Category Archives: Relationships

Building a Better Relationship – Annie Oakley Style

 

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Annie Oakley doing what she did best!

Building a better relationship. It’s something we all should strive for. In our marriages, with our kids, friends, family, co-workers, employees, the list goes on. But, often in our busy lives, we are so focused on getting things done or achieving things, that we don’t focus on our relationships. Through time and neglect, those relationships begin to sour or drift away.

A couple of years ago, I saw this happening in my relationships with my horses and I knew I had to fix it.

I grew up in New Mexico with horses in my backyard. I spent much of my youth with my favorite horse, Flying Mok (I don’t know where the name came from). We covered miles of trail along the Rio Grande and spent hours in the arena. When not riding, I would sit on a large branch of the cottonwood tree that shaded his corral and just watch him eat. I participated in some horse shows and took home my share of ribbons, but the main objective was to have fun, and we did, and our relationship proved it.

As an adult, after college and more financial stability, I got back into horses via my teenage daughter who needed a hobby and a sport. I took her to one of the local barns and her love affair with horses began and mine was resurrected. She wanted to focus on showing, so we did. It was something we enjoyed together – a mother/daughter bonding experience that softened the angst of her teenage years. When she went to college, I was left with some very lovely, very expensive horses, so I decided to go into showing full boat. My love for horses and my competitive nature fit together like a custom-made glove and I was all in.

My horses and I did very well for several years, but after a while, it seemed like my whole life became all about the next show. Sometimes I’d go to shows twice a month, often traveling far from home in search of the rainbow of ribbons. After a while, I noticed that my horses didn’t seem to be making much improvement, their neurosis and fears increased, and I became more and more frustrated. It wasn’t fun anymore.

I’d been introduced to Natural Horsemanship via a Parelli Horse and Soul Tour some years earlier. I enjoyed the demonstrations and respected the training methods and philosophy the Parelli’s espoused, but I didn’t have time to embrace the philosophy. I had to prepare for the next show!

After more years of showing, anxiety, and frustration with minimal improvement, I finally realized that my love affair with horses was dying. I decided to look at this Natural Horsemanship closer. I had to nurture my relationship with my horses because those relationships and spending time with my horses had always been my “soul food” and I was starving.

I ventured to the “mecca” of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, the Colorado Ranch Campus, for the first time in 2014, for a four-week course. I took my horse Chaco, who had been my greatest challenge to date. Chaco was energetic, athletic, spooky, unpredictable, uncomfortable with contact, and quite frankly, a bit scary to me. Other people may not have felt the same about him, but that didn’t matter. He was scary to me, and our relationship had miles to go.

What I learned in that four-week course assured me with absolute certainty that Natural Horsemanship was the path I needed to pursue, to better myself as a horsewoman and as a person. I learned that like people, horses needed to be treated as individuals. They have fears, quirks, moods, aches, pains, and NEEDS that I had been ignoring. I’d been so focused on achieving better scores, more ribbons, more awards with my horses that all I’d done was damage the relationship.

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Chaco and me watching a demo at the Parelli campus. June 2016

Three courses and two years later, I am a different horsewoman. I have a long way to go, but I am becoming more confident, more patient, and more understanding of my horses’ NEEDS and they, in turn, are starting to enjoy being with me. I can tell when I get out of the car and they come to greet me. I can tell when they are so willing to be a partner that they ask questions and trust me with the answers. I can tell when they are calm, connected, and responsive when I am working with them on the ground or under saddle. The love affair is reborn.

In the first book of my historical mystery series, Girl with a Gun, one of the sub-plots centers on the relationship between a woman and her horse. The protagonist, the not-yet-famous Annie Oakley, has a special bond with Buck, a golden horse with a midnight-black mane and tail. While Buck doesn’t exactly help her solve the murder, his relationship with Annie carries her through some tumultuous times and proves to be one that she cannot live without.

In my book series, I’ve created the ultimate horse/human relationship with Annie and Buck. It’s something I will strive for and work toward as long as I have my equine friends with me. I’m taking a break from showing for the time being, but when I return, it won’t be about achievements and ribbons. It will be about building a better relationship and that is a guaranteed win.

Writing Your Passion

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

– Barbara Kingsolver
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I love this quote. As writers, we all want to sell our work. We all want our words to be cast into the world to make a difference. But, do we write to sell? Do we write to what sells? Sometimes we do, but what is more important is the passion within ourselves that, for some reason, we need to get out and share with anyone who will listen–er, read.

I’ve attended many writer’s conferences and seen and heard many successful, well-sold authors, and most of the time their main message is this: Write what you want to read. I think this is so powerful. Fiction has its trends. By the time you finish your masterpiece, it may not be sellable. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have merit. Times change. Trends change. Write what you want to write. Your passion will lead you to success–whatever your definition of success entails.

This dovetails perfectly with a conversation we had this week in the  Level 4+ Riding Course I am attending at the Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs, CO. As some of you know, Parelli Natural Horsemanship is a method, philosophy, and practice of partnering in harmony with horses by communicating in their language. Monday we talked about 7 Cardinal Rules for Life:

  1. Make peace with your past so it won’t disturb your present.
  2. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  3. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.
  4. No one is in charge of your happiness. Except you.
  5. Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  6. Stop thinking too much. It’s alright to not know all the answers, they will come to you when you least expect it.
  7. Smile. You don’t own all the problems in the world.

I would add only two things: Be who you are. Love who you are.

See you next week!

Crazies On The Porch

imageLast night I arrived in New York City for a writer’s conference. Coming from New Mexico, it is always a shock to get off the plane and be instantly thrown into the hustle bustle of true “big city” life. It always takes me a few days to adjust and get into the rhythm of the controlled chaos. I feel like I’m going crazy at first, like I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all the noise, the crowds, the lack of space. In New Mexico there is no “lack” of space to be sure.

My great solace as I sit in my bed, listening to the chaos that never seems to end below my window, is that I get to see the three women who’ve become so important in my writing life–the Crazies–as we call ourselves, Dana, Liz and Pam. We’re about as different as the contents in a bowl of fruit, a Northern apple, a Midwestern pear, a Southern peach and a Southwestern chili (yes, chili is classified as a fruit.) Different in our make up, our creativity, and our style–but still fruit.

We met a few years ago at a writer’s workshop in Scituate, Massachusetts–at a bar, the preferred hangout for most workshop attendees and conference goers, and immediately hit it off. Our differences and sameness seemed to mesh into our own perfect union of crazy. After a few days of divulging our life experience and the real and made up characters in our worlds, the word “crazy” came up. “Crazy” in the sense of addled, eccentric, mad, deranged, or just not quite right. We discussed that in most regions of the U.S., “crazy” was not a good thing, something to be pitied, or ashamed of, something not discussed, when Liz piped up, “my family is from the south and we just put our crazies on the front porch.”

After a hearty round of laughter and a toast to all the”crazies” in the world, hidden away behind closed doors, or out loud on the porch, we decided that the term fit us pretty well and we christened ourselves, “The Crazies on The Porch” with great confidence and pride.

Since that moment we united as sisters and talk every couple of weeks through video chat. We also send each other our work for editing, brainstorming, new beginnings, and polished endings. Sometimes we just talk about our lives. We are all crazy, in every sense of the word, and we are not alone. We have each other.

Anna’s Dilemma

*Spoiler Alert* If you are not caught up to Season 4 of Downton Abbey, you might not want to read this post.

I’m still reeling from Season 4. One of the things I love about Downton is that it takes social issues from that time period and brings them to our attention in the present. We take so much for granted. We are allowed so many freedoms – like the freedom to stand up for ourselves, the freedom to speak out, and the freedom to do something about a crime that was committed against us. During the 1920’s women were definitely starting to find their way to speak out in society, they had just obtained the right to vote, but still, there were things that were simply not discussed for a variety of reasons.

The episode where Anna was raped proved to be very controversial in the UK and the US. More so than the makers of the show expected. I found this interview with actress Joanne Froggatt who plays Anna Bates where she talks about why Anna was so terrified to speak up.

I would love to hear your opinions on this topic! Leave a comment (on either one of my Downton posts) and receive a chance to win a hardback copy of The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellows. It’s an absolutely gorgeous book.

Jessica Fellowes  is an English author, freelance journalist, and the niece of Lord Julian Fellowes, writer and Creator of Downton Abbey.

Struggling With Type A

Why aren’t there more hours to a day? Could we please extend the week to nine days? Just think of what we could accomplish. It would be so much easier to get the household chores done, grocery shop, take care of the kids, finish the laundry, work our day jobs, work out, have hobbies, blog endlessly, stay active on social networks and, oh yeah, finish that novel (or novels).  If we had that kind of time we would be so much more effective and we’d be able to set even more goals. Does this sound like you?

You might be struggling with Type A.  First, I must state that I am not a psychologist, nor am I an expert in psychological behavior or theory.  The words you are about to read are in no way based in science, psychology or fact.  Just a little research on the internet.

Since originally published in the 1950’s, The Type A and Type B personality theory, although controversial in the medical and science communities since its publication, still persists as a way of describing personality types.

The general characteristics for Type A include: impatience, taking on numerous tasks, obsessive with time management, competitiveness, intolerance for tardiness, wordiness or anything  they feel is wasting their time, irritability, and a tendency to be a “workaholic.” They are also proactive, ambitious, caring, truthful, and always try to take care of others.

Type B characteristics include: apathy, lacking organization, poor time management and procrastination.  On the positive side they are patient, relaxed, easy going, have little or no stress in their lives and reap the benefits of better health.

The Type A has a constant sense of time urgency.  There is never enough time to complete the monumental task they’ve created for themselves, because there is another waiting to be conquered just around the corner.  When a challenge has been met or perhaps even an award given, the Type A will revel in the moment, celebrate, and then move on to the next big achievement, because perhaps it can top the last.

And speaking of challenges – everything is a challenge.  Conquering challenges and achieving goals helps relieve the insecurities that drive Type A to be the way they are.

The Type A personality is known to successfully handle many tasks at once.  They are usually involved in several unrelated activities while performing all of them well.  After all, failing is not an option.  Restlessness is a common anxiety suffered by the Type A.  If they aren’t doing something, they might feel guilty or become depressed. Life is out there to be lived and Type A has to do it all.

Competitive by nature, Type A personalities often engage in highly competitive sports and/or activities.  While competing against others for that prize or accolade, their fiercest opponent is themselves.  There is always the challenge to be better.  This may be treading into the waters of perfectionism, but I’m proposing that the Type A and the Perfectionist are kissing cousins.

Having said all this, I have to confess – I struggle with Type A. Sometimes I fantasize about sitting on a beach with a cocktail and letting the day lazily slip by, but when I am at the beach, I’m good for about two hours.  Enough relaxation already.  Let’s get something done.

While sitting at the stop light, which seems interminable, my mind is racing with all I have to do for  the next few hours and that usually works its way into the next day. And, damn it, the light has been green for at least ten seconds. Why hasn’t that bozo moved forward yet?

And then there’s the schedule.  Certain things have to be done early in the day and certain things done in the afternoon.  After those are accomplished, there’s the shopping, laundry, and general upkeep of the house.  Oh, and lunch with friends, and then there’s that tennis match, and is it Sunday night? Mad Men is on, but maybe I should TiVo it because chapters seven and eight really need those revisions.  Darn, I did commit to critiquing two chapters for my critique buddy, and I scheduled myself for that weekly blog.

Does this sound familiar?  What’s a Type A to do?  Sometimes we just need to STOP.  After that tennis match, maybe hang around and have lunch with the girls.  What about going to a movie in the middle of the day?  What if we decided to revise chapters seven and eight tomorrow?  Promise to NOT log onto the computer for the entire afternoon.  What about reading one book in its entirety instead of three at a time?   After all, it gets hard to keep the stories straight. Spend time with family just talking. Sometimes after a hard morning of working horses, I just sit and watch them eat grass.  Play with the dogs. Veg.

We need to be kind to ourselves and stop putting endless amounts of pressure on ourselves to constantly achieve.  We need to embrace the Type B lurking somewhere in our psyche.  For me, it’s a daily struggle, but I only have one mind, one body and one life and I want to enjoy it. So, I think I’ll go have that glass of wine and watch the sunset.

But, there’s that next book I wanted to research . . .