but still had this nagging feeling that I was not reaching my full potential and physically no longer wanted to work so hard.

Another year goes by and I’m still waiting for my future to find me, lost in my own grief, loss, confusion, and sadness.  And then after a particularly stressful spring and fall here at the ranch we had a devastating hay fire.

 

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Hay fire

 

It was literally a baptism by fire, I had my first panic attack and realized my life had to change and change now!  I realized that I was having so much trouble moving forward because I had no idea what it was that I wanted to move towards.  I was thinking about my past, but not what I wanted for my future.

“You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” ~C. S. Lewis

I started a new business, Agri-Marketing Solutions and started working in the office at the ranch.  And what I’m really excited to announce is that I am now launching a second business Cowgirl Grit and Grace and future blog posts can be seen there.

Please bare with me, the website is not yet complete, but I promised you, my readers, that I would make this announcement this week, and it’s the last day of the week.

Reinvention is neither easy nor always smooth.  We often encounter resistance from those around us who can’t see us in new roles.  And resistance from ourselves, it’s often hard to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable, even when those things cause us pain.  We often struggle with limiting beliefs or stories about ourselves that hold us back from trying new things.

But, as John Wayne said, “courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”  I hope you choose courage instead of letting your fear choose your future for you.

 

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Mark and I were married January 15, 2015

 

Stay Tuned

I know it’s been forever since I’ve last posted. It’s been a period of healing from cancer, redefining and reinventing myself and getting new projects off the ground, including one of my new businesses Agri-Marketing Solutions. Another of which, that I’m even more excited  about, my new website, should be ready to launch next week with a new blog post here at Montana Ranch Girl.  I greatly appreciate all my readers and hope that next week’s post will encourage you to reinvent yourself to create the life of your dreams.

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Authenticity in a Styrofoam Head Life

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I ordered my wigs before I lost my hair, with the attitude that it would be fun to try something new.  With different styles and colors, I could choose a different wig for whatever mood I was in that day.  Who knows, maybe even after cancer there may be an occasion where I want to be a sultry flaming red head.   

ImageI ordered three different wigs, two cheaper ones, a red one named Sugar Rush and brunette one named Cosabella and a more expensive blonde wig called the Scene Stealer.  I even considered ordering a blue one in a bobbed hairstyle just for fun called the Go, Go Girl.

ImageBut wearing them out in public made me feel as though I was dressing up for Halloween.  It was just as if I was wearing a rainbow colored clown wig or an Orphan Annie wig.  And physically it felt like I was wearing a mop on my head, hot, and itchy and after chemo my hair literally hurt for several days just before more of it fell out.

A few days after shaving my head we made a trip to Montana give a Precision Planting clinic.  It was my first trip off the ranch to be seen by the rest of the world without my hair and I was so excited about the opportunity the trip gave me to reconnect with one of my best friends. 

Our first night in Billings we were to have dinner with clients and I decided to don the brunette Cosabella for the occasion.  I was so uncomfortable in it that I would fidget with it creating tangles in its nylon threads and had to get up and use the restroom several times to make sure it hadn’t slipped out of place or to make sure it didn’t look like I was wearing a wig.  Each time I looked in the mirror I wondered, “Who is this person?”  I was so used to seeing the same girl staring back at me each day and it was still a shock to not recognize myself.  I ended up leaving the dinner early to go back to my hotel room with my confidence shot.

ImageTo me my hair had been a defining feature, something I considered central to my identity and a symbol of femininity that was important to me working in a career field with mostly men.  And it was finally one of the few things about my looks that I liked and was confident about. Loosing my hair was a reminder that my cancer was real and my otherwise very healthy body was sick.

Not to mention I have this huge scar across my scalp from “inappropriately” playing on the beach in California.  Normally I am proud of my scars, to me they are proof that I have taken a risk, taken a chance to fully live life, even if it at the time it was a stupid thing to do.  But they certainly weren’t beauty marks.

ImageI purchased the wigs or ‘cranial prosthesis’ so that I wouldn’t be cancer identified because often cancer patients are made to feel it’s socially inappropriate to be a cancer patient.  You certainly don’t see many out and about donning a bald head.  We are expected to file away the reality of the situation  in some far-off emotional safe so that others can feel comfortable. 

When you tell people you have cancer everyone who loves you is freaked out.  Friendships shift.  Family roles and dynamics change.  You find out pretty quickly who you can really count on and who you can’t.  True colors begin to appear like a neon sign.

It has been extremely interesting to me to see how others react to the news.

People’s body language reveals a lot about our society’s preconceived prejudices about cancer.  You’re often treated like you have a scarlet letter C pinned to your chest. 

I was surprised by how many people needed me to make them feel better about my cancer.  I found myself comforting friends and loved ones as they processed my news which has been a good lesson to me in setting boundaries. 

For one family member it has brought up unresolved issues from their cancer treatment that often get projected onto me.  I read in one of my cancer books that “cancer patients go through the same post-traumatic stress disorder as soldiers or rape victims.  Cancer as trauma is multifaceted, includes multiple events that can cause distress, and like combat, is often characterized by extended duration with a potential for recurrence and a varying immediacy of life-threat. (Smith 1999)”

Yet, no two cancers are the same, and neither are the experiences that surround them or how we each as individuals choose to deal with them.

The worst is when others made my cancer all about themselves.  I wonder sometimes at the human urge to attack the vulnerable in order to make themselves feel better about themselves.  These people like to decide who deserves their own pain, who is owed their own suffering and are just emotional vampires.

Cancer is not a punishment because of my previous wild and crazy ways.  It’s not a disgrace.  It isn’t a curse passed down through generations.  There is nothing taboo about it and it certainly isn’t contagious.

Then there are those who I know have good intentions but come across as patronizingly pitying you. Don’t say things like oh, you poor thing.  Don’t pity me or tell me you know how I feel.  I am not a victim I am a survivor and I certainly don’t pity myself and you have no clue how I feel, nor do I expect you to. 

One of my greatest supporters has been my 18 year-old son.  When I spoke to him about shaving my head he said, “I have no doubt mom, that you of all people can rock your bald head.”  He never fails to remind me of who I truly am!

So day two of our Montana trip on our way to Ft. Benton, I made sure we stopped at one of my favorite western wear stores in Harrlowton, Ray’s.  There I purchased a new silk wild rag and a new raspberry Stormy Cromer, determined to embrace my chemo baldness with a sense of adventure and pride, cowgirl style.  And in some small way it was an empowering choice to reinvent myself.  It was one small thing I could do to prove to myself that cancer wouldn’t consume my life and hold me back.

ImageI was shocked by the overwhelmingly positive response I got that night wearing the new wild rag, especially since I had been so consumed with anxiety and fear about losing my hair in the first place.  I was told by several people that night I was beautiful.  I was even hit on, and continue to get hit on every time we have gone out since, leading me to believe that our vulnerabilities and imperfections makes us even more approachable, more human.  I am beginning to learn that the most beautiful asset a woman can posses isn’t her hair, her breasts, or curvy figure, it’s truly her imperfections that make her unique.

ImageI have also learned that people will take your lead.  Most people take their cues from you.  When I walk into a room thinking yes, I have cancer, I’m a survivor and I’m fabulous, others have a tendency to treat me that way too.  If I deal with it well, so will they.  Which is pretty powerful and applicable to every other area of my life cancer or not.

It has also a powerful reinforcement about the importance of authenticity.

I’m not interested in engaging with the rest of the world or connecting with others on a superficial level.  Each of us wants and needs to be seen for our uniqueness, for our unique skills and talents as well as our pains and lessons learned and the expansive capacity we have for experiencing beauty and joy. 

Setting aside our roles, masks of personality and false fronts of always being okay, being emotionally congruent, genuine and telling the truth are major components of authenticity and integrity.

The greatest gift we can bring to any relationship is being just who we are.  Giving ourselves permission to just be who we are can also have a healing influence on our relationships.  When we relax and be ourselves, people often feel much better around us than when we are rigid, nervous, repressed and pretending to be something we aren’t.  Who we are is all we can be, it’s who we were intended to be, and has always been more than good enough!

I think there comes a time in everyone’s lives when it is more painful to not be yourself than it is to be fully yourself.  It is important that we become willing and ready to take the risk of being authentic, because in order to continue to grow and live with ourselves we realize we must liberate ourselves.  We have to stop allowing ourselves to be so controlled by others, their opinions and expectations and be true to ourselves, regardless of their reactions.

The relationships that end, would have ended anyway, the relationships that don’t are nurtured by our authenticity, and it is these people who love and respect us more for taking the risk of being who we truly are and this is where real connection and intimacy begin and where we find relationships that truly work.

While scary at times, it truly is empowering to feel what you feel, say what you want, be firm about your beliefs, and value what you need – to own your power to be fully yourself.

While I have yet to fully embrace my new Styrofoam headed life, I have certainly learned some valuable lessons and am truly coming into my own in the process.  Everything in life is a process.  Change takes time as well as kindness and self-compassion.  And who knows Halloween is just around the corner.  I’m thinking of going as Lady Godiva if I have to wear a wig.  Unfortunately in this neck of the woods they won’t let me ride my horse through the bar. 

Vanity

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I’ve never considered myself a vain person.  I’ve always been just as comfortable with myself covered in mud and manure as I have been dressed up.  But the day my hair started falling out in clumps by the handfuls from the chemo, I became vain.  Fortunately, it was also the day that two of my wigs came in the mail, and unfortunately they arrived alongside a copy of the French edition of Marie Claire, that I am featured in. 

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In June, before my cancer diagnosis, I was interviewed for an article on working cowgirls.  Reporter Catherine Castro and photographer Amelie Debray from Marie Claire magazine in Paris, France came to the ranch and spent three days with me.  We had 820 head of yearling heifers to work during their visit.  The first day it rained all day and I was a drowned rat.  The second day I went to work all dolled up, ready to be photographed and my horse and I went down in the feedlot slop five minutes into the day.  I was baptized by mud and manure. 

ImageI took great pride in not being vain.  With that many head of cows to work in two days you don’t go home and clean up, you cowgirl up and get the job done. 

The final day I got to truly be a model for a day.  I can honestly say I much prefer working cows!  I couldn’t believe how self conscious and insecure I became in front of the lens of the camera.  I kept thinking to myself that my tall, leggy, golden palomino Dutch Warmblood horse that the photographer choose for the shoot, is much sexier than me and much more of the taste of the Parisian women reading the magazine.  (Here is a link to the full article – http://www.mediafire.com/download/ru8vrkqhod2ilwk/Marie_Claire_article.pdf )

ImageI think we are all a little vain and all struggle with our body image at some point in life.  Why else would we worry so much about all our physical imperfections?  On some level it’s a measure of self worth to care how I present myself to the rest of the world, but it can become unhealthy when I start comparing myself to Victoria Secret models or the model on the cover of Marie Claire or even the readers of Marie Claire France. 

Especially as women it’s impossible in our culture not to learn the lessons beauty teaches us every day.  We’ve learned that the most beautiful women in the world are the most successful, they are the best.  The images on TV and in print media declare this is the American standard, this is what you should want to look like.  This is the ideal, which is why they can appear in public nearly naked, because they have nothing to hide, because their bodies are perfect.

In my naive way, I’ve always thought of vanity as the evil queen in Snow White, gazing into her mirror, desperate and willing to kill to be the most beautiful woman in the land.  To me vanity was not hating the cellulite on my ass and thighs or being bald and feeling worthless for being overweight or ugly.  Instead it was something sad and/or embarrassing for different reasons, because I couldn’t love and accept myself as I am.

ImageAfter a long conversation with one of my best friends, I cowgirled up and headed to the bathroom to shave my head.  As my long blonde hair fell to the floor, with the magazine in the other room with my photo across from a Prada ad mocking me, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  I was terrified of how others were going to react, especially terrified of how my fiancée would react.   Would he still want to marry me without hair?  Would he be so repulsed that he would no longer want to make love to me?  I had created a whole scenario in my head that was much worse than reality.  I let my mind wander down the path of self-obsession and the results were torturous.

ImageThen the following question popped into my head – Why do we look at ourselves through this distorted lens and focus on things that are truly unimportant, such as hair?

My hair doesn’t define who I am as a person, it does make me any more or any less of a person. But that didn’t help me feel much better.  I came to understand the behind out veils of vanity lies fear.  The fear of not measuring up to our own or other people’s standards.  The fear of when we are completely stripped down to the true essence of who we are as a human being that we may be unlovable.

I then realized that I didn’t feel insecure the first two days of being photographed for the magazine article.  I was happily doing the work I love, fully engrossed in my job, concerned more with my horse and the cows and getting to know Catherine and Amelie, who have become my friends, than I was of what anyone else thought of me. 

ImageWhen you are open to truly connecting to those around you (even if it’s a cow or a horse) and making this world better, you worry less about your hair or your cellulite, because you realize that what’s most important is truly seeing another as a human being, how we look or what size we are is truly insignificant.  It is from that place that we rise above the gossip, the comparisons and the fear.

ImageMaybe the most important lesson I am learning is that the remedy for insecurity is compassion, not only for others but first and foremost for yourself.

ImageI don’t want to look like a French Marie Claire model, it’s really hard to pull a calf, let alone saddle your own horse when you are rail thin with no muscle tone.  And maybe that is vanity, the seed of choice and personal preference.  My own stubborn personal preference for myself that gets a little stronger each day as I treat myself with compassion and clear away the self-hatred and self-doubt.  If I am vain, I choose this kind of vanity.  The kind that involves persistently, looking at myself with love and compassion, selfishly looking into the mirror until I can not only accept but love what I see.

Nietzsche said vanity is “the fear of appearing original: it is thus a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality.”

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Aftermath of Atlas

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As I headed south last week for my second round of chemo, a strange brew of love and sorrow flowed within me.  Love for the rural lifestyle I live and sorrow for the losses left in Atlas’s aftermath. The sunflower fields where I stopped and took photos in early September were absolutely decimated, fields of corn with thousands of dollars of crop sitting in them can’t be combined, yards and shelter belts looked like a tornado hit them; and then I got south of Hoover, SD and my heart truly broke open, tears rolled down my cheeks as I saw dead cows six to seven deep in the ditch, more dead cows than I could count in an icy grave of a stock dam, and then a dump truck pulled out on the highway in front of me full of dead stock and I had to pull over.

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We were fortunate and lost only a few head, and were out of power for 11 days, but thankfully had generators to weather the storm, so the true impact on South Dakota ranchers hadn’t really hit me until I saw it with my own eyes.

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I pulled into Rapid City, SD feeling emotionally raw like one of the down power lines snapped during the storm, lying exposed on the ground.  In town I set out to run some errands.  My first stop was the fabric store.  I choose several fabrics to make scarves for my now bald head.  While at the counter having my fabric cut, I began visiting with the woman cutting my fabric and another customer and her daughter.  We talked about what I had seen on my drive down as I tried not to burst into tears in the store and then our conversation turned to the topic of cancer.  The woman cutting my fabric shared with me and the other customer that her husband had cancer and he was losing his battle against it and that very soon they would be making a final trip to visit loved ones and say goodbye.  The other customer who was there shopping for material to make herself a Wonder Woman Halloween costume, then shared with us the scar across her neck from her battle with thyroid cancer that is non-curable.  She truly is a Wonder Woman.

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I was immediately touched by their stories and the courage it took them to be vulnerable enough with a complete stranger to share a part of themselves with me.  I was also painfully aware of the meagerness of my own perceptions of most people, how little of others souls I normally allow to touch my own, how important it is to see each other as human beings first, and how often I make judgments or assumptions about others that diminish their humanity.  I have been asleep to the truth of who others really are, sleepwalking through life in the smug complacency of daily living, dumb to the better dreams and goodwill of each person.

A lot of people are often in pain.  When you are healthy, you think cancer is so far away.  But when you get sick, you realize that it’s all around, you just have to open your eyes.  I think one of the lessons of tragedy is to feel compassion for one another. Tragedy also brings to the forefront what is truly important – how precious your life is, how lucky you are to be alive and how important it is to love one another, because in the end what matters most is how much we loved.

Tragedy also calls each of us to meet the bad in the world with the good in our own hearts.  One of the great things about being a part of a ranching community is that helping our neighbor is a way of life.  The out pour of support from other ranchers is phenomenal, with ranchers in other states donating heifers and large donations to the Ranchers Relief Fund.  It makes me proud to be a part of such an amazing community and I personally hope to be able to find a way to do the same for other cancer patients, because cancer isn’t about a diagnosis; it’s about what you do with it.

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Photo of sunflower fields taken in September.

Fall Blizzard!

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It’s being called one of the worst blizzards in South Dakota’s history.  Here at the ranch we received 24 inches of very wet snow, Rapid City, SD got 31 inches and Lead/Deadwood, SD a record 43.5 inches.  Here in the northwest corner of the state and other Black Hills communities, the storm caused collapsed roofs, damage to crops and livestock, extended power outages, and damage from felled trees.

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South of us in the heart of the storm, lost livestock, drifting with 60 mile per hour wind gusts and blinding snow, were driven with the storm, trailing over buried fence lines.  Those that made it through the blizzard, are still lost or stranded.  And reports of hundreds of head of livestock that didn’t make it, are being reported.

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We are still without power and days away from getting it.  There are reports of more than 1500 snapped power poles in our area alone.  Fortunately after two days without power we now have a generator.

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One of the endearing things about living in rural South Dakota is that in circumstances of extreme stress such as during natural disaster like winter storm Atlas, there are moving accounts of people going out of their way to help others.  It’s interesting to me how feeling vulnerable breaks down the walls we put up to keep others from getting too close and leads to greater generosity and helpfulness.

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Creative Limbo

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It’s now been almost a week since my first chemo treatment.  Today is the first day since my treatment that I am beginning to feel like myself again.  It’s been hard to not physically feel up to doing the things I love most, like help with the fall roundup and fall cow work.  Yet the last week has taught me that often doing nothing is more productive than spending a lot of time, energy and effort doing something that leads you in the wrong direction or is simply a distraction from being present and dealing with the one thing that you try hardest to avoid and dissociate from.  Creative indolence often leads to great innovation.  Some of our greatest mind have spent time in this very same place.  Einstein wrote that some of his greatest ideas came to him so suddenly while he was shaving that he would often cut himself by surprise.  He also said, “you can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created;”  and, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

fall-scene-cattle-drive1Isn’t the real reason we want to accomplish more in less time, because we have other things we want to do besides work; you know those other enjoyable activities that we keep putting off?  It seems to me that leads to truly an endless pursuit of happiness.  Or just happiness postponed rather than realized?

The real problem is that somewhere along the way we managed to confuse accomplishment with happiness.  Happiness started as the inspiration for achievement, but somehow things got reversed. Happiness became conditional. When being happy gets anchored in achievement, we can easily fall into the trap of projecting that happiness into the future. We put conditions on when we will allow ourselves to be happy.  Being more productive is great. Getting more done in less time really is a good thing. But those are not legitimate reasons for missing out on happiness now.

There is no inherent conflict between being happy and being productive. Actually, the two go together very nicely. The only danger lies in getting out of balance and obsessing over productivity.  There is a healthy sense of equilibrium between living in the present and planning for the future. We fall, when we lose our balance and allow the desire to accomplish more to become an obsession; when we allow ourselves to get so caught up in compulsive accomplishment that we forget who and what is really important to us right now. Make sure to take some time to enjoy your life in the present instead of waiting for someday, because all too often, someday never comes.

What is really behind our drive for increased productivity?  Are we afraid we have no worth or value or worth if we are not productive?

The truth is our worth has nothing to do with how productive we are or how much money we earn!  Believing that it does is a devastating point of view.  If I earn $50 per hour and you earn $500, then I must be worth 90% less than you are. If I accept this premise, then I will probably develop some limiting beliefs about my worth as a person. If you agree with this value scale, then you will begin to think of yourself as superior. Both of these points of view are damaging to us as human beings and to our relationships.

Is the highly paid professional who earns a fortune pumping deadly toxins into the environment more valuable than a dedicated teacher who incites his students to reach for their dreams while maintaining personal integrity?  Is the loving, nurturing mother who gave up her career to take care of her family and children, on the bottom of the value scale?  Will our children understand why we could never be there for them because we think we are increasing our worth as a parent by working such long hours that we never get to see or spend time with them?

The value of money is tiny compared to the value of time.  When we spend our valuable time we should view it as something that far exceeds the worth of money. Yes, it takes a certain amount of money to care for our material needs and wants, but that is just one, small aspect of life.  Time is truly the currency of life.  Our precious time is the real commodity of life. Recognizing its immense value helps us spend it wisely.

It’s not every day that you face your own mortality.  One of the questions I’ve had to recently face is what happens to your life when you run out of time?  We only have so much of this valuable commodity and when it’s gone all the money in the world can’t buy you more.  When something like cancer brings knocks us to our knees, shredding apart our carefully planned lives, God is trying to get your attention to teach you that it’s not about the relentless striving but surrendering to Him, that He’s in control not you and honestly why would you want to be?  My way certainly has not worked out so well up to this point.  It’s about letting go of the old ways of being and thinking that got you to this point and discovering a new way of being, God’s way.

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I am truly in a place in every aspect of my life that is a frustrating and uncomfortable limbo between letting go of the old and giving birth to the new.  It’s a process, not something you barrel through in order to not face the uncomfortable emotions of it.  It’s been a process of backing off, suspending goals and taking the time to dance with cancer mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually step by step.  It’s an uncertain path that you take moment by moment, not knowing where it will lead or where it will end.  Just as you can’t will the entire herd of cows to calve just during working hours, you can’t force this process to be over sooner just because it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient.  It requires a great amount courage to live in uncomfortable emotions, physical pain and uncertainty day in and day out.  It takes a great amount of courage to learn to fully and wholeheartedly surrender and have faith that God is recreating my life into something so much better and more amazing than I can ever imagine and accept and that it will likely require a period of focus and dedication.  It takes courage to not falling into resenting God for having the path to this new and incredible life be that of cancer.  What I can do is take care of myself, rest when tired because my immune system is weak with, get my priorities straight, enjoy each day with the people who mean the most to me, my family and friends, my horses, my dogs and Sundance kitty, keep my stress level down, continually do what I need to keep a positive frame of mind and my courage because I have no control over this situation and follow where God, my inspirations, love, enthusiasm and creativity may lead; living each day to the fullest in gratitude that I have time, life and that there are so many amazing souls in it and in awe and humility of God’s work in it all.

God never wastes a hurt

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I recently saw an interview with Pastor Rick Warren, author of the “Purpose Driven Life”.  Even though it’s now been a few weeks ago, he said one thing in that interview that has stayed with me –

“God never wastes a hurt.”

If we breathe, if we live, at some point, we are going to hurt.  Everyone goes through trials in life.  There’s no avoiding it.  I don’t believe that anyone is spared of life’s painful events, and while I may not understand it or even like it, I have come to believe through my own trials that nothing in our lives is ever a mistake.

Every hurt, every trial happens for a reason.  There is always something to be learned and something to be gained, or someone else to inspire from the trials of life.  God uses the hurts in our life to help us grow in faith or to help others. Trails are used to educate, strengthen and grow us and/or others around us.  Normally it is in these hurts that we learn to trust Him and where we experience the most growth.

While God will never waste a hurt we certainly can and often do.  In times of great pain, we often look to God for understanding and answers.  We question God’s reasoning while grappling with our own emotions,  asking “why me?”  Instead of choosing to learn and grow from the experience, we often choose instead to become bitter, allowing a trial of life to overtake us, allowing the negative events to consume us and keep us in the role of a victim instead of asking how might this be used for my good.

I’m not saying that horrific things like the death of a child, cancer or rape is something that can easily be just dealt with.  There are many things in my life that have happened to me that I am still learning to forgive and heal.  While it’s often hard to not run or escape from the pain we are called to remain in it and heal through it.  I am learning that only by surrendering them to God to use as He sees fit, is the only way I can truly heal and move on with my life, and when I’m not honest about the reality of my life, pretending to  be alright when I’m really not I waste God’s offer of peace and opportunities to share with others walking a similar path.  When I try to heal my wounds of my own strength, I waste God’s offer of power.  It’s truly when I let God in that miracles start to happen.

As I look back on my own life I realize all the hurt and pain I have gone through has led me to who I am today.  This very moment, if God had taken away even on hurt or pain, then my life would be so different today.  For better or worse I simply choose to trust that God has protected me, changed the course of my life as He saw fit.  I am thankful for every hurt and every pain simply because they led me to be the person I am today.

We must remember that God is working even in our darkest hours, in our deepest pains, in the struggles we surrender to God; we will grow, we can allow it to become a gift to us, we will be strengthened and your struggle may just help someone else who needs to know that they are not alone in what they are going through.  If God never wastes a hurt, why should we?

There is always a blessing waiting once the ache and fear and grief have settled.  There is something indestructible at the center of each of us; though the pain of being transformed and rearranged while still alive often feels unbearable.

I’d love to hear your story.  How has pain produced positive things in your life or the lives of others?

 “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.” ― Orson F. Whitney  

Process of Rebirth

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Today as I embark on my first seven hour long chemo treatment I am struck by the basic duality of existence, that which resoundingly connects us to every other living being on this planet.  The treatment to me represents the dual meaning of life and death as poisons to kill cancer cells in my body, flow intravenously into my blood stream to heal me of breast cancer.

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It’s not every day that you face your own mortality.  When something like cancer brings your world to a complete standstill, turning your entire reality inside out, God is definitely trying to get your attention!  I realize I have a choice as to how I dance with cancer and approach the next year of treatments.  I can either choose to be a victim of breast cancer, resisting and fighting against God’s lessons for me or I can choose to embrace the lessons, facing them head on with dignity, cowgirl grit and grace, and a grateful heart for all that truly is wonderful in my life (and there is so much to be grateful for).

My choice is to strive for a willingness to experience cancer willingly and without resistance, with the understanding that God created all things equal, and that those things which might be experienced as poison can be ingested, integrated and transmuted if one has the proper state of mind.  A complete understanding and acceptance of both dualities creates a melding of the two into one.

ImageMy body is being asked to transmute the poisons of the chemo drugs in order to heal, activating the energy of kill or cure, ultimately leading to healing.  As the chemo drugs go to work I think about what else within me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually has brought me to this point and what emotional toxicities, worn out habits, old patterns, thoughts and behaviors I need to also kill or let go of in order to heal, transform, resurrect and recreate my life.  The next year of my life will most certainly also be about transmuting the toxicities I’ve been carrying around with me for the last 39 years that no doubt also has helped to manifest this cancer, with the goal of healing my life in every area, throwing off the past and continuing to live life to it’s very fullest.

Some of the first emotions to volunteer to be released are feelings of insecurity, shame, guilt, low self-esteem and areas in my life where I have lacked integrity.  It will certainly be a process as some of these emotions have severed me well in some ways for a very long time.  And while I’m not quite sure where to begin in making these changes I know I will be lead by the grace of God through the process.  Change and rebirth are inevitable and strength is required in order to shed everything that has been holding me back.  Yet I am excited about the process of dying in order to be reborn, shedding the old and the regeneration to come through the proper direction of my life-force.  I have no doubt it will be powerful and dramatic, discovering a new way of being – physically recreating passion, desire and vitality; emotionally finding new ambition, creativity, resolution, and new dreams; mentally claiming power, charisma, and leadership; and spiritually finding a greater understanding of myself and others and a greater connection to God.

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The dual nature of life and death which when united produces new life.  True healing can only come about through the represented by the union and regeneration of self.  Balancing the two polarized halves of energy into one is truly the embodiment of all potentials of a physical, material and spiritual nature, allowing anything to be possible through the transforming and transmutation of the dualities into higher levels of being, facing fears, moving on to higher goals.

I invite all my readers to take this journey with me and would love to hear about your journeys through the process of rebirth.

God Bless,

Jennifer

Whirlwind

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Everything can change in a moment.  Ranching you learn firsthand that we have little control over the outer weather patterns as we make our way through the landscape of a life.  We live in a whirlwind of change and change continually lives within us.  Life is always changing and we are continually changing with it.

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In the last few months my entire life has been turned upside down like a tornado coming through it flinging different aspects of my life in a variety of different directions.  I have truly experienced a vast amount of change in a short period of time – from calving in blizzard conditions in April; calving, job hunting (because the ranch I was working on in Montana lost their lease), graduating and marrying my son off, falling head over heels in love myself, and moving to a new job on a ranch in northwestern South Dakota in May; branding, being interviewed by French reporters for Marie Claire Magazine and sending my son off to Army boot camp in June; to haying, chopping silage with South Africans and being diagnosed with breast cancer in July.  In three months time everything in my life has completely changed offering much “grist for the mill” in blog posts to yet share.

With each change we are given a choice, go with the flow or fight against the currents.  After all these years of being changed by loss and love and life itself, I still resist the forces of change in my life, attached to the way things are no matter how ridiculous or destructive they have become.  I think it’s instinctual to tighten our grip when everything feels out of control.  Going with the flow can seem frightening, it’s a leap of faith because we don’t know where the currents may take us and yet resisting is even more exhausting as we struggle to try to stay in the same place.  Yet with each new change, time and time, again I am reminded that life is uncertain and that the goal is not to become more certain but to have faith, surrender to God and allow his will to unfold.

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Cancer is one of those rare life changing events that Ram Dass would call “fierce grace”, when you bear the unbearable and something within you dies.  That something can either be my own ego and stubborn pride and I can turn this life changing event of misfortune into insight and healing; or I can choose to let fear take over killing the more loving and compassionate part of me and instead become bitter, more reactive, and cynical.  I’m striving for fierce grace!

We can become the masters of our own inner landscape and use what happens on the outside to change the way we function on the inside.  As a new found South African friend has reminded me – being happy is a choice and only you can make and live that decision.  Change and loss may still knock us off the horse, but soon we are back in the saddle, stronger and wiser than ever, with a greater insight, humility, strength of character and a deeper faith in the meaningfulness of life.

I look forward to having more time to write in the near future, catching you up on all the recent changes and sharing this journey with you, as often telling our story helps us feel connected to others as we go through difficult times.  When we can share with fellow wayfarers, sharing our trials and revelations and listening to theirs, our struggles seem less like personal vendettas and more like myths in the making.

In Between

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Where I live in the southeastern Montana seems to be a land of extremes; extremes of possibility and limitation, hope and despair, change and inertia, open hearts and closed minds;  and yet we are almost directly in the center of the nation between Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Archipelago and between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

It can be frustrating to be in limbo between letting go of the old and giving birth to the new and often takes going to both extremes before we find our middle ground.

Then again, sometimes, to get from where we are to where we are going, we have to be willing to be in-between. One of the hardest parts is the concept of letting go of what is old and familiar, but what we don’t want, and being willing to stand with our hands empty while we wait for God to fill them.

This may apply to feelings. We may have been full of hurt and anger. In some ways, these feelings may have become comfortably familiar. When we finally face and relinquish our grief, we may feel empty for a time. We are in between pain and the joy of serenity and acceptance.

Being in-between can also apply to relationships. To prepare ourselves for the new, we need to first let go of the old. This can be frightening. We may feel empty and lost for a time. We may feel all alone, wondering what is wrong with us for letting go of the proverbial bird-in-hand, when there is nothing in the bush.

Being in-between can apply to many areas of life. We can be in between jobs, careers, homes, or goals. We can be in-between behaviors as we let go of the old and are not certain what we will replace it with. This can apply to behaviors that have protected and served us well all of our life.

We may have many feelings going on when we’re in-between: spurts of grief about what we have let go of or lost, and feelings of anxiety, fear, and apprehension about what’s ahead. These are normal feelings for the in-between place. Accept them. Feel them. Release them.

Being in-between isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. It will not last forever. It may feel like we’re standing still, but we’re not. We’re standing at the in-between place. It’s how we get from here to there. It is not the destination. We are moving forward, even when we’re in between.

I accept where I am as the ideal place for me to be. If I am in-between, I will strive for the faith that this place is not without purpose, that it is moving me toward something good.

Fallow Ground

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Just as the seasons change, our own lives bringing times of reflection, darkness, birth and rebirth, to help us on our journey of growth.  Every season serves a noble purpose and to escape or avoid one season is to cheat the other.

I haven’t been able to make myself write a blog post for over a month now.  At first I berated myself for my lack of motivation determined to push through it, which didn’t work.  Eventually instead of beating myself up for my lack of motivation, I just observed. I asked myself what I really wanted to do.  Finding that sometimes it’s better to go with my own flow and do what I feel called to do at the moment instead of forcing a schedule upon myself.  This fallow time is often needed for new inspiration or a different perspective.

Hesitation or procrastination can often be a form of wisdom.  Motives become clearer or new information shows up and amazing things can happen when you choose inner rhythms over the external pressures, as well as, the internal pressures of “have to, should of, could of, would of.”

This can be a positive thing, very much in tune with winter’s implicit message that down time is important. Winter is nature’s way of regrouping, a hibernation from duty, a long rest before burgeoning into spring with renewed energy.

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There are times in our lives that we are very productive. Times when our energy is high and we can go non-stop.  Then there are times when we must lie fallow, like the winter fields and pastures, that are purposely laid to rest for the winter in order to prosper in the spring. Not because we are lazy or uninspired, but because we must regain fertility in order to be prepared for the long days of calving and spring branding that is soon ahead, as well as, to create again.

One of the greatest blessings and most profound lessons about ranch life is about learning to follow nature’s rhythms and patterns, and in the process having the time and space to learn the ebb and flow of our own unique rhythms.  Just like nature our internal and external lives also cycle through distinct seasons and a sense of peace can be found in working in harmony with your own proper timing, doing things in the right season and seeing your efforts bear fruit in later seasons.

Often we lose sight of the changes that the natural cycles of life bring, especially when our lives require us to live on a set schedule year round.  I’ve worked the 8 to 5 jobs in town that ceaselessly demand maximum performance and output for eight hours a day, five days a week.   These jobs have always left me feeling drained of spirit, internal resources and left running on empty.  Yet here on the ranch with the shorter days of winter giving me some repose, it makes it possible to work 10 to 12 hour days this spring in more physically and mentally challenging situations than I’ve ever had at any desk job.

Fallow times also provide an opportunity to go internally within myself and clear out the old, clearing the way for the new.  Even when you can’t see evidence of growth or new life above ground, life is still there growing, strengthening, changing underneath the barren fields.

Much of what we need to know, of what we long to know, lies beyond words, in a silent, hallowed place of knowing that is accessible only through the suspension of frenetic activity. Wordlessness by definition is indescribable, but its effect is unmistakably real, spawning a palpable sense of ease in my spirit. For now, I’ll go with that, trusting this fallow time to replenish me and lead me where I need to go.

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In the darkness of winter, I turn within and learn to know myself.  I go deep within to face my own fears and shadows, to heal and prepare myself internally for who I want to be and what goals I want to accomplish this year.  It is a sacred time of preparation that must come before the new season of my life.

I sense my spirit rearranging itself, sifting through on what’s gone on before and needs to be laid to rest, as well as, looking to broader horizons evaluating the possibilities of what is yet to come, and see the possibilities of aspiring to greater things than even I could have imagined, as glimmers of inspiration bubble up from this deep place, guiding me forward in ways that logical consideration cannot.

This has been a time of letting go of all that no longer serves me including, parts of my past that have haunted me and hold me back from who I am capable of being, old hurts and resentments,  negative self images and even negative people.   The truth is, only when we let go of the old, forgive ourselves and others, accept situations just as they are and recognize that they are over and done with; can something new enter into our lives.  It is also about realizing that at 38 years-old, I am too smart to be the only thing standing in my way of creating the life of my dreams.

Even though the present, harsh, snapping wind today is real and threatening, this wind is not for me to engage with, try to stop, or contain.  Instead I go under, go within, and rest while feeling the warmth of being held inside the dark place—within the womb—where all creativity is born and new life begins.

I can rest in the company of these barren fields because I know their barrenness is necessary and the fallow ground covers the new seed as it breaks into being.  New life that reaches through the darkness to embrace the light, creating itself anew, unfolding and the promise of tomorrow, potential held within.  Just like I know from the experience of many seasons, new life will come and the work of my hands will flourish.  I may not see the fruit in the season I expect.  I may not see the vibrant colors I dream of by spring, but I know there is growth, there is life, there is time.

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“That which can never die – When you think of your life as an open field, an empty field when something has occurred in your life a great transition even turmoil that makes you feel as though this field that was once full and alive has been burnt to the ground, please remember that new seed is faithful, it comes on the wind whether you want it to or not and it roots most deeply in the places that are most empty.  New life comes if it is willed for or not.” 

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Casting the Cow

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Ranching offers a way of life with a distinct pace, a distinct set of rhythms and priorities.  Just as the cows and horses who live according to nature, following the rhythms of the seasons, births, disasters and deaths, I find myself also living within the distinct cycles of my own life and changing with each season.

I have always dreaded winter because of the harsh cold, darkness and ice that seems never ending. Nothing takes your breath away or chills you to the bone like being outside caring for animals when it’s -30 degrees with the wind blowing snow at you sideways at 70 mph.

Within the last week we previously had warmer weather, melting away much of the snow and then the next day a storm front moved in, freezing everything into treacherous sheets of ice and turning the pastures into skating rinks.

While feeding this week we found a cow down with a broken hind leg.  Her hoof dangling with nothing but hide and ligaments providing any structure for her to stand on.  Her pain was evident when trying to move her back to the barn and she was not opposed to letting us know what she thought of what was being asked of her.  Being bred she is due to have her calf in a couple months and so we made every effort to ensure both her and the calf’s survival.

After a quick trip to the vet clinic for supplies, and a brief lunch with my son.  I returned to the ranch to cast her leg.  We roped her, laid her out on the ground and tied up her other three good legs.  Tom, the ranch manager sat on her keeping her down while I went to work setting and casting her leg with the assistance of Tom’s wife Mary.

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While casting the leg I couldn’t help but think about the parallels in my own life.  My only child, Sheridan is Army bound, he leaves in June for Boot Camp and sets off to create a life all his own.  While I am very proud of the young man he has grown to be I can’t help be feel like that cow laid out and tied down.  Without him near I feel as though a part of me is broken and the events in his life are moving so quickly and I am bound and can’t change them.  Not that I would even if I could, knowing that part of his journey into becoming a man is following his own path.  But as his mother, with world events continually changing, it’s hard to imagine my son who is very strong, yet incredibly kind and compassionate going to war and how that will change him for both the better and possibly the worse as a person.

Once we have children our lives as adults become all about them.  We attend PTA meetings, sporting events, school concerts and activities, we sometimes forget to live our own lives because we are too busy living vicariously through our children and making sure we offer them every opportunity we felt we didn’t have as a child.  Being a parent becomes our main identity.

Pretty soon along with the responsibilities of paying bills, raising a family, divorce, hardships and other broken dreams, we as adults deny our passions and find our lives much like the long cold months of winter, dead and dormant; responsibilities seem dreadful and activities feel like obligations, it feels like there is no end.  We become cynical forgetting the joy and enthusiasm of things long forgotten.

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Yet, Sheridan in his youth is excited about his future and enthusiastic about venturing out into the world on his own.  He is teaching me that a new season has also come into my life and I once again have to find within me what makes me so enthusiastically happy to be alive that I just can’t contain myself.  His enthusiasm is my cast that gives me the structure to heal and like the cow I too am gestating new life that will soon be brought into the world.

Blog Awards

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Tess from Ride, Rope, & Write nominated me for a blogging award! Tess helped us AI cows this summer, she is an incredible young woman, check out her blog, she has some amazing insights!

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The award does come with a few rules, as follows:

List 11 facts about yourself.

Answer the questions given to you.

Create new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.

Choose bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.

Go to each blogger’s page and let them know about the award.

Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

 Facts about myself. 

  1. I am one of those crazy horse people, my life would be incredibly empty without these amazing creatures in it.
  2. I previously lived in Germany and there worked as a tour guide, taking Americans on tours all over Europe.
  3. I have also previously worked as a reporter for a national weekly newspaper and my claim to fame is that I interviewed President Clinton.
  4. I use to own and operate a therapeutic riding center.  It was one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had, empowering others through the use of horses!
  5. I love tall, dark, handsome cowboys!
  6. I am in the process of writing a book.
  7. Despite the jokes, I am building myself a pair of woolly chaps.
  8. I sometimes deeply miss the art and culture of the city.
  9. I love antiques.
  10. I am scared to death of mice.
  11. I hate 4-wheelers!

Questions from Tess:

  1. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?  I live 97 miles from the nearest WalMart.  Living in the middle of nowhere requires planning and self-sufficiency.  I am also a woman who is hired to do typically a man’s job, I can’t always manhandle a 1500lb cow so I have to come up with inventive ways at times to get the job done.
  1. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently are in, where would you move and why?  I would love to go cowboy in Argentina!  It seems like one of the last few last frontiers.  Or go buckaroo in Nevada.  Both for the adventure and the experience.
  1. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?  No, I am just now at the point in my life where I truly accept and love who I am, just as I am!
  1. Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?  Not usually, but then again I can’t remember the last time I was in an elevator.
  1. What’s the #1 played song on your iPod?  This is a hard one the top three lately have been – “Red Lipped Bronc Stomper” by Adrian Buckaroogirl, “Hair In My Eyes Like a Highland Steer” by Corb Lund,  and “Wild Horses” by Tina Malia.
  1. What is one of your favorite quotes?  Again hard to pick just one!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Excerpted from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

“If you want to get close to the horse, you have to get close to yourself. Then the horse can come to you.” — This is my favorite horse quote by Carol Nichols who my son and I use to take dressage lessons from and who is one of the most amazing people I have ever met!

“I’m waiting for the right man, meanwhile, I’m having fun with all the wrong ones.” — Ladies room at the Stoneville Saloon in Alzada, MT.  This is currently my motto on dating cowboys!

  1. What is your favorite form of exercise?  Horseback riding and daily ranch work.  There is nothing more satisfying than going to bed tired and feeling like you have truly accomplished something that day.

My Nominees:

The Thinking Trip

Taking The Back Roads

My Questions To YOU:

1.  When did you last have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself?  About what?

2.  How do you live your values daily?

3.  What does “spirit” mean to you?

4.  What reminds you that your human?

5.  How do you perceive the world differently than others?

6.  What is the most valuable life lesson you have learned?

7.  What are your deepest loyalties to?

8.  What is the one thing that you couldn’t live without?

9.  What makes you feel truly alive?

10.  What is one thing that you have experienced in your life that can be used to help others?

11.  How would you live your life more fully?

Penning the Bulls

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577868_4664316082678_400215218_nJust before the New Year with winter setting in, it was time to gather the herd and put them on winter pasture and bring the bulls in to winter at my house for the season.  Bringing the bulls in I was reflecting over the last year, thinking of the strides I’ve made in certain areas of my life and what direction I am heading in the year ahead.  I realized that it was high time to call myself on my own bullshit!

I had several goals, projects and ideas to pursue last year that I didn’t follow through on.  Some of them I have lost interest in, which is alright to let go of and move on; yet others were still really important to me and I still really want to do; some I have even started but haven’t finish.

The human mind is miraculous, it is like a bull on the fight when it is up against evidence that it needs to change.  Our psyches are equipped with layer after layer of bullshit defense mechanisms designed to shoot down anything that might keep things from staying exactly the way they are — just ask any addict.

I can come up with all sorts of excuses why I didn’t finish what I started but the bottom line is that I alone must make something of myself and my life.

Calling myself on my own bullshit means taking full responsibility for my own life and killing the excuses before they kill me!  Each time I betray myself by not following through on something I promised myself I would do I lose integrity and respect for myself, and it takes a tremendous toll on my belief in myself.  When I remember the agreements I have made with myself and follow through on these commitments, being true to myself, that is when I have integrity and feel good about who I am.

We all have the greatest intentions in the world about what we are going to do, but fail to follow through.  It’s much easier to break a promise to yourself, than it is to a loved one, friend, client or coworker, but the results are much more harmful.

We use the excuse “as soon as” to mean – as soon as I have the time, as soon as I have the money, as soon as the stars are in perfect alignment and all is exactly right in my little world; then I will take action.  Unfortunately, the right circumstances never come and we are left with the ” shoulda, woulda, could have’s” and ultimately regret!

Sometimes we forget our own potential.  We become so wrapped up in the muck and manure of living day to day, yet this is just another excuse too.  Each day brings new opportunities to perceive our own potential.  In any situation there is a myriad of ways to see something. We take responsibility for our lives by taking responsibility for how we see our lives.  Each challenge is an opportunity for growth and every situation will give back to you, what you give to it, because you give each situation all the meaning that it has for you.

We spend a lot of our time consuming things others have made (TV, music, Facebook, video games) instead of putting our own unique interest, skills and talents out into the world.  Most of which is a waste of time and doesn’t contribute to making us better people nor contribute to the world we live in.  Doing so is just another form of procrastination and another excuse to not begin living our own lives fully.

We hold ourselves back because the fear of failure is greater than the desire to succeed and it’s much easier to not create anything in our lives rather than feel like a failure when it doesn’t turn out perfectly.  In order to succeed we first have to at least try.  It may not turn out perfectly but we will have learned something from the experience.

People who don’t try, don’t fail, but they don’t succeed either.  As a society we have come to value comfort over effort.  Misery is comfortable, which is why so many people prefer it.  Happiness takes effort.  Happiness is a choice.  It isn’t controlled by others or by outward circumstances, but comes from remaining centered and in integrity.

It takes effort, practice, repetition, and discipline to become good at anything.  We quit because in our society of instant gratification it takes too long to see results.  What we often fail to understand is that, the process is the result.

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it,

but what they become by it.”  John Ruskin.

 My projects may never make me any money or go anywhere, but I will certainly feel better about who I am as a person because I honored myself and followed through on what I said I would do.

I personally have held myself back because I have let the heartbreaks of the past cause me to become cynical, yet again another excuse.  Emotional pain doesn’t have to devastate us, we can learn from the experience, and learn from our emotions; but this requires us to sit still and fully feel the uncomfortable emotion in order to move through it.  Life requires vulnerability for our own growth and development.  Real power comes from being strong enough to be vulnerable; to feel hurt and in knowing we can take care of ourselves when we do feel the pain.  Real power also comes when we stop holding others responsible for our pain and we take responsibility for all our feelings.

We all fail at times.  Sometimes plans don’t work out, but I can no longer waste any more time using this as an excuse and being upset over it.  It’s now time to pull myself up by my boot straps and try again, learn from my mistakes and use them to make a better plan.

We also hold ourselves back because we fear success and lack the courage to put our heart and soul into a project only to have others attack it.  Welcome constructive criticism, feedback helps us improve and disregard unconstructive criticism.  Those who judge your creation are only expressing their own fears and using it as an excuse to do nothing themselves!

Judgment arises when our expectations are not met, but often our expectations are idealized and unattainable and therefore impossible to meet.  When I find myself judging others it’s usually because I’m holding myself or others to a set of impossible standards.  We can’t expect unrealistic perfection in far from perfect circumstances or from others who are constantly evolving, maturing and changing.

“Don’t mind criticism.  If it is untrue, disregard it.  If it is unfair, keep from irritation.  If it is ignorant, smile.  If it is justified, learn from it.” -Anonymous

The choice to be bitter vs. motivated largely determines whether or not you will succeed in life!  Attitude is everything it helps you push through to succeed or is the hidden obstacle that stops you from achieving the success you desire.

Be honest with yourself, call yourself on your own bullshit, hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your own amazing life.  Live from the heart without hesitation and grateful to have the opportunity.  Trust your inner calling, ignore criticism and judgment and show the world who you are!

Welcome

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I am a single woman who lives and works as a hired hand on a ranch in eastern Montana. I love my life and lifestyle!!  This blog is about my adventures in ranching and the life lessons I am learning in this amazing journey.

I am a very passionate person who lives by the Cowboy/Cowgirl Code of ethics and am wholeheartedly focused and driven to be the best me I can possibly be and the best at whatever I love and choose to do. Whether it is working cows, training horses, writing, teaching therapeutic riding lessons, facilitating Equine Assisted Learning workshops, or my own personal growth I will always give 110% of what I am and have to give at that moment. I give my heart completely to what I love and believe there is no other way to live!  That is the cowgirl spirit!

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a cowgirl.  Horses have always been my passion.  I grew up on a ranch in Nebraska and studied Animal Science at South Dakota State University.  But my life took me on other adventures and down different career paths and yet the destiny of the spiral path of my life once again lead me back to ranching as a single woman in my late thirties; this time with a different perspective on life.

I hope you enjoy my adventure!

Cowgirl Spirit

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To me the American cowgirl is the epitome of freedom and independence.  When these women first put their butt in the saddle and looked at the world from the back of a horse, there was no holding them back.  They were and still are today fiercely independent women with a passion for life and the spirit of adventure, who choose to authentically live life on their own terms instead of fitting into societal and cultural norms.  No one can confine their spirits; these are women who develop their own ideas about life, live by their own rules and have the courage to fulfill their dreams.  Strong women who are capable of handling almost any situation as well as a gun.

The American cowgirl is timeless and I hope she inspires you as she inspires me to live life from your deepest heart’s desire, to be independent and self-sufficient in mind, body and soul.  Each of us have our own unique place in this world.  Take time today to celebrate what makes you, you – who you are and the gifts you bring to the world.  Independence is the freedom to just be you!  Independence doesn’t mean that we never join with others, but when we do so as an authentic individual we contribute much more to the greater whole and to this world than we do when we hide in or follow the crowd.

We can only free ourselves by living a life that is true to who we are and by choosing to be independent of those who try to corral and fence our spirit in.  Saddle up and have the courage to declare freedom in all areas of your life – freedom from doubt, worry, fear, powerlessness and dependence on other.  It’s your life and only you can live it fully!  (Written July 4, 2012)

Photo is of Tad Lucas taken in 1925.

Winds of Change

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Working in a hard Montana or Dakota wind can be humbling experience.  You often have no choice but to surrender to its immensity and force or exhaust yourself fighting it.  Strong winds always remind me of major life change and how often we resist it thinking change means failure.  Yet in forsaking our ability to change we diminish our capacity for hope.  (Written June 27, 2012.  Little did I know at this point how much change was yet to come and so desperately needed in my own life.)

Winds of Change Poem by Jennifer Garreau

The winds of change batter at my door, exposing the cracks in my life, in my integrity. They dismantle the shelter of my flimsy illusions and lack of self-worth, blowing my ego aside.

Each new bone chilling blast stirs and funnels the biting hurt and confusion in my soul, awakening me to my own ugliness and the unworkable patterns in my life; tearing at my psyche and clearing out the cobwebs in my mind.

Powerful gusts clear the way to expose the truth that lives close to the bone, stripping me bare, naked and vulnerable for the world to see.

The structure I have built for myself trembles and shakes.  I quiver in fear; this is out of my control.  I don’t know where this wind may blow.

As I brace against each new blast, I become more rigid with fear and hear the creaking warning sounds of a life about to snap.

I am exhausted, so tired of trying and striving to hold on to a life that isn’t even my own.  This can’t go on much longer; I don’t have the strength or will to fight.

I am left with no choice but to surrender to a will that is not my own.  I quiver in fear; this is out of my control.  I don’t know where this wind may blow.

In letting go and accepting I find I can bend instead of break with each new blow.

Powerful gusts clears away the fears that block the love within, exposing the truth that lives close to the bone, stripping me bare, naked and vulnerable for the world to see.

Exposed I am no longer covered by the lies and self deceit.

The winds that previously terrorized me are now my friend.  Stripped of the beliefs and behaviors that held me in bondage they call me to become who I fully am and demand that I return to myself.