Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Make Your Life.....

I spent the weekend at a sheepdog trial.....I've not trialed since late last fall.  The past two years, my trialing has been sparse; with the BIG move, I wanted to be fair to my dogs.  If I can't condition them and put some time into the working relationship, I'd rather not spin them out onto a field of lines and precision.  Now here I am, full circle back to the beginning of my roots.....the trial that started it all for me......surprisingly, I'm not the same person I was ten years ago.

I keep thinking of my favorite movie quote...."Seize the day.....make your life extraordinary";  whispered by the lead actor, Robin Williams, as he points to a trophy cabinet filled with pictures of teams from the past.....reminding the young boys that all those men in the pictures were dead.  It's the fate of all of us; the ending punctuation of our life book is death.  Indeed the other truth is: we have the opportunity to make this day, the one we are living right this very moment, amazing.  The quote reminds me...I the very least, and most, I chose my focus.

The Scio Trial 2016.......I really enjoyed my dogs.  Sis showed the things we have worked on in understanding, all the while knowing, she needs time to become.  I asked things of her she was not quite ready to give and yet she also showed understanding and partnership as she sorted all the "new" I threw at her.  My job now is to be fair and cut the muscle memory in myself; that muscle that goes to a bit of yelling when any dog does not seem to listen to what I am trying to say.  Bella ran and it was good to see that she is feeling pretty fit.  I spayed her in January and took a tumor off her back leg.  Our journey back to fitness has been a little sore.  She is also a little chubby.....sigh....taking weight off a spayed dog requires some creativity and the help of a village.

I read a blog post the other day that presented the idea:  much of disappointment, and perhaps even some depression, stems from "expectations."  At the end, the article encouraged me to let go of my daily expectations.  I've thought about this for the past few days.......

I've made my own equation from the idea.....expectation + perfectionism = _______________.  I've lived this, having had a few people in my past life that were expectation + perfectionism + personal low self esteem = very critical negativity.  You know the type...where nothing you do is ever good enough and there is always, always something wrong.  Perhaps I brought that to my early dog interactions.....poor Snook, my sacrificial first dog.  Digging a little deeper, perhaps I brought this to my college years, friendships, parenting and most certainly to my relationship with myself.

I've already, with intention and focus, begun to put to death my perfectionism.  The new question is: how does one let go of "expectation," especially when a toe is dipped in the pool of a competitive based activity?  First off, letting go of other people's expectations is paramount.  It's not just the sheep dog world of critical's everywhere.  I'm dabbling in the world of bees and I have joined a few 'bee forums.'  I've found the critical expectation there as well.....from what type of hive is maintained, to needing to wear a total and complete bee suit to be comfortable working with those tiny stinging pollinating creatures from Heaven.  "I'm so badass, I tend my bees in my birthday SHOULD too."  Um...not ever going to happen!!!

I've been working with myself on "being present" for the past few years.  I've struggled with this.....but it's a worthy quest for me as I let go of expectations. Also letting go of, what Dr. Daniel Amen calls, ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts.   I've already confessed I work my mind around to seeing the beauty of the land as I nurture it back around to fertile and healthy instead of focusing on how sick and uncared for it was when I began.  As I run, I try to see and be a part of the run rather than allow my mind to make lists of things needing done or worse...get caught up in not really wanting to run!  At the trail this past weekend, I found myself falling into the list of expectations of what I thought my dogs could do, should do, do better.  It was only a momentary lapse into the expectation insanity.....I breathed out and sought to seize the day.  I volunteered to exhaust and move sheep with Sis.....

I spent some quality time with people I have not seen for a long while.....and while we chatted, I really focused on being in the here and now; I learned more about them and their lives.  I sat and watched dogs run....styles of handling, glimpses of understanding, creativity in partnerships.  As I drove home, I knew the day had unfolded into extraordinary.

Letting go of expectations, working on being present, exterminating ANTs, directing focus, and along the way.....finding the's a noble quest and I'll keep to it.

Seize the day.....make life extraordinary!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What Makes Your Heart Beat?

A long time ago, in a world that feels far, far away, a friend from a past life told me...."do what makes you happy."  This advice came on the tail end of a disappointing trial season.....the disappointment falling on myself and who I had become. I had sort of lost sight of how I trained, the importance of relationship, and the joy that comes when focus is "right".  I've thought long and hard about those five words "".  What does make me want to get out of bed in the morning?  What makes my heart beat?  

When it comes to dogs, I love watching a dog sort and learn....two parts natural instinct mixed with one part input from me.  I double love watching a dog sort out sheep in real working situations.  The confidence that comes from shutting the gate on a task and knowing the work was done, together...and done well.

I love riding out on a cool morning, climbing hills, Bella running by my side looking out and knowing...there is a job to be done today.

Watching a dog sort out its first look at a mob of "old croppers", which by the way are older bigger lambs being sold for bigger weights, finding courage and understanding how to move the bolder of the mob....well, it always takes me breath away to see the dog unfold into being useful.

Working together, my dogs and me, to help take a mob of sheep to a new field......doing a job, making it easier, smoother, less stressful.....makes me so proud of all that my dogs are.

I know happiness can be so fleeting...I also know it can be a side effect of right focus.  I think, more than being "happy" I am seeking those daily captured moments where relationships are nurtured, deepened, solidified......those moments come putting in the time while staying present and doing the work.

This.....this is what makes my heart beat!

Seize the Day......

....make life extraordinary!

Sunday, May 1, 2016


"Have you ever had a moment like that? Suddenly, without explanation, the stars seem to align and, without doing anything, the pressure in your chest eases and the thoughts in your mind untangle and you can’t explain it, but it seems like everything’s going to be okay, and you know you didn’t do anything to make it happen and it feels like a gift—one you want to open slowly so the moment of grace won’t pass you by, as you know it inevitably will." ~ Dr. Kelley Flanagan
I really enjoy Dr. Flanagan's website blog, UnTangled.  He is pretty darn raw and authentic; does not sugar coat the challenges of life all the while striving to find the higher ground.  Unlike so much of the blather on social media, which whips up drama forming stiff peaks of uncooked meringue, Dr. Flanagan brings the journey of living around to self.  I love it, I need it. I long for my moments of amazement to string together joined by "gratitude" and "right focus."

I love the new ranch.  Over the past few months, I will admit, there have been times where I felt like I was just visiting; I've felt like I was staying at a bed and breakfast, until Tuesday night.  The moment probably was seeded last month when we finally signed all the papers and the other house became home to another family.  I drove by and saw kid things in the back yard and it was bittersweet.  All the memories; the goods and bad, mundanes and parties, memories of growing a family and finding a little more of myself washed over me.  I'm so thankful the house belongs to another family growing up deserves to be loved and enjoyed!  The signing of the papers and the turning over of keys released me into unpacking my heart and mind....finally. As I was driving home on a windy, rainy Tuesday night....I came to the stop sign that I have stopped at how many thousands of times over the past 10 years of owning my original RDR?  THAT moment, of intense feeling of being untangled, hit me...... I turned right instead of left and drove home.  

This place is pretty magical.....there are days when I go out to work and I lose myself in time.  I step back into 1856 when the property was homesteaded...the first in the Turner valley.  I squint my eyes into slits and let my mind wander into the forest trees that were cut off the hill side.  What grew in the big field below? Certainly camas, as my wet corner pocket acres are full of the beautiful purple flowers.  I wonder if natives roamed my land, gathering the roots to dry and feed their families.  The little pond, fed by the spring-head on the acre we own across the main road, invites a leisure bench sitting in the shade of the big willow........who decided to bring the bullfrogs in?  Taking the land back from the hemlock, thistle and blackberries is my main goal right now.....and the beauty unfolds as the work continues.

My husband laughs, almost daily, in wonderment at the idea we purchased 'property with a view'. "Who knew?" he exclaims as he drinks his coffee from the porch and wonders at the changing views. Some days fog rolls in off Mill Creek, fingers extending out over the fields, lengthening, relaxing and covering the land.  As the sun rises and finds strength, the hand folds curling back into the waters, taking nothing while leaving the fingerprints of dew.  Other days, the sky is crystal blue, a backdrop for Mt. Jefferson, a rosy snow covered mountain reflected in the water of the pond.  

The work can be consuming....the fitbit steps never I spray, seed, feed and love on the land.  Thoughts of "how the heck could anyone let the land go so feral?" sneak in and I remind myself......I am so blessed!  The physical work, putting the roots to my dreams, is so rewarding....and I find a lot of happiness and perhaps a little peace as the late 1800's meet 2016.  

Secretly, I think this place was created just for me.  All the tiny details of those who lived here before.....maybe it was created for them too, but most certainly it was for me.  "Suddenly, without explanation, the stars seem to align and, without doing anything, the pressure in your chest eases and the thoughts in your mind untangle and you can’t explain it, but it seems like everything’s going to be okay, and you know you didn’t do anything to make it happen and it feels like a gift—one you want to open slowly so the moment of grace won’t pass you by, as you know it inevitably will."

I find myself living my manifesto.....seize the day, make life the gift slowly (with intention) so the moment won't pass me by......

Monday, April 25, 2016

Are Blogs a Thing of the Past?

I glance over at my blog feed, the list being full and long on the right hand side of my own blog page......only a handful, if that, are current.  I wonder why?  The running blogs I follow are filled with current updates, the same to be said with the bee blogs.  Of course, Pioneer Woman posts every day, sometimes more than once!  What has become of the working dog blogs?

Personally, my life has changed radically with the move to new land.  I'm still training my dogs but the days of "every weekend trialing" are gone for now.  The list of "things to do" here and closing up shop there, makes for days on end being full from sunup to sundown.  I hit over 120,00 steps for the week for the first time since my half marathon.  My days are filled with hemlock and thistle eradication, planting, feeding, planning and dreaming.  I've added bees to help the orchard thrive and have plans for an enclosed, deer proof garden.

But my love is still the dogs!  My freelance sheep work has continued well past lambing.  Young Sis is coming along and I try to work her on the mobs whenever the fields allow for mistakes and learning.  I've got a friend's dog in for some training; new lines are making me dig deep into the tool box to get understanding.  An old friend, from a life that feels past, once told me, "do what makes your heart happy" and here I am.

As I watch the youngsters sort and learn, my heart can hardly be contained in my chest.  Sis gathered a field of mamas and babies the other day. The field did not allow for the gather of my dreams; two string polywire lined the back end and Sis does not have the experience to sort that.  Well, not without either losing sheep through the wires or getting shocked in the process of bending.  As I work on her bending and sorting top ends....a shock is NOT where I want to go ever, so I got my Fitbit steps in and walked her out......pushing the stragglers over to form a single mob as we went out wide. The push to the holding pen was nice and easy with everyone staying together and Sis covering all those who might want to stay.  Sis was quite comfortable being way ahead of my slower, two legged trot that never seems to keep up with anything four legged especially in a wet field.  Once we got to the need for some real "pushing" the pressure brought some fight out in a couple of mamas.  I watched in amazement as Sis sorted out what to do and when.  One ewe, Sis just held the pressure and the mama moved off with her baby.  Another ewe decided her family was not going in the pen and came at Sis. Time froze and I knew....this was a make or break moment.

Watching a dog find themselves...learning what they are made of.....still takes me breath away.  I had no idea that Sis had a lovely face bite in her.....a soft one and a nice hard one.... or that she could take the "stand there" to allow the ewe to move off once the defensive move was delivered.  Perhaps I could have manufactured the experience in a controlled training session.....however, watching Sis sort it out herself was that sweet reward of all the lies in these amazing working dogs.  It's that "thing" that I can't take much credit for......perhaps just allowing "it" the time and miles and trust and relationship to grow up and finds its way out in the real work.

I'm still here, although life looks a little different these days.  I still train and work and I'll get a few trials in here and there.  I still think about the dogs and ponder their ways as I do my land improving work.  I believe my blog will take a little turn as I feel compelled to write about my new days....filled with bees and flowers and gardens and sheep and always, always dogs.

Seize the day!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's Never Enough

I've been told that when a dog is ready to cross the rainbow bridge....they will tell you.  I used to take comfort in that promise.  "You'll'll know when it's time".  And yet I find myself clinging to today.  What if I'M NOT READY!!!!!! I don't want to say good bye for now.....I want you to sleep next to me at night, curling up tight into my back as if I was your only source of warmth, forever.   I stop and give myself THAT pep talk...the same one I gave myself when I put my Snook down.  It's the gift we get to give our dogs....the peaceful, pain-free passing.  And yet, I feel like I am letting her down!  Am I giving up too soon?  Are there more days to share between us?? The responsibility weighs so heavy on my heart.  I don't want her to suffer because I am a weak suck and I can not imagine my life without her.

My vet will arrive at 2:45.....I know the drill.  He'll ask me if I am certain; he wants me to have no regrets.  I'll tell him "yes" because I have searched through all my options.  I can prolong this, how many days, I am not sure.  Hand feeding her rotisserie chicken, rubbing her back and she pukes in the middle of the night and early mornings.  I can sit with her on the couch and stroke her little head and whisper sweet nothings into ear.  But I know...she is in pain.  She has good moments but they are fewer now, fewer than the bad.  And the bad, she takes because she wants to be with me. Always has, always will.

I took her for a walk around the pond today...just me and her.  She loved the forest of old Christmas trees grown big and wanted to test the pond water but lack of trust in her body got the best of her. She looked at me as if to say "why have we not done this before?"  Why indeed you naughty little Jack Russell; mostly blind, very deaf and full of self serving attitude.  Today she just followed me, delightfully sniffing all the smells of country living.  She had the most difficult time with the move here, but now I believe she loves it the most.  She sat and waited for me at the back gate while I did my chores, all snug in her pink and green tartan jacket.  Our ritual followed to the finest of details as I walked back through the gate, jumping up and nipping at my hand and prancing back to the house.  Exhausted from the field trip, she now lays tucked up against me as I write out my breaking heart.

God, please grant me the strength to be a promise keeper.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas.....

It happened.....almost picture perfect to how it was dreamed.  Last week, I got up, fed dogs, went out and did my chores, came in and had a cup of coffee with my son.  Then, together we went out and moved e-net,  I came in and flung some laundry around and put the clean dishes away......sounds like another day of living.  But for me, amidst living the day......I stopped and looked was the realization of a dream.  So many times of driving back and forth to my little slice of Heaven, 15 minutes each way, just to do chores, and while I drove I thought about living where my animals are.

Here I am, living that dream.  The sheep have settled into their new loafing shed and the idea that many a field are available for grazing.  The dogs love the big field, the running around and the sheep work. There are days where I have to pinch myself to see if I am dreaming......some days I feel like I am just visiting.

I took Sis out into the big field two days ago.  The fenceless side now has e-net thanks to a good friend and a big Premier order.  We drove the sheep around....and worked on outruns......and as we walked back for the day....we both felt it.  Hard to put into words....but the feelings .....I just love it here.

It's our first Christmas, the house is decorated and the tree is absolutely perfect despite it's flaws. I cut it down from our little tree grove.  The sheep will get some time in the pasture below before I tuck them in for the evening.  The rain is supposed to let up this weekend and I am looking forward to sharing some dog work on Saturday.

I always want to remember.....all the things that have brought me here. All the details that make this, right here, so amazing.  The big field, the well, the quiet, all the nature that calls this home, the big red antique barn, the tranquil pond.....the still and almost mundane moments that add up to make this perfect. I must be getting is not the big and flamboyant expectations but instead the small, priceless tiniest of details that take my breath away.  May my eyes always be looking for the miracles....

Merry Christmas!

Seize the day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yesterday was a routine on a ranch means there will always be something to do.  I started the day with a quick brace drive of the sheep to the bottom pasture with Sis and Bella, then I worked Sis.  I wandered around trying to sort which of the gopher/mole holes were new and set traps.  The "feral fail" cats, Hello and Sox, followed me around; talking, cheering, or offering advice, I am not sure which is was, but it was sweet having company.  I continued my efforts in mud control, moving stall mats around trying to guess which areas will receive the most pressure from the coming rains.  

Amidst the peaceful business of the day, I stopped and lifted my eyes and found some intense gratitude waiting for me.  For years, I have been dreaming of this place....I've dreamed of waking up to head out the door to do my chores.  I've dreamed of a big field to work dogs....stretch them out, walk along side to give understanding....all the little things a big field can provide.  I used to drive around and visualize what it must be like to live on the different properties that sparked my interest.  And here I am: living in a place that is pretty freaking, amazingly, wonderful. 

Funny how when I dreamed my dreams, I never really thought about the work and challenges.  Just like life, there certainly have been challenges galore here with the dreaded hemlock top of the list.  As I walk around, looking at the land.....the hemlock stalks have been removed and the blankets of baby hemlock being sprayed out every sunny day.....I know hemlock will be a foggy memory and friends will have to remind me of the acres of potential doom. I've cried a few times over the hemlock and the lack of viable feed.  I pulled myself up out of the dark....talked to a few friends....made a few back to the good work.....and the beauty of this land is beginning to peek back through.  I'm counting on Spring to showcase what has been planted this fall.

I wonder if it is human nature that makes me toy with the "if only's".  Like old muscle memory that needs to be wrestled and pinned....I find it easy to fall back to ideas of "if only there was no hemlock", "if only my fence guy would get here" "if only.......I did more, or ate less, or ran more miles....or".  Perhaps more than human nature, it is the perfectionistic nature I wrestle with....THAT nature seems to find the flaws and what needs work over the beauty and what work has been done.  For November, I worked on a daily gratitude list.  I want to work on my gratitude muscle; make it strong and dominant and something I live in. I want to remember my life and dreams along the way to fill me with the awe of my dreams coming true.

I'm working dogs in the bottom pasture.....I've ordered electro net to fence what needs to be fenced to get me through to the fence guy showing up.  This is the first time my family has seen me work and train dogs......Dave took this picture of Bella grazing sheep for the first time over the weekend.  This place is amazing......indeed it is exactly what I had hoped for.

Seize the Day!!!!