Monday, 5 October 2015

Heart Horse

I reach out to gently stroke his neck, and my hand sinks into his quickly growing winter coat.  It's soft and comforting.  Wanting nothing more than to snuggle up against his big shoulder, I wrap my arms around him and lay my cheek against his neck.  He leans in for more and I smile.  That's it - we've finally made it, and it's only taken us 2 whole years to get there.

I fell in love with Ben the day I met him.  Thin and frail and all alone, he was separated from the herd because he was herd bound.  I was warned beforehand that he was a puller, a bolter, and tended to do have "fits" if not lunged before being mounted.  I needed special equipment to keep his head from going up and ignoring all aids.  The list went on and on.

I'll preface this by saying that I have had a few bad accidents in my lifetime, and my confidence is not what it should be... it was even worse then.  Getting on a horse that was branded as "trouble" was not something I wanted to do, nor felt I had the skillset to handle. That day, however, I mustered up the courage somehow, put my foot in that stirrup and got up on that horse. I had none of the equipment she had mentioned, and never having seen him ridden, I had no idea of what this "fit" would look like.  

First impressions are everything, and my first impression was that of a horse that was so twisted up inside, he didn't know whether to guard himself, go along with you, or run the hell away. Immediately, his head went up in the air and I let it go.  He had a look of surprise, and after a few rounds of walking he settled in and let his body relax.  We walked and trotted and it all went wonderful.  No bolting, no fits - just a cooperative horse still somewhat on-guard.  

He braced as he stood to be untacked, and he weaved - back and forth, back and forth - at the hitching post.  "Somebody never taught him respect," uttered the barn manager.  I didn't see that.  I saw a horse fretting not because he was snotty or obnoxious, but because he was so caught up in worry.  We worked on calmly and firmly stopping and repositioning on each weave, being careful to never get angry.  I worried that he had the ability to really panic and throw himself into an unsafe place, emotionally and physically.  I wanted nothing more than to "fix" this horse, and I loved him for his hurt heart.

I described Ben as aloof and professional.  You don't push him or show anger and he'll do exactly as you ask.  Physical touch made him... uncomfortable.  I wondered for a long time if he physically felt something that caused his aversion to human touch.  Either way, I left him alone.  I touched only when necessary.  Withheld my kisses.  Certainly never hugged. Our ritual was catch him, groom him, ride him, groom him, release him.  Nothing more and nothing less.  We continued on this way for many months, and after a while, I just stopped "testing" to see if that day would be magically be different.

Then along came Mowgli - my "love" horse.  He thrived on human attention.  I hugged him and kissed him and just spent time with him.  We had an unspoken bond and he filled that longing and ache for a heart horse that Ben just couldn't fill.  The distance between Ben and I grew, and at one point, I actually thought that I should just sell Ben.  

When I lost Mowgli this summer, my heart felt shattered.   All of my love and that amazing bond was just ripped away.  I got lost in should haves, could haves, and would haves.  I cried endless tears for days - and I avoided the pasture with the other horses.  Fortunately, the chores didn't stop and I was forced to go out one day and walk the pasture.  I knew it would be hard.  I wasn't even to the gate yet, and the tears started flowing.  I walked out to the middle of the open pasture on the side and sat down.  Crouched over and sobbing, I begged for my Mowgli back.

I hadn't noticed that Ben had come up.  He gently touched my head with his muzzle and then went back to grazing, only feet from where I sat.  He had a look on his face like he was shocked that a human could be vulnerable... much like a child the first time they see a parent cry.  I realized that I never let him see that side of me... the side that needed him.  I felt him say, in the only way he could, that it was all going to be ok.  

Our relationship changed that day, and I feel forever grateful it did.  I've allowed him to see my vulnerabilities, my heartaches, and my frustrations - as well as the opposite range of emotions.  In return, he has shown me his and has allowed me into that space where he feels most weak.  He knows my touch is not an extension of a hand that demands something from him, but rather a hand that wants him to feel me.

Yes, it's been two long years, but it's been worth every second.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Life in the not-so-fast lane

As most of you know, I disabled my Facebook account a week ago.  I was finding myself checking out in the evenings, and spending an exorbitant amount of time not doing a whole lot of anything.  I had been talking about doing it for months and it just never seemed like the right time.  With spring upon us, it became evident I didn't have any time left to be looking at Facebook all evening.  I have barns to clean and fences to mend, horses to groom and goats to lead, cats to cuddle and dogs to throw a ball for... I have family to love and life to live.
Numerous times over the last week I've been told that people miss reading the updates on the acreage life, and - surprise, surprise - I miss sharing our story with you all.  This blog will be my outlet from here on out, and yes, I know, I have said that before!  I'll do my best, time permitting.
So the following was our Sunday of life in the not-so-fast lane of the Therrien Family.  Not going to tell it like a story because it is far too long to tell, but in summary, there's a lot of fun to be had if you are ok with getting dirty and smelling like a farm :)
  • Did the usual chores with the ever appreciative horses and goats.  Took myself a selfie with the old man, Rusty.
  • Before I could come in, the kids had come outside to play and explore.  We walked around for about an hour just discovering the bounds we have to live within.  Lots and lots of fencing to repair!
  • Came back in for coffee, breakfast, and a quick hour of work remotely.
  • Back on out to brush out all the horses.  Ben's hair is literally coming out in handfuls, while Mowgli hasn't even started shedding yet.  Ben was loving it as 3 of us tackled his shedding disaster.  I think this is 1/2 a horse here!
  • Spent quite a while with poor Tigger.  The little guy is terrified of me again since I no longer wear my chore clothes.  I wonder when/if this will ever change for him :(
  • Sat and watched as the kids played with the dogs, cats, and goats in the sunshine.  The goats very happily played and laid in the sunshine between stripping the caraganas to nothing, and cleaning up our hay pile.
  • Came back in for a bite of lunch and a quick game of bingo before venturing out again, this time to do some riding lessons on Mr. Nosey.
  • Decided to try to tackle some fencing (unsuccessfully), while Reno got the quad and trailer ready for a rip around the yard with the kids.
  • Back in for a cuddle, movie, and supper.
  • Out for another round of chores and visits!
So there you have it - the first edition of my regular (hopefully) installments :)

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Final Moments

I think this will be a post that requires many rewrites... many backspaces and rewording, and yet I still won't get it quite right.

Pulling in to the driveway at home, I find my children all waiting for me on the deck.  Graysen has a small leaf in hand that he'd like to show me, and the others are just overly excitied to see me - not unusual for a sunny day reception.  I stepped through the mesh door, quickly say hi to Reno and begin to rant about my daily perils.  He approaches me, phone in hand, and I can tell by the expression on his face.  "Your dad called...", he begins.  That's all I need to know.  I grasp the phone and make the call, my fingers trembling and my heart racing.

Dad explains that she's been in a coma since he found her that morning.  She's resurfaced enough to fight them throughout the day, but that's as far as it's gone.  She's not been able to speak or verbalize anything, but one thing was for certain, this was the toughest fight now.  I knew when I spoke on the phone that this was it - there was no coming back, but in my heart I held a little bit of hope.  Hope that this was just some big mistake.

When dad called at 11:15 PM to say that they were stopping efforts to fight for her to live and were going to make her comfortable, he broke down.  I knew I needed to leave.  I needed to see her and be there for dad before there were no more chances.  I climbed into my car, armed with a bag of clothes randomly grabbed, a box of protien bars, and a large cup of coffee. 

I arrived in Lloyd at 2:48 AM, and was completely unprepared for what I was about to see.  I had envisioned her to be laying there, looking peaceful in a coma.  What I saw instead was my mother looking like she had just been through a marathon, laying tense - her body working desperately trying to breath.  My stomach churned and I felt nauseous.  I held dad's hand and mom's and cried with him.  We were about to go through the hardest thing we'd ever been through.

I don't think I'd ever seen my dad cry so much.  His hands were hot to the touch, and a bright red color.  He didn't let go of her hand for longer than 5 minutes at a time.  We talked about how this was what she wanted, but it was still difficult to watch.  There were moments  where her breathing would get more difficult and the nurses would come to her aid.  I found myself scared in those moments - frightened they were the last... angered that the nurses didn't react in a more speedy manor. 

My brother, Russ, arrived shortly after I did.  At the moment he arrived, we hugged - tightly, and with more sincerity than ever before.  He sat by mom's bedside and stroked her hair.  I watched the care and tenderness on his face as he looked at her.  He felt for her - we all did.  We knew her pain.  We knew her struggles.  We knew this was the last step towards freedom.

Mom began to struggle again with her breathing, and a nurse came to provide some assistance.  She could see that mom was starting to slide slowly to one side, so she tenderly lifted mom's head and repositioned her.  Dad softly said thank you to the nurse.  That single act I think will stand out to us both as a genuine, non-medicinal, non-regimented approach to making her more comfortable. 

I'm not sure if it was because of the repositioning, or if it was just time, but mom never took another breath.  It stopped completely, and just by the movement of her body, I truly believe if she had been able to speak, she would have uttered good bye.  We sat with baited breath, watching as her heart continued to beat in her chest, gradually slowing until it stopped.

We all cried uncontrollably - wailed even.  We knew at that instant that her pain and suffering was done.  We also knew we would have to leave that tiny room without her.   I kissed her forehead - aware that she no longer felt me, but relieved that she no longer felt pain.

With time we walked away - together - with bond of pain to be reckoned with, and memories to hold us together.

These were her final moments, but they will live for an eternity in me.

The People Pleaser

I have a problem.  A deep-seated emotional issue rooted in my own lack of confidence.  I feel the need to assist and please those around me.  I feel the need to feel needed.

My mother always said I attracted "cling-ons".  Not the Star Trek, funky speaking folk, but the  people who desperately needed someone to listen to them and their problems.  It was a role I could easily fill.  I like to listen.  I like to hold hands.  I like to take the time to make someone feel better.  Unfortunately, that need is typically never fully fulfilled for them, and they repeatedly come back for the same kind of guidance.  In my time of need, however, they flake out.  Scatter like ashes from the fire that suddenly fizzled and I am left standing in the cold... once again all alone.  I'm also a loyalist, meaning I always forgive.  I almost always allow that cycle to return because one day it might all be better... and in the meantime they still need me.

Aurora and I were walking around Home Depot yesterday purchasing a new dryer vent cover for outside.  I was looking around at all the different supplies I could buy to further the visual appeal of our house, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Almost all of the work... the last 5 months of my evenings, weekends and spare time has been geared towards making someone else happy.  Knowing a sale was in our future, I attempted to completely change the décor of our house to meet what I felt a prospective buyer would like.  I slaved for hours... HOURS every single night after work.  Granted, there will be a payoff (hopefully) in the end, I fear I toiled away for all the wrong reasons.

Whomever finally comes out and looks at this beautiful house will probably have seen the same potential it had when the walls were a pinky brown as they will now as a crème.  They probably would still have bought it with the minor nicks and scrapes, and with the baseboard-less basement.  They would have looked past the lack of a dimmer light downstairs and put up with the fixtures.  In my mind, however, I had built up this house like I always feel the need to build up everyone around me.  It cost me money, time and energy I didn't have to give.  "Don't burn yourself out," my boss said.  "I won't!" I replied.  "Why don't I believe you...." he trailed off.

And now, as the house sits without more than an inquiry or two, I'm feeling a little like the woman who so desperately wants to conceive, watching all those around her rejoicing in a birth.  I'm jealous and resentful and feeling like all the work and time and energy (and money) just got sucked into the giant vacuum of life.  I am in my hour of need and I have nothing left to give myself.

There are a handful of people in my life I feel comfortable enough with to dump all of my trials and tribulations onto.  Only a handful I trust to help me build myself back up.  I apologize to those (you know who you are) because I don't want to be your "cling-on". 

I want to feel confident enough in myself not to need to constantly feel needed.  I want to say no.  I want to say I can't help you.  I want you to - just once - join me in my life, instead of always joining yours. 

I know that I am not perfect, but I believe I'm worth the investment.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

When a House is a Home

In March of 2007, we drove out to a small community north of the city of Saskatoon.  Excitement building as we drove - our two kids buckled securely in the back - we spoke of big plans and possibilities. 

When we were married in 2004, my parents' gift to us was the choice between a nice big wedding, or a down payment on a house when we were ready.  This was probably the quickest and easiest decision ever, and the money was saved for this future house for us.  We moved our family of 4 to a small 2 bedroom apartment in Saskatoon while I went to school and Reno kept us afloat with a data entry job.  During this time, the prices of houses began soaring around us and the debts began to swallow us whole.  I was due to graduate in June of 2007, and we knew for us to have a hope of renting, let alone buying, we were going to have to go out of the city.  Having both grown up in small towns and rural communities, this didn't scare us.  We began our hunt for the house for us.

Disappointment after disappointment fell over our hearts after we looked at many places.  We signed up for automatic emails and spent hours perusing the listings within a 1/2 hour vicinity of Saskatoon.  One morning, the listing for our current house came up, and we knew it was for us.  Before driving out to this house, I spoke with my Dad on the phone.  I forwarded him pictures and he agreed... if we liked this place then put in an offer and he would provide the down payment and assist us in getting the mortgage.

And that's what happened... we made the drive, looked at the house and fell in love instantly.  Huge kitchen and dining room, tons of bedrooms, loads of space, fenced backyard for the kids…This was it!  By the next day, we had a signed offer in hand, and April 15th, the conditions were removed.  In May we discovered we were expecting another little bundle of joy and our decision was reaffirmed.  Yes - it was a bit of a longer drive, but this was OUR ticket to independence, freedom, and a place to call home.

We got possession of the house June 30, 2007.  On that date we made a trip out with the kids, complete with sleeping bags, air mattresses and some food.  We made up our beds in one of the bedrooms, and pretended we were already all moved in.  I remember being in the backyard with the kids and telling them to run around.  They literally ran around in circles, completely unaware of what "running around" was supposed to mean to child with a backyard.  Barefoot they wriggled their toes in the rich green grass and lifted their eyes to the sunshine.  Happiest day of their lives, they declared.

The community welcomed us with open arms, and we instantly became involved in everything Laird had to offer.  Hockey, curling, Laird days, slo-pitch tournaments, hall suppers, Halloween parties, movie nights and dances.  Reno became so passionate about serving this small community, he got involved in the school board, volunteer fire department, town council, and, now, Mayor.  We've looked long and hard for places that satisfied our evolving needs and yet would still allow us to partake in all that is Laird, and finally we've found it.

This house has been our home.  I've born two more babies and raised them here.  We've had sleepless nights and trips to the ER.  We've had sleepovers, campfires, and nights on the deck.  We've played tag, watched movies, baked cookies, and had many serious discussions.  I've wiped kids faces - purple from cherries - and swept up more sand than I care to admit. We've sent 3 of the 4 off for their first days of kindergarten.  I've snuck through doors quietly to check on sleeping children.  I know every hiding nook of this house, and every creak in the floor.

This house was a key turning point for the Therrien family, and choosing to sell it is another turning point on more levels than can be conveyed.  It's a departure from what we know, what's secure, and what has served us so well for so many years.  While we always knew that a first house is rarely your "forever" house, we certainly could envision living here for the rest of our lives.  As time goes on, however, you do learn that what you want and need change with time. We've now surpassed what this house can offer us in one single area - land. My heart pangs at the loss of this house... both the physical separation and what this house has signified to us. 

This isn't just our house - it's our home, and I can only hope that someone will find and treasure this house and all it has to offer them.   

Our MLS Listing

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A man's job

My mom taught me many valuable concepts and practices growing up. 

She exemplified a woman of strength.  She demonstrated day after day that women need not be bound to the roles identified as traditional.  Women do not need to be seen as weak, nor do they need to have the men in their lives perform the physically challenging tasks.  She built fences, dug post holes, built structures, hauled trailers, drove tractors, and the list goes on.  She was diagnostic and analytical, and yet had the same keen gut instinct women tend to possess.

Anyone that knows my mom, knows that when she had her mind set on something, there wasn't a thing in the world that would stop her... and she wanted it now.  I'll be the first to admit, that it didn't always pan out the way that she wanted it to, but she rarely regretted trying.  Unfortunately - or fortunately - this is a trait she has engrained in me.

I used to think it was a weakness.  There were times this idea or vision I had would block out anything that tried to stop me or tell me otherwise.  Over the years I've learned to stop and think and listen... just long enough to decide that 90% of the time it is still a great idea and one worth pursuing.  The other 10%, I'm willing to admit I was wrong and abandon the thought in its tracks.  Procrastination is not a trait I possess, and idle time is something that doesn't often happen for me.

Over my lifetime, I have done so many of the "man's" tasks - for two reasons: the above mentioned determination, and the fact that I learned I can do most things any man can do.  I have done automotive work, electrical work, plumbing, drywalling, painting, laid floors, etc. 

At the moment, we are mid renovation of our house in preparation for its sale.  Painting, floors, drywall, trim, baseboards - it's been a lot of work in a short amount of time.  Shortly after we started renovations, Reno hurt his back and has been unable to help me.  I was giving him a hard time one night, and harassing him to cut me a piece of drywall.  This was something I had deemed to be "his job" because it seems more of a man-type activity. "You can do it yourself," he said nonchalantly.  His response initially enraged me, and then opened my eyes and a lightbulb moment happened.  He was right - I could do this myself.

And so I did.  Over and over again, I have performed jobs rather than depending on anyone.  I've nearly completed the basement entirely by myself.  It's constant and persistent, but I'm tackling these projects and crossing them off my list at a rate that meets and exceeds my uber annoying need to progress and finish projects at lightning speed.  Every evening and weekend is filled with mudding, taping, sanding and painting... I am loving it.

I thank the Lord every day I was blessed with such a strong and confident mother.  I wait for no man.

Sunday, 22 December 2013


She reached her hand down into my cold and dark corner, and spoke the words "I understand you.  I have been where you are.  I can help you out."  Slowly I uncurled from my recessed position and stood to my feet.  The light hit my face, and I looked in her eyes.  A resounding and profound connection was there, and I trusted her without question.  She was here to guide me.

And she did understand my feelings.  She had been through this before.  She knew exactly how I let this happen, and she knew what I needed to do.  "Let Him take it on", she spoke.  I envisioned the chest of a man much bigger than me, strong and resolute.  I'd place my head on His chest and weep and cry.  I would let all of my fears, frustrations and pain fall onto Him...and I would find peace.

Validation is a requirement of the human experience.  Validation of emotions, feelings and thoughts is both an internal and an external experience.  Sparing the details of the last 8 months, I've never felt so many emotions in such a short amount of time.  My experiences caused intense feelings to surface that would later be minimized by the person causing them.  Confusion set in.  Unsure what I was even entitled to feel, I stuffed it all down inside and sought others to tell me how to feel and what to do. 

The human experience is deep, and while others can connect on one level, it wasn't on all levels that we met.  Advice poured in and no opinion was withheld.  I reveled in having others understand how frustrating this must all be, but not one said I must give up the ghost.  Ultimately, at the end of the day I KNEW this was not a healthy way to feel and yet I continued to feed it.

I became wrought with anger and hatred.  When questioned as to why I had so much hate, I couldn't even explain why.  I simply felt.  It held me captive.  It consumed my thoughts.  I wanted nothing more than to break free from what now bound me.

I put out an SOS call... "Please, just someone hear me!"

By the grace of God, I extended my cry to one person in particular.  I felt moved to contact her, and I got more than I could possibly have ever imagined.

The linked article here outlines the levels of emotional validation from someone:

Level 6 was this woman.  She was my radical genuineness.  She shared her experience and helped me find the exit door of the feelings that imprisoned me.  

"Let go.  Let Him."... validation beyond the human experience.