bravery.

Bravery is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately, and this blogger has hit the nail on the head. Kudos, YoungandTwenty! If only I were still young and twenty but with the perspective I have today. 🙂

The Fine Line Between Fear and Success

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When I was about eleven or twelve I took a horse named Applejack in 4H. He was a beautiful sorrel American Quarter Horse gelding who was all of five years old. For those of you who may know anything about horses, a five year old horse is probably not the best choice for a very green rider, and that is what I was… green with a capital G.

I cleaned up in Showmanship classes, but when it came to time ride him, it was a completely different story. The worst fall happened at The Madison County Fairgrounds. He bolted (who knows why) and I lost control, falling to the ground just before he ran under a guy-wire that sliced the saddle horn in two. I don’t remember the fall, but I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t landed head first on a strip of pavement. Would the wire have sliced through me, too? I was hospitalized with a concussion.

The next fall I remember also happened at the fairgrounds, although this time I was in the arena with a bunch of other kids, just trying to have a good time. Again, Applejack spooked and took off, bouncing me off toward the fence rail. All I remember from that one is hooves pounding the sand next to my head as my horse galloped on by.

That was the tumble that did it, the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Although I’m sure I rode Applejack after that, I don’t remember it, and it seems like it was a pretty quick transition from being a star-struck horse owner, to…well… not.

I should note that all this happened back in “the good ole’ days” when kids who rode Western didn’t wear helmets. I’m definitely glad things are changing in that regard.

But back to the point of my story… when my daughter Jillian expressed an interest in learning to ride, I was all for it. My days with Applejack weren’t my last foray into horse ownership. (Once bitten by the horse bug, I don’t think it ever entirely goes away.) My parents bought me a wonderful 20+ year old mare named Babe when I was in high school, and although I didn’t show her, every moment I spent with her was pleasurable. If I’d had her before Applejack, I’m sure my horse showing path would have been significantly altered.

When Jillian was very little I bought the first horse I ever purchased on my own, a black Arabian named Prince. He was just two when I got him and after some training at a barn in Marysville I had high hopes for him. Unfortunately, my fear got in the way. I’d hit the ground too many times. Trust was a big deal. If I couldn’t trust him, there was no way he was going to be able to trust me. You see where this is going. He now has a wonderful home as a trail mount for a lovely Parelli enthusiast. I know he got the best end of that deal.

So, fast-forward to today. We have two horses in our pasture, a sweet Arab-Quarter cross named Molly, and a miniature horse named Voodoo, plus an American Quarter Horse at a barn outside of South Charleston, where Jillian takes lessons. Jillian’s had horse riding lessons off and on since she was four years old. She loves horses. Which is why we took the plunge and bought her the horse that resides at the barn away from our home. The horse we thought would be the perfect mount for her to start out with in local shows and 4H.

But… it hasn’t worked out as we’d hoped. The easy-going, been-there-done-that horse that we thought we were getting has proven to be a touch unpredictable, even when lunged before riding. I thought I was doing everything right, but it comes down to this… a horse is still an animal, unpredictable due to its very nature as a prey animal. I can’t eliminate all risk, but when risk leads to fear, what is a parent to do?

She’s already taken several tumbles. The last one being the most traumatic, as her foot was caught in the stirrup when she hit the ground. It has shaken her confidence like I’ve never seen. And as a parent, I’m having a hard time trying to force her over that hump. Don’t we have the reaction of fear for a reason? Without it, would humans have made it as far as we have? But what’s the cost? Don’t we need a touch of fear in order to foster success? To spur us on to become our best selves?

Sadly, I don’t have the answers, but I was given the glimpse of a possibility this past weekend, when my husband’s uncle and cousin came by to help teach us how to drive our miniature horse, Voodoo. I watched as Jillian took the lines and looked confident as we line drove Voodoo around our yard. Could this be the stepping stone? Could this tiny little mare be the stepping stone to propel Jillian over her fear of the saddle? Maybe I jumped the gun on buying the “show” horse. I may never know, but what I do know is that Jillian is happy and confident with Voodoo.

Last night when I was tucking her into bed she said, “Maybe I could take Voodoo in 4H instead of Jett. Would that be okay?” Of course, my answer was a resounding, “Whatever you want to do, Sweetheart.” But a nugget of regret taps at me from the inner recesses of my brain… Make her face her fears, Alicia. She’ll never experience success if you don’t make her face her fears now.”

*Sigh*

If only we all had a crystal ball. But I’m open to advice…

What would YOU do – make her ride, or give her a chance to regain her confidence?

My Muse Has ADD…

If you know any writers or have spent time listening to their conversations, I’m sure you’ve heard reference to the term “muse.” In my mind, the muse is that little voice, the imagination if you will, behind the plot lines and characters that come through on the pages of the writer’s creation. Lately, my muse has exhibited the signs of a very serious problem. My muse has ADD.

Short of providing an imaginary dosage of Ritalin, I’m at a loss for what to do. The project I’m working on is the second book in a series and I’ve got TONS of ideas. Too many, perhaps. I’ve been working on this particular novel for the past few months and have written well over 200 pages in total. Unfortunately, those 200 pages are spread across seven different Word documents and take my characters in seven different directions.

I’ll be tapping along on my laptop for days on end following one storyline, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, my muse jumps up on my shoulder and screams, “Yeah, just kidding, I think that character should do __________ instead!”

Like a mother with an ornery child, the first few times didn’t bother me so much, I thought it was cute. A mark of my great imaginative prowess, even. Look at all these great ideas I have. Now, I’m done with that. My ornery child of a muse is not so cute anymore.

So, what should I do?

I’ve tried writing through it. Going on in the direction I started, but I realized pretty quickly that when you shun your muse, your muse sticks her tongue out at you from behind a tree and hides.

Hmm… So here I sit, writing a blog post instead of working on my novel because my muse is having a field day with my creative process.

Where’s that bottle of Ritalin??

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

One morning, many years ago, a little red-haired girl stood at the top of a flight of stairs, rubbing her eyes and yawning the remnants of sleep away. Her stuffed turtle was clutched in her little fist as she descended the stairs toward the scent of freshly fried bacon and homemade pancakes. That little girl was me, of course, and this morning I was transported back to those days thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Growing up, I spent a good deal of time at my grandparents’ farm. The century old structure somehow soaked up all those memories, holding them tight within her walls through the years, and today they came spilling out. Ten years ago, Doug and I sold our home in Columbus after agreeing to purchase “the farm” (as we lovingly called it) from my aunt. Unfortunately, the best laid plans do not always work out, and such was the case with the farm. Instead, we were left to quickly find a replacement home and ended up where we live today. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the transaction had worked out. Those walls that saw so many Christmas gatherings, the floors that withstood the frolicking of rambunctious cousins, and the yard that provided endless hours of sun-drenched entertainment would stay in the family. I often regret that we couldn’t make that happen.

This morning I drove down a familiar long gravel driveway. Under the guise of a garage sale, I was prying into the lives of the couple who now lived within those memory-filled walls. The closer I got to the house, the more solid the lump in my throat became. What would I find? Would this couple have any interest in sharing a walk down memory lane for people they’d never met? Thankfully, they did.

These amazing people have lovingly returned my grandparents’ old farmhouse back into a well-loved home. As I ventured inside, I was struck by the care they’d taken. Flowers bloomed across the yard and along the walk. The kitchen, where I’d eaten more silver-dollar pancakes than a child ever should, was in its glory. An apron front sink spoke of an era gone by, and each furnishing seemed specially chosen to accent the age of the home. I was enthralled, and frankly, leaving was hard.

But as I drove away, I realized something. These wonderful people are perfect caretakers for the farm. I’d been afraid the new residents would somehow strip those memories away, but instead, they’ve managed to magnify them. I can still see that little red-haired girl at the top of the stairs, with turtle in hand, waiting to join her Grandmother and Grandaddy around a worn kitchen table.

Deep down I will always bear a seed of regret, and perhaps, when the time is right, I’ll have the opportunity to make it right. But in the meantime, I can rest easy, knowing that through the kindness of strangers, I got one more walk down memory lane.