If I had only known…


…ten things I wish I could tell my younger self…

1. love and be kind to yourself – Those things you hate and work so hard to hide… The flush in your cheeks that betray all your emotions, the layer of flesh that cushions your bones, your thoughts that race a million miles a minute, your big ole wild hair… Love and cherish it all. When the flush is gone and all your emotions are devoured with pain, when you are nothing but bones, when your ability to think is diminished with sickness, when your hair is falling out and you’re unable to take care of what’s left… You will wish with all your heart that you had been loving, kind and appreciative to yourself, instead of harsh, intolerant and mean.
2. own your strength- If you don’t want to do something. Don’t do it. If you need something. Ask for it. If you want something. Go get it. Whatever it is, make it happen for you. You are stronger and more powerful than you can even fathom. Owning and using your strength will earn you respect and admiration from yourself and others. The belief that you will be considered a bitch and hated for your strength, is complete and total bullshit.
3. follow your gut- It was right every time.
4. expectations are the enemy- Eliminate them the moment they appear. Expectations will create doubt, fear, dissatisfaction and distraction, the sooner you are done with them, the better.
5. justifications and approval are addictive and a waste of time- Trust me, stop seeking them now.
6. try many, many things and do only those that you’d do for free- master what you love and understand how valuable your passion is, accept compensation for the things you love to do because you’re worth it and the whole belief that you can only be paid for what you don’t necessarily enjoy doing, is absolute bullshit.
7.  NEVER allow yourself to be treated any differently than you would want your child to be treated, ALWAYS behave the way you’d want your child to behave- Without exception. The unrestricted possibilities, love, joy, respect and success that you want for them, you deserve too. So act like it, every single second. If anyone is disrespectful or abusive in anyway to your child, what would you want them to do? If you are ever undecided about a situation, honestly answer what you’d want them to do in the exact same situation,then do that. Once you are a parent, this will become your responsibility, so master it.
9. sleep, eat, drink and play every single stinking chance you get, these are your fuel- Deprivation, suffering and pain do nothing for you, they will not help you get farther, achieve more or be better in any way.
10. vulnerability is not weakness and rejection is not failure– Let yourself be vulnerable and when that vulnerability is met with rejection, be grateful for the gift of redirection and seize the very next opportunity to be vulnerable again. Building walls will not protect you, they will only stand in your way.

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Ignorance is bliss?


My sister went off to college when I was about 11 and in an instant I lost my unwilling idol.  About the same time Andee, my cousin moved to town to live with her dad, Uncle Pat.  I kept my horse at Pat’s house, in a pasture next to a pond full of trout and catfish that we had to protect from the boys and their fishing poles.  Andee was 6 months older than me and lifetimes tougher so of course, she instantly replaced the void my sister had left.

My Mom was full of wisdom and was light years tougher than anyone else I knew, even Andee, so when she told me things I listened and believed them with all my heart. I had been told that if you didn’t ride your horse every day, even if only for a few minutes, you would loose something extremely precious. Much like Yoga I suppose… so ride everyday I did.  I would catch the bus to my Uncle’s house and go for a ride after school come hell or high water.

Not even a week had gone by when Andee decided that my Mom was full of it and if she skipped a day or two of riding, nothing would be lost, because she had other things to do.   Andee was a cowgirl to the core, she didn’t have to imagine or pretend she just was and she was tough, so I wasn’t about to argue.  I would head out everyday on Windy, my dreamy grey boy even if Andee was too busy to come along.

One of my solitary rides magic happened- pure, complete, undeniable magic. I crossed the canal and opened a gate into a field we had never explored before.  Somehow this land of sagebrush and willows had been there all along without our ever venturing there.  I had Buddy, the ancient and ornery blue healer stumbling faithfully behind me and Joe trit trotting in front when I saw the Coyotes in a tiny patch of shade under a lone Oak tree. I stopped Windy and watched them, watching me for a long, long time.

Now my Mom had always said that Coyotes are harmless and really quite frightened. In fact for all their wailing and carrying on, they are actually much more afraid of us than we are of them.  As I watched them busy with their business, tending the pups that romped in the sparse grass and snapping at flies that wandered too close, I felt like the luckiest girl on earth.  When they had enough of leisurely lounging and it was time to move on, I swore I was invited along. We fell in with them at a respectful distance, toward the bluffs that glowed with the setting sun.  More and more coyotes joined the lounging group and Windy, Buddy, Joe and I just followed along, as if we had always been part of this nightly migration. When I reluctantly turned around because daylight was nearly gone, I knew two things for sure.  Andee was definitely going to want to come riding with me tomorrow and the rule of not letting your horse run home, was about to be broken.

The following morning was Saturday and sure enough after a long sleepover filled with my enthusiasm at being accepted into the Coyote Pack, Andee was ready to go first thing.  We had named our new magical destination Coyote Field, Andee had mastered their howl perfectly and we had the entire day to become one with the pack. Somewhere after we turned the second corner away from her house, before we had even reached the dirt road, Andee started to tell me what her Mom had said about coyotes.  Her Mom apparently called them Yotees, because she changed the pronunciation immediately and I must admit, it sounded more authoritative.

I was too little to remember meeting Andee’s mom but I knew she couldn’t be nearly as wise or tough as my own, especially when I heard the stories about her and Yotees.  Andee could sense that I wasn’t buying the vicious, terrible, blood thirsty savage stories so she amped it up a couple hundred notches, throwing in gore and dead horses, dogs, children and almost mothers… It took a lot for me not to let the stories influence the giddy excitement I felt at reuniting with my new found family and I tried hard to pretend they hadn’t, even though they had.

As we crossed the canal and approached the gate, I looked at ancient Buddy and unsuspecting Joe and worried for their safety, even Windy and  Moonstone seemed vulnerable, my imagination turned on me completely as I drug the gate through the dirt and I could almost feel my feet being torn from the stirrups in the Yotee blood thirsty madness.

Sure enough, as if on cue, a few hundred feet into Yotee Field, with the gate securely closed behind us and our hearts beating out of our chests we heard the haunting wail start to grow.  Behind a sage brush only a stones toss from Windy’s face a huge Yotee looked straight to the sky starting the song of doom that sent electricity through my spine.  Buddy and Joe backed dangerously close to the horses’ prancing feet as the song grew in number and volume and pitch completely encircling us in unnerving screams. We could see them all around us, a perfect circle tightening in, they took turns screaming, wailing, yipping and yowling so we couldn’t gather our thoughts or calm our hearts.

“We have to move!” I yelled above the racket. “Keep the dogs between us.”

Miraculously the horses were able to remember how to walk and we slowly started moving.  Of course we moved away from the gate, down the fence, maybe because the Yotees drove us that way or maybe because we were incapable of logical thought. We could hear the rattlesnakes getting stirred up in the commotion of the pack moving as a unit encircling us.

“The snakes will help us.” Andee yelled over her shoulder “They will keep the Yotees from charging if we stay close to them.”  I believed her with all my being and enjoyed the small comfort that the idea of a rattlesnake shield brought.

We kept creeping toward a grove of willows that we must have hoped would slow the closing of the pack.  They kept up the racket, the perfectly choreographed terror cries but we were becoming less and less affected by it. The willows were distracting to us and to them and they fell quiet for a few breaths when suddenly we found ourselves in a clearing.  Andee and I looked at each other and laughed, somehow believing we were safe in the circle of trees.

When the screaming started again it was deafening, not choreographed or sporadic, it was a frenzy of war cries, death screams and merciless viciousness. I felt my blood run cold as they came sulking from the trees, completely surrounding us, closing in on the kill.

I wasn’t nearly as tough as Andee or my Mom, this was a well known fact but I sure as hell could scream. I mean break glasses, ear drums and friendships scream.  So scream I did. Blood curdling, high pitched, bat shit crazy scream. And slowly the Yotees fell silent and started backing away.  So Andee started screaming too.  Her scream was not as effective as mine, having never been put to use before now but it helped, nonetheless.

We slowly emerged from the willows, dogs between us, screaming bloody murder the whole way.  Through the rattlesnakes, the sage brush and finally to the gate without seeing so much as a trace of Yotee.

We ran to the top of galloping hill and turned to look over the place where we almost lost everything.  Just behind the barbed wire fence we made out the leader of the pack, seeing him clearly for the first time, he was huge and lighter than the rest of them, obviously a dog recruit. Eventually we saw the entire pack, lined up in a perfectly straight line, blending in to the brush and dirt flawlessly, watching us, watching them.


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The Birds Know the Secrets…

... the bDSC02839us bounced over the road straddling a baked pile of hair that had once been alive and flattened a reptile that frantically tried to outrun it’s impending doom while inside the bus Ruby’s heart became ever more hardened as her defenses tried to overcome her inevitable defeat. She sat directly behind the driver, hoping for some respite from his proximity all the while knowing deep down that there would be none.  Her measured breath didn’t waver as her fellow passengers tormented her, pulling out her hair one strand at a time to keep a morbid count of cruel comments and crude jokes. The driver looked on through the huge mirror, his eyes pivoting up to revel in her misery as if they acted without permission whispering secrets to his lips, causing them to curl in a crooked sneer while his lone tooth pressed into his bottom lip trying to catch a glimpse as well.  Ruby looked straight ahead, deliberately away from the mirror and the rolling eyes, the spying tooth and the laughing faces that all gathered around the back of her head.

As the journey continued and the sting of her head intensified, Ruby’s vision began to close in until all she could see was the driver’s hair split in sweaty lines down the back of his head, she watched the beads of sweat drip down the passages they had created,  absorbing into the surrounding clumps of hair along the way.  His hair was black, like the window, the mirror, and her insides had become, she could feel her fingertips tingle, the sting of her hair now familiar, the sound of her pulse a steady whoosh and her breath a measured beat.  It wasn’t unusual, this bus ride, but somehow it was unbearable this time and she knew beyond all doubt it would be her last.

When they reached the school and the doors had at last swung open, Ruby waited, still staring straight ahead with her muscles locked to prevent as much movement as she could when the rest of the occupants walked by and slapped her on the back of the head.  At last she was alone in the bus with the driver, his eyes now reconnected and obedient.

“Come on, hurry up, it’s time to go.”  His tooth flapped.

“Asshole” Ruby stood up, eyes locked on his through the mirror, as she walked past ,him to go down the steps, she looked away and he reached out to let his hand glide across her behind. A low moan escaped the tooth.

Her determination mounted then as her heart beat in her throat. She stood on the blacktop and felt the heat through the thin soles of her shoes as she looked across the playground through the chain link that surrounded it. She heard the doors of the bus seal behind her and felt the rumble of it pulling away under her feet.

The bus that came from the wastelands on the Nevada border was always the last to arrive, Ruby simply turned around, her back to the school and walked the opposite direction.

The highway bordered the school on one side, a ribbon that ran from San Diego to Canada, 1300 miles of possibilities. Ruby didn’t know how far that strip of pavement stretched, she only knew it went away and she needed to go with it. As she turned the corner and her foot touched the place that she had gazed at for so long from behind the chain link, she felt a tingle of magic travel up her leg to fill her heart with hope and she laughed out loud. Before her the four lanes stretched and the ground vibrated with traffic, only ten steps and she was out of sight of the school blocked by a two story apartment building. She walked on passing a row of shops, a bakery with smells that made her knees weak, and the post office until she came to Giggle Springs, the gas station and convenience store they passed on the bus. The place she had heard everyone talk about, the home of candy and gum and googled eyed key chains. She knew that this was the gateway to her new life, far away from her old one…

She marched toward the store, it had a grand entrance with sweeping stairs that approached from all sides. She walked through the cars getting gas, at eye level with cooking butterfly covered grills. Across the parking lot she sauntered and as she started up the stairs she instantly became a princess being carried, at last, to her destiny.

The doors were heavy and it took all her might to pull one open enough to slip a skinny leg through. The air was cold and it smelled like popcorn, there was no spring with giggling creatures playing, there was no magical godmother. Only wrangler clad men and gum smacking women. She backed against the door and pushed again slipping her skinny leg into the heat. Before she had a chance to contemplate or become discouraged she heard a bark, the bark of a man, angry, disappointed and after her.

“Hey! Stop right there!” it wasn’t a question, there was no concern and it made her run. She bolted down the same sweeping steps, that moments earlier had been her palace entrance. She ran around the side of the building and saw a huge truck pulling two gigantic tanks, the driver’s door was open with an empty seat perched high above the ground. The driver’s feet were small on the other side of the truck.  She used her hands to boost herself to the first step, skinning her knee on the rough metal, then she dove to the floor of the truck through gravel, climbing onto the seat and scrambling to the back…



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Ride On


When Lucas turned 16 and I turned closer to 40, I decided we needed motorcycles. I claimed it was to celebrate his driver’s license and graduation from dirt to street riding, knowing full well that everyone recognized the beginning of a mid-life crisis. We stepped off the plane in Orlando with backpacks full of tents and underwear, wearing full leathers our helmets tucked under our arms. Not wanting to waste any time we went straight to the dealer to pick up the matching bikes we had purchased online. Supermotos, I found out, are just glorified dirt bikes with extra lights, street tires and a plank for a seat. Before we left, the three employees had called their buddies to come meet the crazy mom and her poor kid that were going to try and ride to New Mexico on “those things”.
We avoided the Interstate the entire way, taking small roads instead, adding miles and sores to our raw arses. With only 100 miles exactly between a full tank of gas and the orange light alerting us we were pushing our luck, navigation became an art form. We rode from dawn to dusk, never venturing into the night until we hit the Mexican Border. The sun was resting on the mountaintops as we pulled into Del Rio, Texas. The closest gas station was 112 miles away so we knew we would be running on fumes at the end of the next leg. The evening was perfect, the town was rough. We agreed that camping was dangerous and leaving the bikes outside of a motel was foolish so we decided to ride on.
I was feeling almost cocky, two days left, we had as good as done it. The air was refreshing, we had the road virtually to ourselves, with just a few headlights in our rearview mirrors.
Seventy five miles from Del Rio the road took a dramatic turn to the left until directly in front of us the sky was deep purple and lightning flashed incessantly. When we hit the wall of cold air, the electricity accosted our senses and it seemed as if the rest of the world must have been swallowed up whole by this apocalyptic storm. The comforting headlights that had been continuously growing bigger in our mirrors had suddenly disappeared. We couldn’t turn around because we didn’t have enough gas to get back to Del Rio, so we rode on….

The storm increased in fury, wind whipping, sky boiling, our hair standing on end with the electricity. We passed abandoned buildings, pausing briefly at each, weighing the danger of the storm with the unforeseen shadows lurking along the border and rode on. The sky was alive, lighting the landscape with an evil black glow while a war of dueling bolts raged amongst it. A small airport came and went on the left, the spinning tower light dark and motionless.

Lucas pulled ahead of me and stopped in the abandoned road. “An airport has to have a bathroom open for pilots 24/7. It’s the law,” he yelled over the thunder.
It had a bathroom alright but apparently that law doesn’t apply to the border. A single wide mobile home had a truck parked in front but no amount of pleading and banging on the door could persuade the occupants to open up, if indeed someone was there. So we rode on.
Finally, a crack of thunder roared around us preceding a bolt of lightning that blinded us with it’s brilliance and with that the sky opened up, huge rain drops showering down in sheets. I started shaking with relief knowing that the worst was soon behind us. Then the rain drops starting stinging and we were being bludgeoned by hail striking us from every direction, the noise of the ice hitting our helmets was deafening and as their size grew so did their power… Every so often with uncanny accuracy a sharp chunk of ice, baseball size would strike a nerve sending excruciating numbness through an arm, finger shoulder or leg. Even though I willed myself to charge bravely ahead my throttle hand eased up uncontrollably and our pace slowed. Luke pulled around me taking the lead on the treacherously slick ice covered road.
Then up ahead there were lights, a group of cars brought to a halt by the onslaught, huddling together for comfort. Seeing the lights ahead gave Luke courage and he led us skillfully through them to huddle against the closest of the semis which at last sheltered us from the direct blows of the driving ice. Seeing us protected by the huge trailers caused the cars to race ahead trying to find refuge from the deluge. A brand new Chrysler 300 pulled up next to us then, so close that the passenger door brushed Luke’s leg. I kept my head down, ears ringing from the noise, teeth chattering from the cold and body shaking violently with fear.
Luke turned, lifting his visor, eyes huge, “LOOK,” he mouthed and pointed to windshield of the Chrysler.
I looked at the back window and saw 6 holes punched through the glass.
“The windshield is shattered!” he yelled through the racket.
“Put your visor down!” I screamed at him, suddenly understanding the gravity of our position.
Eventually the power of the falling chunks eased and the semis slowly started to creep ahead. Through two inches of hail Luke rode hugging the trailer to extend our shelter as long as possible, I followed. When the hail had all but stopped the trucks sped up and we fell in behind them staying in the tracks they cleared through the ice. Ten miles later we arrived in the town where we had planned on staying and gassing up. Everything was black darkness, I pulled into the gas station with the orange gas light illuminating my chattering jaw and looked at Luke, defeated.
“It’s okay Mom, the power’s just out,” he calmly explained, reading my mind. He took the lead again and pulled into the parking lot of a pitch black Motel.
When we stripped out of our dripping leathers. Even with nothing but cell phone lights we could see purple welts raising like polka dots along our arms and legs. The bikes fared surprisingly well, Luke’s had two blinker lenses shatter and I had a hole punched through the plastic of the rear fender.
Our neighbors for the night were a group of experienced cross country motorcycle riders, 4 Harley Cruisers huddled together under the awning with old metal signs and wood scraps forming a protective shelter. One by one they came over and shook our hands, completely amazed that we had ridden through the storm and survived. Their combined acknowledgement managed to deter my mid-life crisis… Temporarily.


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