Can Always Be Worse Continues

Last week’s title was “It Can Always Be Worse.” Hahaha. Yes, it can! Felix is still isolated for another week, and on Tuesday night Pear Blossom, our oldest cat at 17, got very sick with another UTI and passed a huge (for a tiny cat) blood clot through her urethra. I spent a few hours at the animal ER where they tested and medicated her. Then I came home and slept on the floor of the closet with Felix for 2.5 hours. That is the sort of 2 weeks I’ve had.

Pear got a little worse, but now seems somewhat better. However, the ultrasound at the ER showed she has something weird going on with her bladder, so it’s likely that this huge money suck we’re in the middle of is going to continue.

Mom didn’t bargain for coming to a cat hospital, but that’s what she found here in Arizona. At least she’s here with us.

Spending lots of time with my kitty loves for now. In lieu of a real post, I’ll leave you with this love-ly photo that belongs to my friend Gayle.

Gayle's heart

Please continue thoughts and prayers for Aunt Jean’s comfort and passage.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Lifestyle, Nonfiction, Writing

It Can Always Be Worse

What a week. But I’m on the upside of it now, and that reminds me of a favorite children’s book. It Could Always Be Worse is based on a Yiddish folk tale where a man complains to his rabbi about his small overcrowded house. The rabbi has him add to his inside household, the chickens, the cow, and other animals. The man does what the rabbi instructs. Then when he is ready to pull his hair out, the rabbi has him take the animals back out. When the household is back to its original size, the man is so relieved he stops complaining.

I feel as if I’ve written about this book before, but not sure.

Mom was scheduled to come on Wednesday morning, and I had been having a problem with my leg (part of my lymphedema), but hadn’t found time to treat it. I was rushing around, trying to get stuff done before she comes for a month. Tuesday night, right after dinner, my cat Felix got very sick–vomiting and diarrhea. We ended up taking him to the emergency clinic because we were afraid of a urinary blockage (since male cats are prone to those), but he was diagnosed with a microscopic parasite called Coccidia. It’s very contagious. Yippee! Great to hear when you have 5 cats (4 of them elderly). We started medicating Felix, and separated all the cats from each other!

Wednesday morning I took poos from the other cats to the vet and picked up meds for them, then went to Petsmart and bought disposable litter boxes. Then we had to haul all the plastic litter boxes and other cat paraphernalia out to the driveway for cleaning and disinfecting.

FYI, Felix did not get the Coccidia from the animal shelter where we volunteer. He came to us as a stray with parasites that hid from detection in his intestines, and he has had problems in the past because of his medical history.

Then Mom’s first flight was late, and she missed her connection. They couldn’t find her another flight to Phoenix that day! Eighty-two years old, traveling by herself, and they gave her the wrong shuttle bus name. Then they made her go to some ancient Day’s Inn where the ceiling was crumbling onto the bed. They bought her dinner, but NOT a glass of wine!

She arrived the next day in the midst of the chaos of Coccidia over here. I am exhausted. No hat is going to help me now ;).

But day by day things are getting better (or so I tell myself). And we’re just glad to have Mom here and not in Michigan weather right now.

Even this busy, I am doing a little secret editing. #amwriting

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A Tip O’ My Hats to 2017

A few years ago I made an avatar that showed me in my usual garb–tank top, yoga pants, baseball cap, and sunglasses.

The latter two items are because light, especially fluorescents!!!, is a nasty trigger for my complicated migraines (note: complicated migraines are a real thing, related to regular migraines, but not just complicated versions of the headaches). The other day I visited a fancy Whole Foods store in north Scottsdale and because the store was so big and the ceiling so covered with fluorescents within ten minutes large black shadow blobs floated in front of my vision and I got agitated. I’d forgotten my hat!

I forget my hat often enough that it’s led to a collection of emergency (and non emergency) hats. I’m trying to branch out from caps because the brims aren’t big enough and don’t block enough light.

In Bisbee, Arizona, I bought this crushable, foldable comfy hat in my favorite color, coral. I can travel with it. I usually pretend this hat matches whatever I’m wearing.

My soon-to-be DIL had a cat birthday party for my son. She ordered these caps with pix of both their cats. Look closely and you will see Lily Lane on top and Meesker on the bottom.

I fell in love with this Tucson style hat at an art fair. Look at the pretty trim.

This hat makes a specific statement that has something to do with fashion, and I don’t usually feel I can live up to it.

I found this straw cowboy hat at a rest stop between Arizona and California. It goes with my boots!

This men’s dress felt is a love. It’s too big, which is one thing that endears a hat to me.

 My family calls this my bird lady hat. As in the bird woman in Mary Poppins. This hat is important to me to watch TV on the couch. The lamp that is necessary to watch the screen at night, is behind my head, and I have to protect my head and face from the light, so I wear this hat while I’m in my nightgown, cuddling with the cats. The brim is merely fabric on a bendable wire, so I can lie back without ruining the hat.

The night the gardener and I went to the restaurant in New Orleans that has gluten free deep-fried seafood, I forgot my hat. What a mistake. That restaurant’s ceiling was populated by the harshest fluorescents I’ve ever seen. The employees were wearing ball caps! It was 9PM in the French Quarter. I was there because of the gardener’s celiac disease, but he saw how bad the lights were and went on a mission after we placed our food order. He ran blocks searching for an open store with a hat. I couldn’t do it because I can’t run or walk fast for medical reasons, so I sat there under the lights with my purse over my head (you can go ahead and laugh at that image–it won’t make me feel bad).

When the gardener got back, I couldn’t believe how well he did. He found a second hand store that was open. It sold a few new items, including this cool fishing hat! It looks a little worse for wear and needs a good brushing, but wow, it feels good and it looks good! The second I put it on my head, my body calmed down. (Fluorescents give me all kinds of unpleasant sensations that are probably part of migraine aura).

Ta da: the brim!

Gift shopping with my daughter led to us trying on hats at Dillard’s. They had an amazing Downton Abbey hat marked way down, and although I would NEVER wear it in real life, I thought it might be handy in case I had to attend a serious dress-up function under the LIGHTS.

At least it looks really great in my closet!

A huge welcome to 2017. Let’s move forward! Best way to do that is watch the Cotton Bowl TODAY and see my Western Michigan University Broncos kick some Badger butt!

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The End of the River

When I taught children’s lit at the university, I often included a Newbery Honor Book on my book list called To Be a Slave, edited by Julius Lester. The bulk of the material is from stories collected during the Great Depression through the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the Works Progress Administration set up by FDR. These stories were told by ex-slaves about their experiences under American slavery. Of course, by the time they told their stories, it had been decades since the end of slavery, so most of the storytellers had been children during the days of slavery. While the book is aimed at middle school kids, it’s really a book for adults, too. It can be read in brief readings, like poetry, because it is arranged by theme in little anecdotes or partial stories.

In New Orleans we went on a plantation tour, but it wasn’t the typical tour where the focus is on the lives of the plantation owners. Rather, the Whitney Plantation explores the lives of the enslaved. Our guide was very careful to use the word “enslaved” rather than slaves, and while it was sometimes slightly awkward, I really liked how it made us concentrate every time we heard it on the notion of PEOPLE who were enslaved. It doesn’t allow for the distancing that some people might feel using the word slaves, which is an “othering” word–a way to be different from the person being talked about.

New Orleans is important to the history of American slavery. It’s the end point for enslaved people whose situations went from bad to worse. When an enslaved person was sold from an enslaver who lived closer to the Mason-Dixon line, but sold farther south down the Mississippi River it meant that he or she would be worked harder and live in more dangerous conditions. New Orleans had the biggest slave market, so many enslaved people ended up at that market. The swamps and bayous of the area meant disease and more back-breaking work, namely growing and harvesting sugar cane.

Whitney Plantation is really just beginning to record and share the plight of the enslaved people of the south. There is much more work to be done. But I loved how they focused on the children because of the voices of the FWP/WPA storytellers. By the way, the bookstore has a great collection, including the Lester book. 

After the church with the children (sculptures), we toured the property.

 

Whitney has memorials that list the names of the enslaved, as well as a particular memorial for the babies who died by age two, which was very very sad. This is a sample of a memorial wall for the adults.

The main house was almost an afterthought after seeing some of the outbuildings, the kettles for harvesting sugarcane, and reading the memorials.

Wherever we travel, there are big beautiful houses to tour, and although this one was plainer than many, the emphasis here is long overdue. It’s a place to learn about the lives of the people who were bought and sold in order to work these plantations.

###

Today would have been my father’s 88th birthday, and it is my uncle’s 88th birthday (Dad’s twin). A week and a half ago, my aunt on my mom’s side (her SIL) entered the ER on the two-year anniversary of the day my father entered (that began his health decline). She was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia and has already entered hospice. Our family is in shock over this as we didn’t know she was ill. If you’re so inclined, please send up your prayers for Aunt Jean.

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Filed under Children's Literature, History, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Cities of the Dead

If you think cemeteries are unbearably creepy or sad, you might want to skip this post. After returning from a trip to New Orleans, I am still seeing her “Cities of the Dead”– as the graveyards are called–in my mind. New Orleans has dozens of cemeteries, but why are they so memorable?

Because so much of the land is at or below sea level, burials are mainly above ground. When caskets are buried underground, as the water table rises, they come right up out of the ground and float away. Above ground burials are in stone vaults or monuments, and when you see a cemetery full of these little “houses” they give the appearance of a ghoulish neighborhood or town. You can see decorative iron trim, stone crosses and sculptures, and some vaults even have stained glass.

A lot of movies have been filmed in these cemeteries. The one that has stayed with me is Double Jeopardy where Ashley Judd gets locked in a casket in Lafayette Cemetery #1. The Easy Rider scene was filmed at St. Louis Cemetery #1. The latter one is the oldest cemetery in the city and located in a swamp. It’s claim to fame is that it houses the tomb of Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen, who was buried there in 1881. Many of the cemeteries are Roman Catholic or divided into sections by religion and also by race. The oldest cemeteries, like St. Louis 1, 2, and 3 are very dilapitated. The stone is crumbling, there is moss over many of the vaults, and therefore they are the most creepy.

Metairie Cemetery (located in New Orleans, not the city of Metairie) is newer and was set up by a Creole (usually “mixed race” person, and that is important to the following) who did not want sections by religion and race and did not want a segregated cemetery. It has the most extravagant marble monuments in the city, though, and Anne Rice’s husband the poet Stan Rice is buried there. He died at age 60 of brain cancer. At the same cemetery, the owners of Whitney Bank made their monument look like a little bank.

You can take tours of the cemeteries, but I think the best way is to plan a couple of days to visit several cemeteries on your own. That way you can spend as much time as you like, depending on the ones you prefer.

It might seem odd to take photos of places where people just like me were buried, but I belong to FindaGrave, which accesses cemetery records across the country. The point of that site is to take photos of all the headstones/graves in the U.S.–and connect each one to the person buried there–birth and death info, relationships with others buried, and photos of the individual. I “tend” a few graves on there by paying a one-time fee of $5 to remove advertising from the grave’s page.

New Orleans even has a Masonic cemetery. I was actually surprised to see the old, abandoned Masonic Temple because my understanding is that the doctrines of the Catholic Church and Freemasonry are incompatible. Since New Orleans has a Catholic historical base and population, I mentioned to the gardener that I probably wouldn’t find a Masonic Temple here, and right at that moment, it stood in front of our car.

I wanted to visit the Masonic cemetery, but it was not to be (for which I blame the gardener).

He doesn’t really understand my fascination with the Masons. He even said, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a place for a bunch of guys to hang out.” He doesn’t think they are mysterious or intriguing at all.

But I do ;).

And the same is true for those cemeteries. But then I can’t go past an old cemetery without stopping.

 

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The Celiac’s Wife Talks Food in The Big Easy

Do you think it’s easy to find food for a celiac who can’t eat gluten, but is also lactose intolerant, fat intolerant, and can’t eat beans, chocolate, coconut, etc.?

OK, well, the fact is that it was sure easy for ME to find food ;). I parTOOK of gumbo, beignets, cafe au lait, deep-fried seafood, rich creole sauces, and more. But I had to do it in restaurants–for the most part–where I could drag the celiac.

Our first big meal was in a seafood restaurant in the French Quarter. They had lots of deep-fried this and that.

The celiac quickly learned that he needed to order the boiled seafood. First, he had to ask if anything else was boiled in that water. If they boiled anything with gluten, he had to opt out. But if they boiled potatoes, corn on the cob, and seafood, that was fine.

That left the deep-fried for me. And what did I order? Oysters every time. A few times I sample other fried seafood, but nothing can beat the oysters.

You see those onion rings? They were great, too. I didn’t eat the fries or too many of the hushpuppies buried underneath. After all, I’m not a . . . glutton. Eventually we did find a very casual restaurant where all the deepfried foods are gluten free. They were quite busy, probably because they are the only place a celiac can get gluten free fried seafood–and also because the prices were quite low. The food was so-so, but it was a relief that the gardener could try the fried shrimp and oysters without worry.

Because the vegetable selection was sparse in these seafood platters (cole slaw is NOT ubiquitous in NOLA), I ordered a Bloody Mary for a healthy balance.

The bean is pickled, and there are a cocktail onion and other veggies hidden from view.

On one of our quick stops, I ordered a bowl of tasty New Orleans gumbo in a brown roux. What I really appreciate about the gumbos I ate or saw is that they had crab and shrimp, but didn’t stick in mussels or scallops. I am allergic to mussels and scallops, but not other shellfish. Before you think I’m imaging this, I found out a year or so ago that my mother has the exact same allergy!

One night we went to a fancy-schmancy restaurant called Mr. John’s. The gardener ordered a steak and mushrooms and salad, but I had a salad with, wait for it: crab bisque (with a spicy NOLA bite to it) and fried green tomatoes with a spicy creamy type sauce. Oh yeah.

One thing about the expensive restaurants like Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, and Arnaud’s–you need to make a reservation a long time ahead. If you just go to the Big Easy and expect that easy style will net you a table at a famous restaurant, you will see that you were sadly mistaken.  I suggest making a reservation long before you go, if you really want to go to one of these restaurants. Also, these places generally still require men to wear jackets. Mr. John’s requires a reservation, as well, but not so far in advance–and no jacket necessary.

New Orleans food is mainly comprised of either Cajun (spicy) or Creole (heavy cream sauces) foods, accessorized with a lot of deep-fried seafood and this-and-that. After awhile, as a way to avoid the Gaviscon, you want something lighter. We ate sushi twice, and it was spectacular. Check out Poseidon on St. Charles when you need a break from “traditional” NOLA food.

I hadn’t planned on eating sweets on this vacation, but our city tour took us to a stop where we were encouraged to try New Orleans beignets (square holeless French doughnuts) topped with confectioner’s sugar and cafe au lait. Cafe au lait in NOLA is apparently chicory coffee. This is what my buddy Wikipedia has to say about New Orleans cafe au lait (as opposed to the French style):

Café au lait is a popular drink in New Orleans, available at coffee shops like Café du Monde and Morning Call, where it is made with milk and coffee mixed with chicory, giving it a strong, bitter taste. Unlike the European café style, a New Orleans-style café au lait is made with scalded milk (milk warmed over heat to just below boiling), rather than with steamed milk. The use of roasted chicory root as an extender in coffee became common in Louisiana during the American Civil War, when Union navalblockades cut off the Port of New Orleans, forcing citizens to stretch out the coffee supply. In New Orleans, café au lait is traditionally drunk while eating beignetsdusted with powdered sugar, which offsets the bitterness of the chicory.

I hate to admit it, but I ate this in front of the gardener. The cafe had NADA (zilch, zero, nutten) for him to order. Even the cafe au lait wasn’t guaranteed to be gluten free and he could never tolerate all that dairy. He had black coffee. Yes, in answer to your question, I felt terrible. But this snack tasted great ;).

What’s next? Probably the graves. We also visited the only plantation that focuses on the lives of the enslaved, not the enslavers. I might write about that, too. But graves next.

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Don’t People Usually Mention the Food and the Music First?

On Monday I left a clue about where I’ve been vacationing. I said there were “gators,” but it wasn’t Florida. Yup, that’s right. I was in New Orleans and even ventured into Cajun Country. I can’t begin to cover the (at least several) subjects that grabbed my attention in one post, but let me say that architecture was a big one. Housing styles in New Orleans are pretty specific to the Big Easy, and they are clearly defined. The three main styles that I noticed were Creole Cottage, Center Hall Cottage, and Townhouse. Shotgun is another style–it’s characterized by its long narrow layout. They are also the type of house that Property Brothers on HGTV is currently renovating.

This is a Creole Cottage.

creole-cottage

Notice the two windows and two doors across the front of the Creole Cottage. These are very common. This is a renovated version. Typically, someone buys a rundown cottage, lives in one side and renovates the other. Then they rent out the renovated side and renovate their own side. Sometimes owners eventually take over the entire house, but the one in the photo is still set up like a duplex.

This beautiful white house is a Center Hall Cottage. This style is seen elsewhere in the American South and the Caribbean, so its style is thought to predate New Orleans.

The Townhouse style, as seen above, is two or three stories, and has a “gallery” above with a wrought iron railing in the Spanish style. Generally, there is no door upstairs and, instead, residents exit to the gallery through a “guillotine” window.  Some of these houses have a balcony rather than a gallery. The difference is that a gallery is supported by posts, whereas a balcony is not. The gallery is wider, and the balcony a very narrow ledge.

The next photo is the Shotgun style, similar to the one remodelled by Property Brothers. They decided to split the space so that the front is a separate apartment from the back. This is different from the typical Creole Cottage renovations where both apartments have a front door. Of course, it was necessary for them to do this because of the narrow footprint of the Shotgun style. Sorry for the window reflection on this one.

 

Thus ends my lesson in New Orleans residential architecture hahaha. We did take a tour of the city, and by the end, I was begging the gardener to quiz me on the styles. No could do. I have always been really keen on the “art” of architecture (as opposed to the math of it, I guess).

We stayed on St. Charles Avenue, which is the parade path during Mardi Gras. All up and down the avenue the trees are strung with party beads, reminding tourists and residents of the fun ahead. Lucky me, I found a strand in the mud, as if the city was welcoming me ;).

And although it wasn’t the season, I still thought a mask was in order.

Tragedy and Comedy

Tragedy and Comedy

Maybe I’ll come back later and talk about food, music, and graves . . . .

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S.K. Nicholls’ New Mystery Series Off With a Bang

Have you seen promos for S.K. Nicholls’ new novel Naked Alliances? It’s billed as “Book One” of the Naked Eye Series. 

I’m hooked and will be bugging her waiting impatiently for Book Two. She’s got a great idea here for a mystery series–adventurous mysteries that feature the nudist resort Leisure Lagoon and diverse Orlando as backdrops. What an original concept. And one S.K. understands since her “family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation.”

The book is fast-paced and plausible. The mystery itself takes some twists and turns and always seems to have one more twist ahead (even at the end). Richard Noggin (yes, think about it) is a semi-stable, humane, and very human protagonist, and his at-first-unwilling helper Brandi has a colorful personal style. I hope we see more of the two of them teamed up solving crimes. Not sure Richard can do without Brandi’s assistance!

Maybe the most glowing praise I can pin on this book is that I kept envisioning everything as if it were a movie playing out before my eyes.

When is the next book in the series going to hit Amazon, S.K.?!

51nscepy4il-_sx331_bo1204203200_

I’ve just returned from travel and will catch up soon! In the meantime, enjoy Susan’s book! I wasn’t in Orlando, or any part of Florida, but there were gators . . . . Can you guess where I have been?

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A Pica Named Tiny

Catharina Lind is a Swedish journalist, a published author, and a fascinating person. We met through Ancestry.com because Catharina’s husband wanted to discover what happened to a relative who immigrated to the United States. It turns out that this relative married my father’s first cousin. My dad’s cousin’s husband (called Swede by everyone) is someone I knew as a child–and I played with his daughters.

Before I even knew Catharina was a writer, she wrote me a charming story about her favorite pica (magpie) in a conversational email (not a formal story). Magpies have always fascinated me, although we don’t have them in Arizona, so I was particularly tickled to read about Tiny. In fact, I wrote about my love of magpies on this blog 3 1/2 years ago. Catharina lived in the United States for awhile because of her husband’s job, but they are back living in Sweden–with a pica named Tiny.

baby Tiny

Teeny Tiny: last summer

We have between 20-23 hours of daylight during the summer–around the solstice it’s never really dark. Another thing that I miss from Dallas: warm, dark evenings with candlelight dinners.

I’m sitting by the kitchen windows, and my “little” Pica Pica almost crashed into the window right now. The snow is picking up and it’s rather windy. He is a magpie, similar to the Black-billed magpie. He is the toughest bird I have ever met.

He was born last year, a tiny, tiny little magpie with a damaged wing. Our house has two additional wings on each side, and there is a yard between the three houses. The fourth side has a very large hedge, so it’s secluded. He was such a little bird, so we named him Tiny. We fed him cat food, or more exactly the leftovers from our spoiled cat. According to a website that’s supposed to work for a Pica as they need protein and veggies.

Stefan had left some branches in a pile and Tiny moved in underneath them. Most of the days he walked around the yard, eating and poking around. When he got scared he either returned to his pile or sprinted into the hedges; he didn’t fly. We don’t know if he fell out from the nest or if it was a birth defect. His wing has a very strange angle and he can’t stretch it.

He wasn’t forgotten though–a few times per day his parents and siblings came by, spent some time with him on the ground, and then flew off. We weren’t sure that Tiny would survive the winter, but he did. He learned to fly a little, 10-15 feet at the most; but he flew. When the snow fell he sat on a lamp, curled up next to the wall.

Tiny is still living in our yard, but I think we gave him the wrong name. Imagine the largest magpie you can think of and add a big white belly. Then add an extra inch around the waist and you have a gigantic magpie with an obesity problem; that’s Tiny.

He’s getting better and better at flying, but he doesn’t fly much. He spends most of his days eating around the yard–hence the big belly. He and our cat have great respect for one another and they help each other by chasing away neighboring cats, especially the big, red nemesis next door.

Then in August something special happened: he got a girlfriend. Magpies mate for life, so I really hope this works out. We call her Tina and she is an adorable, little girl; though shy and scared of us. They are so cute together. They spend their days poking around the yard. Then she flies up into a tree, teasing him to follow her; but she is never out of reach.

His flying skills have improved tremendously since Tina came into the picture. They don’t fly far, nor high. She is a few feet above him, flying as slow as she possibly can. Sometimes she makes a loop so he can catch up. He, on the other hand, flaps his crooked wing as hard as he can and you can see how tough it is for him to keep up, but he doesn’t give up. A few times per day she needs to stretch her wings properly, so she flies high and he sits in his little tree looking at her. That bird has such a strength in him and he never gives up, regardless of the odds.

I really hope they have a nest next year.  It’s going to be interesting to see if their kids will live on the ground or fly like regular magpies.

Now this became much longer then intended, but that’s what happens when one’s favorite Pica almost crashes into a window. With flying difficulties comes bad aiming and a strange landing tecnique.

Upper left:  from last winter, with Tiny on his lamp post next to the house

Upper right: a little earlier this autumn

Lower left: Tina (on the left) with her love Tiny

Lower right: Tiny, taken just the other day

If you loved Tiny’s story, please check out Catharina’s blog! Who knew that this new relative-by-marriage was a blogger?!

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Filed under Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Family history, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

Stories Horses Have Told My Cousin

Although I have been working on and off for years on a family history and photograph project, I don’t bring it up too terribly often over here. I have collected antique and vintage family photos from many branches of my family–once I showed an interest to my grandparents years ago, the whole family has been directing heirlooms my way. It’s very time-consuming, and I’ve had to do a lot of genealogical research to put information in order.

Through my family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo, and Ancestry.com I’ve met (online mainly) soooo many people who have helped me. It’s astonishing. I now have friends in Europe, as well as the United States who are relatives, distant cousins, or related by “someone-somewhere’s” marriage. These are all such special people. And they all have fabulous stories.

I was introduced to my cousin Jeane by a genealogist friend who I met through The Family Kalamazoo. Her father and my father were first cousins, but they never met, to my knowledge. Her father was older than mine and the families had become more distant as years went on. I hope I can meet Jeane in person. She lives in the east, on a lovely horse farm (a post-retirement project), and loves–get this–animals and writing. She is also involved in animal rescue. 🙂

When Jeane was a girl she dreamed, as so many girls, of having her own horse. She imagined riding the horse and the bond they would have. But after she retired, and after years of dog rescue, she fell in love with a horse named Virgil that had been abused. Jeane had to board him as she had no place to keep him. Eventually, she and her husband got their own farm because of Virgil and other horses. Through him, Jeane began to learn how difficult the lives of horses can be. She also learned to place a high value on communication with horses.

Jeane has written a collection of short stories called Stories My Horses Have Told Me. The background of each horse that Jeane adopted is detailed in these stories. After adopting four rescues, Jeane tells us:

 

After five years of dreaming and searching, we arrived at our farm in the middle of June 2004 with four horses.  As each horse stepped off the trailer they were led to a stall and allowed to rest.  Each had hay and fresh water.  All were anticipating their first turn-out into their new fields.

Although the four horses all came from different families, they bonded immediately.  They were now a family.

What we didn’t realize is that our herd was not complete yet.  Star was waiting for us . . . .

We swore we would never buy a horse.  There are horses needing adoption or rescue and that was our focus – until Star.

Jeane has had a couple of wonderful horse whisperers helping her to communicate with her horses. One of them was able to communicate with Star.

Star talked about being cold.  She said she never wanted to be cold again.  We didn’t understand then that she was talking about her sale in January, being shaved, with no shelter or blanket in her new home.  That information came in a conversation with her previous owner.  I asked what time of year he bought her and under what circumstances.  Then I asked if she had been shaved.  When he said “yes,” I asked had he blanketed her.  “Lord no! She’s a horse.”

To sum up Star’s previous life:

What we know about Star’s previous life is that there had been seven owners in her short five years.  Her owners had not been kind, treating and riding her roughly. Her winter coat had been shaved off in January 2004 so she would present as sleek and shiny for a horse sale.  Her new owner didn’t have shelter and did not offer her a blanket to protect her from the sub-freezing temperatures, and she was cold.  She also endured being stabbed with a pitchfork, a broom handle broken over her head, and her halter used as a weapon to make her obey.  She had little patience, and no trust in humans.

There was more, much more, to Star then met the eye.  She was not a happy horse.  She was a loner, not wanting to interact with any of the herd.  Something about her made you feel so sad.  There was someone special she was searching for.

That someone special was not to be Jeane, but it’s a tribute to Jeane’s love for animals that she recognizes that every horse is different and with different needs. Star was determined to be a highly intelligent horse.

What an extraordinary horse.  But her trust in humans remained unchanged regardless of our efforts.  She would leave the barn as we entered, wanting as little contact as possible, but that didn’t happen the day a friend arrived for a visit.  Their eyes locked, Star walked up to her and life suddenly had purpose.  Michele is a professor at a university in Washington, DC.  Star sensed the intelligence – an equal.  The connection couldn’t be denied and Star soon went to live with Michele.

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We don’t always have control over the destinies of our horses.  We always hope we are making the right decisions.  Often there are difficult choices, but if we learn to listen to them it will make their lives, and ours, better.  They are always talking – take the time to listen.

Michele is a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  From England, she now calls the US home.  An accomplished equestrian, along with many other talents, she continues to ride and train in dressage.  Michele and Star make an incredible team!

Heroes for the animals come in so many styles. Jeane’s has been to make her home a refuge for all manner of needy animals (including cats :)!). Obviously, I’m thrilled to find this cousin of mine and hope we get to meet before too long.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing