Happy Anniversary!!!

Here we go!

4 years ago today, I entered IAH airport with a one-way ticket to Zurich. Wow – never saw it coming – and to this day, not entirely sure how I followed through.

The last person I saw was Carol. I laugh thinking about it.  With her big TSA security badge, she made every other TSA screener think I was some VIP on a VIM (Very Important Mission.) She whizzed my two HUGE carry ons through the scanners and if the security folks started to ask a question, she gave them this look like “If you get in my way, you are going to regret it. I know what I’m doing and obviously, you have not been briefed on who this is…”

And when I landed at Charles de Gualle in Paris for my layover, I wished I had Carol with me as I went through security. These two carry ons would make any security guard take a second and third look. One contained every piece of electronic equipment I could carry – laps tops, external hard drives, cameras, phones, chargers, headphones. It just begged to be subject to extra scanning. And the other, well it took Leann and I an entire day to pack it – as it carried every piece of jewelry I owned (checked luggage was not to be trusted). Tell me that’s not a red flag for an individual crossing three country borders.

Carol gave me a long hug, we cried and laughed as she shoved me through the gate. I got on that flight not having a clue what was in store for me. I didn’t know if I would survive a week in what I thought was sure to be sub-arctic conditions and away from every thing and every one I ever knew and loved. My entire personal life was upside down and I was doing all of this for a job (or so I thought).

I didn’t know how the horses and cats would live back in Texas without me. I didn’t know how I would keep the hay cut or the pool clean. And what would become of the house? In Switzerland, I didn’t know where I would live or how I would find friends. How fast could I learn the language? How would it feel to be truly alone? Who would care if my flight landed or didn’t?

And the coming months were the most difficult of my life. I got to a low point where I didn’t know who I was. Everything was dark to me. Mentally and physically I was a wreck. Only my conversations with God got me out of bed each day. Here I was, surrounded by so much beauty, but I couldn’t pick my head up high enough to see an Alp. If something didn’t change soon, I didn’t know how much more I could handle.

Thankfully, God had a plan – and one by one, He sent Polly and Sarah and Rachel to me. And that was the turning point. That’s when I realized how much life I still had.

And how much love I still had.

And how loved I still was.

 

I began to understand my choices…

the choice to be afraid, or the choice to be brave

the choice to live in the past, or the choice to live in the moment

the choice to worry, or the choice to have faith

the choice to focus on me, or the choice to focus on others

the choice to make my own decisions, or the choice to let God lead the way

 

And surprisingly, it was pretty simple after that. I remember it very clearly. It was in those months where I realized, and came to know, the woman I was and the woman I could be. I found my confidence, my sanity and my grace.

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I don’t reflect on those moments four years ago very often, but today, January 29th, I thought I should.

And thinking about the manners my mother taught me, I thought I should say thank you to all of you for walking with me on this journey. For all those that sent me off, for those that stayed in touch, for those that reached out, for those that sent those fantastic care packages of salsa and Whataburger ketchup, for those that have embraced me as though we’ve known each other all of our lives and have shown me all that life can be…….

 

I am hu581905_1239297219444098_1836655011756685086_nmbled and forever in your debt. It’s a great milestone today and I wanted to share it with you and remind you that –  when you think you can’t get up, I will be there to offer my hand.

 

Deoxyribonucleic acid

According to Wikipedia, DNA is a molecule that carries most of the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms.  This information determines how living organisms inherit features from their parents and thereby all their ancestors. And, as far as I know, I came by my DNA naturally. When I was born, it wasn’t likely that experimentation resulted in how my DNA got put together. Thank goodness! I reflected on this today because it would have been the 95th birthday of my Grandmother – Ollie Beatrice Welch.

When I think about who I want to be when I grow up, I generally think about my parents and my grand parents. Through DNA, their traits theoretically would have showed up somewhere in me. Which genes I ended up with is anyone’s guess. Being greedy, I’d want all the good stuff. And, being not very impartial, there was a lot of good stuff to pass on. You’d think I’d have a good shot at being pretty amazing.

Joshua 1:6-9 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

This was Memom. To me, she demonstrated bravery. She faced many challenges in her life and answered them with courage and determination and faith. She never strayed from what the Good Lord asked of her, she stayed steady and strong. I think she had a devotional on every table in the house. I love most the stories of how she became the first female sales rep at the Western Auto in Waco. The accounts of her crazy road trips across the country with her best friend. And the numerous articles written about her leadership in AWBA. And all of this at a time when women were just coming in their own.

She kept a copy of this:

Elbert Hubbard

If you work for a man, in heaven’s name work for him. If he pays you wages which supply you bread and butter, work for him; speak well of him; stand by him, and stand by the institution he represents. If put to a pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must vilify, condemn, and eternally disparage, resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart’s content, but as long as you are part of the institution do not condemn it. If you do that, you are loosening the tendrils that are holding you to the institution, and at the first high wind that comes along, you will be uprooted and blown away, and will probably never know the reason why. Elbert Hubbard

I come from a family of very strong women. Dear Lord, I hope you made sure I got the good genes. And I pray that you also gave me the wisdom and courage to know what to do with them 🙂

Christmas 2006

Adventures with Ladda and Johann #509

Everyone knows about my wonderful neighbors Ladda and Johann. It seems daily there is a new experience, a new story to tell that involves these two intriguing and lovely versions of Glady Kravitz. And today was no different. Gladys-Kravitz-708x350

To say Johann is a military history fanatic is an understatement. He has some bit of knowledge about every conflict since the beginning of time. He consumes books like he breathes the air. He has details on the underlying cause of any war or battle, and recognizes the combat uniforms and the machinery deployed – as well he knows who sold who which piece of artillery over ever changing borders and alliances. And so, earlier this week he asked if he and Ladda could come over to watch the Russian V Day celebration on my TV as I get some stations that he doesn’t. He was already planning on watching the European memorials, but he needed access to the Russian channels. Of course I said yes, that I’d love to watch the Russian coverage of the event 🙂 (How could I not have had this already on my agenda!)

On Friday I decided I needed to get a bit more detail on what I had signed up for.  On the 8th, the UK, France and others were marking the 70th anniversary of the ending of WWII. Johann told me that the 9th is the day that the head of Germany’s Armed Forces High Command, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, surrendered personally to Joseph Stalin’s representative in Berlin.  And so, the parade would begin at 10am Russian time Saturday morning, taking into the time difference, that would be 8am in Zurich – yikes…..did he just say he was coming over on Saturday at 8am???? Well, I’ll have the coffee and tea ready….but I can’t promise I won’t be in my pajamas.

As expected, the doorbell rang at 7:42am. He was like a kid at Christmas. Johann had already been to the bakery and the smell of fresh croissants quickly brought me to life. I had orange-crasin muffins in the oven and Ladda was happy to bring soft boiled eggs and the homemade prune jam from her best friend. And so the festivities began.

Ready for the parade

Ready for the parade

As we gathered on the couch and got comfortable, we realized that there was a 60 minute countdown on the Russian channel. It took us about 4 minutes to realize that there is no observation of Daylight Savings Time in Russia…DOH…so we were an hour early. Well thank goodness for this as Johann didn’t want to miss a thing!

And as any good news service would do, there was plenty coverage of pre-parade activities (sort of like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day pre-show prep….but different.) The best part was watching all the Heads of State arriving. Of course the commentary was in Russian, so the broadcast wasn’t much help to me, but we had our expert of all things global and political….Johann – he recognized each and every President and diplomat – sometimes he had a good head start because he knew the flags on the cars as the arrived in front of the Kremlin, and some because he recognized the wife – nothing gets by him.

3 hours later, I have to say, we had such a good time. I learned about the statue of Minin in Red Square, the naming of Sukhoi SU 30 fighter jet, the new baby of the mistress of Putin, and how to tell the difference between the KGB uniforms and the FSS. Russian V day parade 1

And with all discussions of the War (WWII), there is always expressed and unexpressed appreciation for “the Americans”. It happens no matter who I am with. I’ve written and shared stories of the phenomenon before. I don’t know if i would have ever had the same opportunity to appreciate our sacrifice and our duty in this way. I am a better American for having been in these sometimes odd situations.

Russian V day parade 2

 

I’ve learned after three years in Zurich with these lovely guardian angels as my neighbors, that sometimes, well most times, some of the best things in life come with no expectations. I have many stories to tell about my adventures with Ladda and Johann, and the best part, is that all of these stories will be etched in my memory for ever. They provide me an experience and an inner growth that has enriched my life. I am a better human, and a better American, for having opened myself up to the sometimes crazy requests of my neighbors.

My horse my hero

My heavy heart has kept this recent event silent except to a few. My steady friend, my horse, my hero, has completed his time on earth here with me. I know God’s creatures are placed in our lives as a blessing, to show us, to teach us, to comfort us, to listen to us and most of all, to be cared for by us. Any girl who has ever loved a horse knows the inner fullness, completeness and special bond that is created in this relationship. Each relationship is unique but it is extremely deep, and those who haven’t experienced it may not ever fully get it. But a horse has the ability to sense your soul and therefore see your innermost fears. You are completely exposed to a horse, much as they are to you.

Waco and I shared such a special time. I’ve been poring over photo albums and videos the last 3 weeks and I am amazed at our journey together. It was grace that brought him in to my life and with grace he left when his work on earth was done. Below are some enduring memories of the life we shared.

This is the first day I laid eyes on him, we were testing each other for “fit”.

First Date

First Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryan Rodeo 2004

 

 

And by our first performance, I was smitten. We fit like peanut butter and chocolate.We had much to learn about each other, but we were both willing and at least I was more than eager.

 

 

 

IMG_0084 IMG_0086

 

 

 

 

Luckily, there were a couple of sweeties in my life that were looking forward to the journey too.

 

 

 

 

CC Madisonville 081

Madisonville 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By our third rodeo, he and Katie had formed a special friendship 🙂 I’m not sure if it was good luck that Katie gave him a noogie before each performance, but I think he looked forward to it.

 

 

 

Some horses are regal, Waco was goofy, and not in a comedic way, he couldn’t help it. Rarely did he take a picture that would have won any awards at a show, because his un-uniform look always shown through.

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Bryan 2007

Bryan 2007

Bryan 2006

Bryan 2006

2007

2007

Conroe 2006

Conroe 2006

 

Shrimpfest 2004

Shrimpfest 2004

 

He played so many roles in my life. He was my steady, no matter the conditions. He always was more confident that I was.

 

 

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His confidence spilled over to others easily…Taylor came to visit often

 

 

 

Bryan 2005

Bryan 2005

 

 

By our second season, he was signing autographs like a pro, loving all the attention from the oldest and the youngest. He was so easy. He made it so fun.

 

 

 

He was the calm to my chaos. Patience, he had more of it in his young years than I will ever have in my life. If you ever saw our traveling circus – girls, glitter, hairspray – you wonder he did it. Patience.

Caldwell 2005

Caldwell 2005

Conroe 2005

Conroe 2005

He was my hero. He was tall and broad. He carried me easily – shouldering all that came with me. He made me feel small, but yet, always safe. And given my track record (Carol), safety was a quality I couldn’t buy.

Helotes 2005

Helotes 2005

Thanksgiving Parade 2005

Thanksgiving Parade 2005

He was my teacher. When I think back on his patience, it wasn’t just with me. It was for everyone. You could trust him implicitly. The Waxahachie Rodeo, he met the entire family. This is LJ’s first meeting with a horse. I’m so happy it was Waco.

LJ meets Waco 2005

LJ meets Waco 2005

So sweet

So sweet

And my ranch hand Dakotta. Johnny on the spot -what ever was needed, he wanted to be right there to do it. If I had asked him to carry Waco to Dallas, I think he would have 🙂

And Dakotta, well, he was my horse guy

And Dakotta, well, he was my horse guy

 

Taylor couldn't get enough

Taylor couldn’t get enough

And Ashtyn was bright eyed!

And Ashtyn was bright eyed!

 

Of course Taylor and Ashtyn were growing in their confidence and enjoyment with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryan 2007

Bryan 2007

 

Even Marli and Meagan came to see him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of patience. How’s this for patience? Uncle Henry was less than thrilled but Waco never complained. I am fairly certain if I could have gotten Uncle Henry over his fear of heights, Waco would have carried him wherever he wanted.

Christmas 2006

Christmas 2006

Of course, Waco had two prime pupils outside of myself. Both Taylor and Ashtyn spent many summers under his care and guidance.

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Taylor 2006

Taylor 2006

Jeff & Ashtyn 2006

Jeff & Ashtyn 2006

Taylor 2007

Taylor 2007

Ashtyn 2007

Ashtyn 2007

Summer 2008

Summer 2008

Taylor 2008

Taylor 2008

Ashtyn 2008

Ashtyn 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was strong. To his detriment. He didn’t show pain until it was almost beyond help. Sometime in 2009 he tore his stifle, but didn’t favor it until his coffin bone almost perforated the sole of his hoof.

 

2009

2009

But the blessed hands of Dr. Carter, Dr. Watkins, Jason and Amanda eased his pain and allowed him to heal.

2009

2009

2009

2009

2009

2009

It was a long journey for both of us, but worth every single step.

2009

2009

 

Rev Kev 2011

Rev Kev 2011

Trials and tribulations allow us to reassess parts of our lives and hopefully learn and grow. Like Dorothy, Waco and I landed just outside of Oz. Bringing the whole furry family to the Blessing of the Animals at church was one of the many benefits.

 

 

2011

2011

 

He was a buddy. He was always happy to see Clyde after our weekend rodeos. And while Waco was healing, Clyde had to play the role of Wingman, which he did begrudgingly.

 

 

Austin 2008

Austin 2008

Austin 2008

Austin 2008

 

He carried me through my causes. Perhaps unknowingly as we broke a few “laws” when it came to equine access to the steps of the Capitol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And he was my friend.  Happiness is….

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2007

2007

2007

2007

I am a better woman because you were part of my life.

It is said it is the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God’s creation and as creatures ourselves.

Still riding the inspiration of SXSW

Two ladies from the multitude of SXSW artists

I particularly love the South X Lullaby series from NPR, 2am St. David’s Episcopal Church

http://www.npr.org/event/music/394458428/laura-marling-south-x-lullaby

 

 

Show your colors girl in the morning light
It’s on again, it’s on again
Recreate the world in your own good vibes
It’s on again, it’s on again

Show your colors girl, show show your colors girl, gotta show your colors girl!

I wake up thinking bout my purpose
And wonder if I’m really worth it
It’s all been sung before and you’ve all heard it
Your life is your design, so go ahead and design it.
Your star is in the sky, so go ahead align it.
Cause your forever lost, until you go and find it.
(Go, go! )
Go find it!

Show your colors girl in the morning light
It’s on again, it’s on again
Recreate the world in your own good vibes
It’s on again, it’s on again
It’s all in your head, in your head, in your head
Show your colors girl, show your colors girl

My life requires certain gears
I’m making faces in the mirror
And when it’s hard to let go of my fears
Your life is your design, so go ahead design it.
Your star is in the sky, so go ahead align it.
Cause your forever lost, until you go and find it.

Show your colors girl in the morning light
It’s on again, it’s on again
Recreate the world in your own good vibes
It’s on again, it’s on again
It’s all in your head, in your head, in your head
Show your colors girl, show your colors girl

 

Washington’s “Earnest Prayer”

george-wash

The Prayer below was written by Washington at Newburgh, New York, at the close of the Revolutionary War on June 14, 1783. It was sent to the thirteen governors of the newly freed states in a “Circular Letter Addressed to the Governors of all the States on the Disbanding of the Army.”

Circular Letter Addressed to the Governors of all the States on the Disbanding of the Army, June 14, 1783

I have thus freely declared what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your Excellency, as the chief magistrate of your State, at the same time I bid a last farewell to the cares of office and all the employments of public life.

It remains, then, to be my final and only request that your Excellency will communicate these sentiments to your legislature at their next meeting, and that they may be considered the legacy of one, who has ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his country, and who, even in the shade of retirement, will not fail to implore the divine benediction on it.

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Psalm 100 A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1  Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2  Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3  Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4  Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I have to thank Marianne Johnson for sending me the following link to a TEDx presentation. Being grateful can prove difficult in the midst of hardship, hurt, sorrow or just downright icky days. But it is often only when we see others experiencing these tough times that we realize how truly grateful we should be.

Life is for living, completely and with all of your heart and soul. Trust in the Lord and know that each day really is a gift. God has given us everything we will ever need, and I’m thankful to be reminded of the little things which are the biggest blessings.

 

In a lifetime (our video)

Link

Breathing deeply

Breathing deeply

Maybe once in a lifetime, you are part of something really really special. And if you’re super blessed, you’ll be able to recall that experience for the rest of your days.

I know I didn’t finish my daily blogs about my experience in Tanzania with my best friends – I still haven’t written about the Honey Badger! – but yesterday, I got to see the experience in film and sound like never before.

I wanted to share the film that Donnie put together for us. Today’s technology is super amazing, when you think of the video and photography we were able to capture and the artistic way Donnie was able to pull it all together. Rachel, Amy and James are wonderful photographers and you’ll see their work here. The music is moving and brought me to tears, happy ones of course. If you listen close, you can hear the excitement in the breath of the boys as they hunted and the sounds coming from the land and the animals that are uniquely Tanzania.

What you may not see in the video is the change that occured inside me, perhaps you’ve noticed it after my return, maybe not. But I can promise you it is there. I have always valued the friendship of Jim, Monty, Donnie and Rachel. I have come to love and adore Amy. And the Draegers, well James and Penny have always had a special place in my heart. But this experience, at this time, and in this place, it’s another example of God’s love and His hand in my life.

A word of caution, this was a hunt. And if that’s not for you, then this video may not be for  you. Take the humor for what it is because laugh we did, and while this blog is not the place to explain in detail how conservation works in Africa (animals, land, people), the hunt is indeed a critical part of the conservation cycle. What I hope instead, is that you get the chance to appreciate, admire and even revere as I did what a place like Tanzania represents for us all.

 

Destiny

 

Arrival

“We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility — that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint — and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”

Never delivered words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, November 22, 1963

 

A bright day

 

Destiny