Friday, November 29, 2013

Grateful Thanks!

This is a time of year to give thanks and I want to say how very grateful I am for all of you. Those of us who are full-time authors and speakers rely on you to help spread the word about our books and events. If our books do not sell, if we do not get booked to share our knowledge and experience at events, then mortgages and electric bills cannot be paid, and food cannot be put on the table. That’s why I am truly thankful to everyone who has purchased a book, come to an event, or told a friend about me. I have been writing and speaking full time for more than ten years and it is only because of you that I can continue to do this. Thank you!!!!

People often ask how they can help me, or other authors and speakers, and there really are a lot of ways:

1. Like us on Facebook. I have two Facebook pages: facebook.com/lisawysocky for people I know (or at least have met), and facebook.com/thepowerofawhisper, where horseman Sam Powell and I give tips about horses and life. The way this business works is the more Facebook followers or Twitter followers an author/speaker has, the more likely he or she is to get booked. Also, the author’s agent or representative has an easier time in structuring good book and sponsorship deals.

2. Follow us on Twitter. Same principle, the more the better! I am on Twitter @lisawysocky. I cannot stress how important having a lot of social media followers is to people like me. Other sites you can follow someone on are: Linkedin and Google+, and there are a host of opportunities at Goodreads.com. Just search for your favorite people, they should pop up.

3. Like, share, and comment on our posts. When a prospective agent or publisher looks over our social media pages, they like to see an active and engaged audience. Same goes for anyone who books us for an event. It only takes a second to share a post or tweet, and less than a minute to personally tell a friend about us, but it means a lot. Writing is a time consuming task and authors do not always have the time we need to attend to all of our social media. If we are posting or tweeting, then we are not working on our manuscript’s word count for the day, or revising our next speech.

4. If we are in a city near you, please come see us––and bring lots of friends and neighbors. If you can’t make it, encourage others to attend. Just like every other author or speaker out there, I understand how difficult it is to break away from your daily routine of work and family. That’s why I am thrilled to see you walk in the door to an event. Besides, you might even have a fabulous time, and who knows what other cool people you will meet!

5. Book us for an event, and there are many forms of this: 


    • Host an author for an afternoon tea in your home or church––and invite all of your friends (if nearby, most authors will come free if they can also sell books)


    • Gather your class or book club for a phone or Skype chat with an author. Again, there is usually no cost involved in this.



    • Most authors also speak on topics that relate to their books, so think creatively to figure out how your favorite author can impact your annual meeting, regional or national conference, training day, quarterly sales meeting, or other event. Find author and speaker contacts through their website to determine the correct person to ask about content, fees, and scheduling. (Fine mine at LisaWysocky.com/contact)I help people with horses learn more about themselves and their horse, and I also help non-horse people at corporations and associations learn amazing leadership lessons from the horse herd. I love doing this and know other authors have incredible information to share as well.

6. Buy a book, or three or ten. A great book can become a treasured item. Books also make great gifts. Libraries are always looking for donations of new books, and this includes school and private libraries, as well as your local public library. When it comes to people who don’t read, a wise librarian once told me that the non-readers had not yet discovered a book with information on a subject they were passionate about. You could be the person to open the door to a brand new world, and all it takes is handing someone the right book.

7. Write an online review on the book’s page on one of the major book seller sites. Quality reader reviews help other readers find books they will enjoy. Plus, an honest, helpful review shows publishers and event planners that the author has an engaged audience, and that there is interest in his or her work.

When it comes down to it, for publishers, it is all about the bottom line, and rightly so. Publishers have to make a living, too. If books do not sell, authors are not invited to write additional books. The ultimate result is that many wise and creative people can no longer make a living doing something they love and are very good at doing. That’s why good sales numbers are so very, very important. That’s also why I am so thankful for you, for all the support you have shown me throughout the years. Truly, I would not be here without you. Kudos to you all.

Lisa

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Black Hole

Many of you have heard of the black hole that is my basement. It started as a storage place for my inventory of books and merchandise, trade show booth, and household items such as Christmas ornaments, but over the years developed into a bottomless pit of “stuff.” Need a table top ironing board? How about a music stand? I have several of those. A tricycle? Yep. Old tire? Check. Cardboard shield, dagger, and tiara, complete with sequins? Of course. Macramé plant holder, cloth calendar from 1974, rotary dial phone, various lengths of 2” metal pipe, three bridles broken beyond repair, a roll of black burlap, fourteen hammers . . . the list goes on, and on.
 
This year I am taking the idea of “spring cleaning” to another level. In addition to opening the windows, letting in the fresh air and shaking out the rugs (something I actually do not have any of) I am tackling the black hole. The only things that get to stay are those that are useful, decorative, or have sentimental value. I know it will be a process, but focusing just fifteen minutes a day has already made a huge improvement. I sort into four piles: give to friends, Goodwill, trash, and keep.

While hopefully not as large, most people have their own version of a black hole. It might be the back of a closet, the corner of a tack room, or an entire storage shed, but you’ve been putting off tackling the mess for months––or even years. I know that if I can get through my black hole, you can, too. So go ahead, budget fifteen minutes and see how far you get,. In addition, be prepared to be amazed at the things you find and how much you can accomplish.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Risk

My new memoir, Horseback, is now out in paperback and kindle versions. The book details my early years with horses, roughly the years when I was thirteen to twenty-three (or so). Over the years I had told many of the stories that are now in the book and with much hesitation finally decided to group them together in writing. Horseback is the result.


My hesitation came from the fact that my early years with horses were filled with stupid mistakes on my part. In many cases it was like the blind leading the blind as neither the horse or I knew what we were supposed to do. I was afraid that readers would not take my openness about my lack of ability in the positive way I wanted––for I very much hoped that readers would learn as much from my errors as I did. And, maybe enjoy a laugh or two along the way.

That's the thing about risk. It is always a gamble, if a calculated one. If I did the book, readers could possibly look at me and rightly think "Does she even have a brain?" Or, they might think "You know, I thought about trying that once . . .  glad I didn't." 

Hmmm. What to do? With the idea of nothing ventured nothing gained, I wrote the book. To my delight, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. And the thing readers are most positive about? The fact that I was willing to share my mistakes with them. Horseback forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and you know what? It's not a bad place to be. I hope that you, too, will add a little risk to your life in the coming months and do something (safe) that pushes your boundaries a bit. Then, I hope you will let me know how it goes.

Until next time,

Lisa

Monday, September 10, 2012

Helmet Perspectives

When I was young, my friends and I  rode our horses through fields and trails just about every day. We'd take our horses swimming, jump fences, play cowboys and Indians, and make a valiant effort to play polo. Not once, not at any time, did any of us ever wear a helmet. Not when we sat backwards on our horses, bareback, to read our homework assignments when our horses were grazing freely in the pasture. Not when we tried (without success) to slide off our horse's back and under their bellies, then scramble onto their back from the other side––all without touching the ground. And certainly not when we raced up the red gravel hill of County Line Road, three or four abreast across both lanes. I remember one day when a friend and I not only practiced standing on the bare backs of our horses while they were moving, we decided to go tandem, two horses with two helmet-less people, our left feet on one horse and right on the other. It didn't seem to matter that one horse was 14.1 and the other 16 hands.

Today, I am horrified and can't imagine even doing most of those things. I certainly do not recommend them now, even though we had a lot of fun and I can't recall that anyone, horse or human got hurt. The potential for disaster, though, was extremely high. All I can say is that we must have worked our guardian angels way past overtime.

The other day I was in my barn getting ready to ride my mare. Tessie is an unflappable Belgian/Quarter Horse cross and I'd feel completely comfortable with a six-year-old riding her. When I ride her, we typically walk/trot around the arena in school horse fashion and work on leg yields and bending. As a former driving horse, these are major gaps in Tessie's education.

 Just as I was putting my sunglasses on I realized I couldn't find my helmet. Oh, well, I thought, I'll ride just this once without it. Tessie is perfectly safe. But Tessie and I got half-way to the arena when I stopped. I couldn't do it. I knew I couldn't get on this, arguably one of the safest horses in the world, without a helmet. So, we trudged back to the barn and I pulled out a helmet that was several years old. It was heavier than my new helmet, not as comfortable, not as attractive, but I could not get on my horse, any horse, without it.

I've been riding for forty-nine years and have trained horses professionally for most of my adult life. The difference between now, and the child rider that I was, is perspective. Over the years, I have seen many falls when the helmet saved the rider. I have seen so many unforeseen, freak accidents that I know that anything can happen at any time. As safe as Tessie is, as experienced as I am, I know the next accident could be a simple stumble away. That's why you will never see me ride without the protection of a helmet, because I value life, my life, too much.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fan Mail and Email

I am starting to get a lot of fan mail and I have discovered that it might not be what you think. Here are a few samples from the last few months. Enjoy!

Dear Lisa,
Just because you have 746 “friends” on Facebook and I don’t does not mean you are a good writer. Thought you should know that.

Dear Reader: Gee, thanks for the heads-up.


Dear Lisa,

You are such a great writer but, can you write sadder books? Just go with anything from your sad place. My husband left me and I don’t want to read any books that are fun or funny. Well, he wasn’t really my husband. He was a Louie, but he still left me.

Dear Reader: Um . . . have you tried counseling?


Dear Cat,

The exact same thing happened to me that happened to you! OMG! How did you no that? How did you know enough about ME to live MY life? Only it wasn’t my neighbor that got kilt and my friends didn’t help me. And I don’t live in Tennessee. I also don't I drive a truck. So you got a lot of it VERY wrong!!!  I didn’t even know the person who was murdered. I just red about it in the paper.

Dear Reader: You do understand that Cat is a fictional character? You should also know that fictional characters often don’t respond when you write to them.


Dear Laura,

I love your books. I love that you are such a fabulous writer. I love that you trail ride to the beach, and I love the photo of you riding a palomino on your back cover. And I especially love your book that had the barn fire in it.

Dear Reader: I love the fact that you meant to write to Laura Crum but sent it to me instead. Thanks!


Dear Lisa,

Please send me a signed copy of your book. But don’t sign it to me. Sign it to my wife. Her birthday is next week. If you send me the book then I don’t have to shell out any dough for a gift.

Dear Reader: Here’s a hint: Amazon.com.


Dear Lisa,

I can’t remember why I wanted to write to you so forget I even sent this email to you. Yeah, just forget it.
 


Dear Reader: Oh yeah. Forgotten. Totally forgotten.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Awards!

The Opium Equation, my equestrian mystery has been recognized by two wonderful organizations. It recently was awarded the silver medal for fiction from The Mom's Choice Awards®, and is a finalist in the American Horse Publications awards in their book category.

This is especially exciting to me because I tried for seventeen years to get the book published, one rewrite and agent after the other. I had pretty much given up on the book when a publisher stepped up and took a chance. I am eternally grateful to them, but I am also grateful for all of the rejection slips, all the literary agents who passed, and also those who tried, but could not interest a publisher.

Each of those "failures" caused me to take another look at the book and either add or delete something important. Over the years characters were refined and plot lines expanded and the book would not be nearly what it is today if it were not for the early passes.

I have found two lessons in this. The first is if you really believe in something, never give up. Even if you never achieve your goal, there is significant value in the journey. The second is to consider the opinions of others. You do not have to act of their opinions, but all opinions regarding your goal are good to think about.

That said, I am tremendously excited about the awards! It is nice to know others value your efforts and being recognized in this way is fabulous.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mixed Signals

I recently had an MRI on my knee, the right, knee, the knee that has already seen seven surgeries. As I lay on the table, I was told to relax and hold as still as possible. Then I was given a set of heavy headphones. And what was playing through those headphones? Disco music! Now how could I possibly relax with Donna Summer encouraging me to get up and dance? I tried to tune out all audio (Donna was competing with the clunks and clanks of the MRI machine) and for the next twenty-five minutes I  concentrated on my deep breathing exercises. Breathe in, count to six, breathe out, count to six.

I also began to think of the many times we give people (and our four-legged friends) mixed signals. Telling someone they did a good job without smiling, asking our horse to stop while leaning forward and squeezing with our legs, giving a firm directive, such as "No," said with the upward inflection of a question mark at the end of the word.

Our entire lives are made up of mixed signals and I, for one, have begun to really think through what I do and how I do it. It is a mentally tiresome process for me, or at least it was at first. With practice, it has begun to be easier. And, with my clarity of signals, I have found a clarity of thought that was missing before. My relationships with my horses are tighter, as are those with the people around me. And now, before I have that eighth surgery, I am going to crank me up some Donna and dance!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Central Park Carriages

                                                              Romeo, Lisa, and Cornelius Byrne

On a recent trip to New York I had the great fortune to stumble upon the downtown Manhattan stables of Central Park Carriages. Earlier in my trip I had noticed the many carriage horses that carried tourists through the park and had wondered about their lives. I needn't have worried.

After a long day at Book Expo America my publisher and I were looking for a cab when we passed by the stable entrance. Inside, a man was shoeing a tall flea-bitten gray gelding. "Let's give him an ARC," my publisher said, referring to an advance reader copy of my horse mystery, The Opium Equation, which is due out in September. Why not, I thought? After all, how often do you run into a farrier in New York City?

Glad to get out of the afternoon sun we introduced ourselves to Cornelius Byrne and his twenty-six year old Standardbred gelding, Romeo. It turns out that Cornelius was the owner of the stable. He was very welcoming and insisted on giving us the full tour. I have to say, I was quite impressed.

On the street level were a number of well-maintained harnesses and carriages, and a few mint condition antique carriages. The horses live upstairs and to get there they climb a steep rubber ramp to the second floor. Once we had managed the climb in our "business shoes," I was pleased to find a dozen or so airy stalls. Each stall was clean, and deeply bedded with shavings. And, each horse had a big pile of clean, fresh hay.

The horses were a mix of draft, Warmbloods, and Standardbreds. Every horse I saw was curious about us and friendly and showed no sign of job burn-out. Cornelius encouraged me to go into the stalls to meet the horses and after a few "horseless" days, I was more than ready. I had expected to find some working soreness in the horses, but not one horse exhibited any such thing. They all were clean legged and friendly; immaculately clipped, shod, and groomed; and each horse was fit––even Romeo, who at twenty-six only works about one day a week.

Cornelius explained that he gets his Standardbreds off the track, horses that were not winning races and otherwise might not have anywhere to go other than the packing plant. Other horses were rescued from poor circumstances and now have a good life and a job. Is it sad that these horses rarely get to run in an open field? Yes. However, these engaging and intelligent horses might not have a life at all were if not for Cornelius, his brother Patrick, and Central Park Carriages.

Thank you Cornelius, for a wonderful tour, and for your commitment to the excellent well being of the horses in your care.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Book: The Opium Equation


You've probably heard the news that I have a new book being published this fall. It is called The Opium Equation and it is an equestrian mystery. While I have edited fiction before, this is my first foray into fiction as an author. I have to say, it's a little scary!

I have been living with my characters: horse trainer Cat Enright; her students Darcy Whitcomb, Carole Carson (and her hunky country music star husband, Keith), Robert Griggs and former movie star Glenda Dupree; barn manager Jon Gardner; and neighbors Bubba and Hill Henley, and Frog Berry for many years. And Sally Blue. I can't forget Sally. How can you forget a (possibly) psychic horse? I wonder if you will come to love these characters, well, most of them, as much as I do. I hope so!


There will be a lot of book readings and signings this fall and I would love to see you at one of them. If your city is not on my itinerary please let me know of a bookstore, a therapeutic riding facility, a larger stable or other venue that might be suitable for a signing. I will do all I can to make it happen.

In the meantime, hop on over to the Cat Enright Stables blog for a few sneak previews.


Take care,

Lisa

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Horse and Human Friends

I have many equine friends who live all over the country. I am talking about the four-legged kind, not the two-legged. Some I see regularly, some, like my human friends, not so often. Some mornings I wake up and deeply miss a horse friend who is pastured hundreds of miles away. Or maybe just a few miles.

While I think of my dear equine friends regularly, I am not convinced they do the same about me. I do not believe one or another spends his or her time daydreaming about when they will see me next. I don't think they miss me much when I am not there, if at all.

However, I continue to be amazed every time I visit one of my special horse friends. Nine times out of ten the horse leaves his or her food, and his friends, to walk to me and greet me. This is a huge thing for a horse. Horses instinctively know they are safer in a herd than alone. Many are reluctant to step away from a big pile of hay, or the green grass. I am honored that the horse chooses to spend time with me. Honored and more than a little humbled.

I stand quietly as each of my friends stops a respectful foot or two away and waits for me to initiate contact. I am here, now, and s/he remembers me. I run my hands over my friend's body. Scratch them in their special spot. I tell them what I have been up to since we last met.

We talk for a while and eventually I turn to go, giving promises that it definitely will not be so long before we meet again. My horse friend walks me to the gate and we enjoy a final hug.

I realize that my visits with my horse friends are not so much different than visits with my human friends. We meet, greet, enjoy, catch up, and hug before we leave. Because that's what friends do and it just doesn't matter how many legs you have.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Friend

A dear friend of mine passed away recently. He was kind and gentle and patient. Forgiving and quiet. Friendly. He hated the heat and loved sticking his face in front of a fan. He was polite and always let others go first. He was the first to compromise during a disagreement, the last to pick a fight.

Nelson loved being out in nature, but he also loved--like most of us do--for others to make him feel special. He gloried in a job well done and he enjoyed the success of others. Nelson was especially good at encouraging people to reach their goals. He was a confidence builder, a teacher, a nurturer. Nelson was the best.

My friend Nelson was older, but not elderly. When he passed, he went quickly. He would have wanted it that way. He'd had some health concerns in the past, but nothing life threatening. When it was his time, it was his time. I only wish we'd had time to say goodbye.

Nelson inspired me every day to step up and be a better person, a better teacher, a better friend. He reminded me to be thorough, and to take time to breathe every now and then. And sigh. Nelson gave the best sighs.

My friend Nelson was a 16.1 hand, solid colored Paint gelding. He was a show horse in his younger years, but I knew him as a therapy horse, a horse who taught children with disabilities not only to ride, but about fairness, teamwork, determination, hard work and success. I will miss you, Nelson, my friend. And I will never forget you, or all that you taught me. Rest well and in peace.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gift Horses

Do you know who first said, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth?" The saying means that a horse's value can be determined by his age, which is roughly determined by examining his or her teeth. The message is that a gift (in this case a horse) should be appreciated for the thought and spirit behind it, and not for its value.

St. Jerome is the one who said that, way back around 400 A.D. He would not accept payment for his writings, and used the phrase in reply to his literary critics. According to history, his exact words were "Never inspect the teeth of a gift horse."

 I think of St. Jerome's words because horses have been such a gift to me throughout my life. But the gift is not entirely the horses themselves. The gifts surrounding horses are actually so many that I can't possibly list them all. Through horses I have learned so much about myself, I have learned about life through the wisdom of horses, I have found friendship and companionship with other horse lovers, and I have been fortunate enough to pass some of that on.

I have also learned to take both horses and life as they come. For whatever reason, specific horses have found their way to me and figuratively speaking, I do not look inside their mouths. They might not have been the horses I would have chosen, but they ended up being the right horse for me because I learned something from them. I think life is the same way. We don't always choose our circumstances and we do not always have control over what happens to us in life, but we can learn from any situation, any event . . . if we choose to do so.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Snoqualmie


This month would have been Snoqualmie's 49th birthday. Snoqualmie was the horse I had as a child, and then was my son Colby's horse when he was small. The bond I had with her and then that Colby had with her was amazing. I never had a moment of worry or doubt about Colby's safety if he was  with Snoqualmie. He'd climb up her mane and ride her in through the pasture with no halter or bridle,  guiding her by pulling left or right on her mane.

Sometimes they'd amble along, a Civil War soldier and his horse coming home from battle, complete with cardboard guns and a military cap we found at a thrift store. Other times they'd gallop through the field, a pirate ship and her captain escaping the enemy (which was sometimes our dog, Dexter, or less often, our cat Bootsie).

Colby never fell off. Snoqualmie would never have allowed it. If he got off balance, she shifted underneath him and gently slowed. She was quiet and patient with Colby, but she knew he was important to me and took good care of him.

Snoqualmie passed away when Colby was six and she was 31. She'd had a stroke a few days before and finally got down and could not get back up. One thing she loved to do was eat, so as I held her head in my lap in a field of trees as I waited for the vet, Colby went to the barn for the grain. For once she could have all she wanted. She licked handful after handful from Colby's little hand and when it was time, I sent Colby to the house. She is buried there, underneath the trees. Even after we moved away from that house, Colby and I visited her at least once a year.

Today I like to think that she is galloping off to new adventures in the great beyond. I had her with me for twenty-three years. She was my best friend and I miss her more than words can say. Happy Birthday, my Fat Girl.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Honoring Loved Ones

Snoqualmie with my son, Colby, when he was about 18 months old.

Twice in my life I have worked closely with mother/son equine pairs. The first was Fred and Ethel, a quirky, ancient draft team when I was in my teens. Ethel, who was nearing thirty, had to be hitched on the left and Fred who was way past twenty, on the right. Woe be you if you got them mixed up, as I did several times. They would thrash around, breaking leather and wagon poles until they got themselves sorted out. Hopefully no humans got in the middle of that. Turns out that Ethel was Fred's mother. When Fred was a foal, the family that had them hitched Ethel to a one-horse buggy and they went down the road with Fred tied to Ethel's right, away from all the traffic. In all of Fred's life, he had never been separated from his mom.

The second pair was my mare Snoqualmie and her son, Ben. I have written a lot about them in several of my books. But what I have not shared was that when Ben was five, I leased him to a 4-H family. He was there for three or four years and then I leased him back. When I unloaded Ben off the trailer, Snoqualmie, who was about 800 feet away grazing in a pasture, threw up her head and came running, whinnying, to the gate. Snoqualmie knew immediately her son had come home.Then Ben started in. I turned them loose together and it was so sweet to see them catch up with each other.

My point in all of this is to be sure to honor and remember your own family members, as these horses did. These horses realized the value of loved ones and humans sometimes take each other for granted. So hug those you love. Tell them you love them. Do nice things for them. Appreciate them. Value them. I hope you can learn from these wise horses and honor those who honor you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Horses / Happy People

Valentino: happy at work.*

I recently wrote an article for NARHA’s Strides magazine on equine stress that will be in their Summer issue. In taking several photos to illustrate the article I decided to use Valentino, an eight-year-old, 14.2 hand, Tennessee Walking Horse cross who only gaits when he is near a mare who is in heat. Vali gives ground and riding lessons to people with disabilities, and he is very good at what he does.

My idea for the photo shoot was to simulate scenarios during a therapy lesson that might make a horse tense and then photograph the physical reaction. The problem was, Valentino is so happy and loves his job so much that nothing we did caused any signs that he was stressed, uncomfortable, or unhappy in any way. In fact, in more than five dozen photos, all you see is a relaxed, happy, confident horse.

I wonder how many people can say that about their horses and the jobs they do. I also wonder how many of us can say the same thing. We spend so much time at work, we should enjoy most of it. Not everyone is able to switch jobs or careers, but there are ways to find more enjoyment in what we do everyday. Here are a few ideas:

1.  List the three best things about your job or career, then see if you can find a way to do more of that aspect of the job. Or, schedule the things you like best during times when you typically get bored or tired. Doing something you love is a great way to keep your enthusiasm up throughout the day.

2.  Set a work-related goal and then be sure to treat yourself to something nice or celebrate whenever you complete the task. This works great for both group projects and also in improving personal performance.

3.  Re-organize your work space so you can find things more easily and can work more efficiently. A little sprucing up around the work place goes a long way in sprucing up your attitude as well.


* For more information on Valentino and what he does, go to Therapeutic Animal Partners

Monday, March 15, 2010

Feed Promotion

The current economy means there are a lot of hungry horses out there. There are also a lot of nonprofit organizations such as NARHA programs and equine rescue groups that are struggling. While I do my own clinics and seminars, I also team up with Sam Powell and other horsemen- and women for an event called The Power of a Whisper.

One of our sponsors for The Power of a Whisper is Purina Mills and I am so proud to say that through a program The Power of a Whisper is running on Facebook, we are able to help feed some of these wonderful horses. Basically, for every new Facebook fan for The Power of a Whisper  before April 15, we will donate one serving of feed to a NARHA program, equine sanctuary, or horse rescue group.

So far we have four recipients! They are:
Horse Haven of Tennessee
Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary
Therapeutic Amimal Partners and
Coyote Hills Stable and Rescue

Please take time to check out these wonderful organizations, for they are doing a lot to help both horses and humans. And if you can, please become a fan of The Power of a Whisper on Facebook. Soon. We'd love to feed even more horses.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dick Francis: My Inspiration

One winter Sunday afternoon when I was twelve I found myself with nothing to do. It was too cold to do much outside (even for us Minnesotans), and I had already played with the dog, brushed the cat, done my homework, and found nothing of interest on the three channels that passed for television back then. It was one of a handful of times in my life when I have been utterly bored. Then my mother changed my life forever.

I was sitting in a chair in the living room when my mother came out of the room we shared with a book in her hand. Now, I was a voracious reader and at twelve was reading well above my years, but I had not yet bumped into a real grown-up novel. Until now. "I think you might be ready for this," she said. And then she handed me a Dick Francis novel. I read the first sentence and was so hooked that I knew right then that I wanted to be a writer.

For the uninitiated, Dick Francis, a British author who was a former steeplechase jockey, rode for, among other clients, the Queen mother. His forty-two mysteries combined, horses, intrigue, love, and dysfunctional families, and I thought I had never read anything nearly as good. I still feel that way.

I had the good fortune to meet this award-winning author, my hero, in Nashville in the mid-1980s, when he came to town for a steeplechase event that was being held at Percy Warner Park. I rarely get star-struck, but I have to admit that I was quite nervous when we met. We chatted a few minutes about the weather, the race, Nashville, and his books, and I told him he was the reason I became a writer. He became quite flustered, but also shook my hand heartily and wished me well.

Dick Francis passed away recently at age 89, and his is a loss felt around the world. Many of us never get to meet our heroes, our inspirations. I was lucky.

Everyone needs someone to admire, to look up to. So who has inspired you? Who influenced your life? Your career? I hope you can post a comment and tell who means as much to you, and why.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Matters to You?

What matters to you? Truly matters? The death of my son has made me realize how often we have dreams that never are fulfilled, how often we plan to do things that we never get to do. What do you want to do?

Whether it is vacationing in Ireland, winning a world championship, completing a 100-mile endurance ride, or paying off your mortgage, if it is saving the whales, starting a new school, running for office, getting a stop sign on that dangerous corner, if it truly matters to you, you can do it. We all get so busy with day-to-day life that those things that are truly important get lost. My son had things that he wanted to do that he will never have the chance to complete, so what matters to me now is doing some of those things on his behalf. What is important to you?

Often, at my seminars, people are surprised to realize they are so caught up in daily life that they don't know anymore what matters to them. I suggest they take five minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour to sit quietly and think of the one single most important thing in life, then make plans to nurture that. Then choose the top three, top five, top ten things, then make a plan to increase the presence of those things in life.

Life is for living, for reaching mountaintops, for achieving the impossible. It is also for spending time with loved ones, and enjoying quiet time. What matters to you?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Friendship

Friendship comes in many forms. There's the genuine friendship and affection we have with and for our four-legged friends, and there's the friendship we have with people we see or talk to every day. These are the BFF people, the people we pour our hearts and souls out to, the people we support in their times of need, the people who know us best.

But then there is the friendship we have with people who fall into and out of our lives. People we may have spent a few years with at college and then, when we see them again 20 years later can pick right up with like it was yesterday. People we may have once shared office space with and bump into in the grocery store years later. People who once helped us over a hump and then moved away.

I have found that this last group of friends and friendship is one we do not treasure enough, for often, these are the friends who bounce back into our paths when the going gets tough. They are there to support us, help us, nurture us, and when we get back on track, then they slowly fade away. Sadly, it usually is not until you go through a crisis that you find out who these people are.

So now I think is as good a time as any to reconnect with those friends who have fallen by the wayside for whatever reason. Now is the time to drop your high school buddy a long overdue email, have coffee with a former neighbor, send your great-aunt a nice card to her her know you are thinking about her. We always wait until a holiday or special occasion comes along to connect. Then we do it because we feel obligated. We have to. How nice it is to rediscover an old friend because you want to. There once was a connection between the two of you. Maybe there still is and by not staying in touch, you are missing out on knowing another wonderful human being. Go for it and if you find an old friend, let me know. I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tips for Hard Times and Healing

While I won't dwell on the recent passing on my son (you can learn more at www.ColbyKeegan.info) I have learned some things in grief counseling that I think will apply to anyone who is going through a tough time or who has a major decision to make.Link
1. When in doubt, write it out. Most things become clearer when you see them in black and white.
2. Be kind to yourself. We get so busy being nice to others that we forget to be nice to ourselves.
3. After a life changing event such as a divorce, job relocation, death, or serious illness, try to postpone decisions on other big events for at least one year.
4. Sleep is far more important for our health and well being than we ever imagined.
5. It's okay to cry.
6. Horses are a great indicator of how you are doing. If they relate to you normally, you are doing well.

Horses (and dogs), know when their human friends are on an emotional roller coaster, and they can be a wonderful touchstone regarding your mental health. But if you are overly emotional, you might want to think about staying away from your equine partners until you are on a more even keel. We spend a lot of time establishing trust, confidence and respect with our horses and just one emotional outburst can take away all your hard work.

Remember that dogs and humans are predators, and horses are prey. There is a fundamental difference in the two mindsets. A horse needs to know you are capable of leading him or her away from danger, if the need arises. A dog will put their life on the line for you in the blink of an eye. That's why dogs can handle your crying spell, sadness or grief much better than a horse can.

While we all hope to sail through life unscathed, the reality is that we do experience love and loss, cross country moves, job changes, divorce, serious illness and death. I believe that time is the greatest healer (and sometimes we need lots of it) but hopefully the ideas above will help some, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Energy

Most of you know my only child passed away recently. For days after, I purposely stayed away from horses I was actively working with because I knew my energy and emotions were all over the place. Horses are so intuitive, and I didn't want all the hard work spent establishing trust, confidence and respect wasted. I didn't want the horses to view me as unstable and incapable of leading them away from danger, if danger arose. It's been almost a month now, and I hope to soon go back and re-integrate myself into the "herd."

Since Colby passed, I have spoken at two therapeutic riding conferences and the horses there were noticeably more jumpy when I was near, than when I was not. I don't expect my emotions to level out immediately or automatically, but I do expect the horses to let me know how I am doing. They are a far better judge of where I am in the healing process than I am.

This is something we all need to remember. Our horses can immediately pick up on our mood and feelings. And they will react accordingly. Does that mean every time we have a bad day, we need to stay away from the barn? Of course not, but we should be aware of the energy and emotion we are projecting and alter our actions and interactions accordingly.

And horses aren't the only ones who pick up on wavering emotions. People do, too. We've all encountered someone our instincts told us not to trust, whom we felt for some reason was unstable. So if you are going through a hard time, for any reason, remember that while people are not as intuitive as horses, we do often pick up on the fact that someone is more emotional than usual. So adjust accordingly, take a deep breath, focus as best you can and you'll find that during times of crisis you'll get through with a lot more support from others than you might expect.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Change

As most of you know, my son Colby, age 23, passed away unexpectedly. He was my only child, my only close family member. Those following my blogs about Colby will now find them at colbykeegan.blogspot.com. I moved those blogs and accompanying comments for many reasons but mostly because I felt Colby deserved his own space. This space will still be for those looking for positive information, thoughts, leadership, success and horses. It will be good for me separate the two, and I will still blog daily about my struggles to regain my footing after Colby's death. Your comments and thoughts help so much, and I hope you will continue reading in the new location. I am a long way from being whole.

I am also working on a website, www.ColbyKeegan.info, that will be up (hopefully) in the next few days. This site will give more info on Colby, and also offer a forum for those who knew Colby to write stories about their times with him so all can share, read and heal. Plus, friends and I are starting a foundation called Colby's Army, Inc. that will finish work Colby could not complete here on Earth. I hope you'll check it out. We will grow slowly, but together, on Colby's behalf, we can affect positive change for the world.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

The kindness of strangers is amazing. A few weeks ago I locked my keys in my Ford pick-up at a gas station. This wasn't so bad except it was 95 degrees and my little dog, Abby, was inside. Abby is a Jack WaWa, a Jack Russell / Chihuahua mix, and weighs, on a good day, about ten pounds. She has many talents, but opening locked truck doors is not one of them. After calling several locksmiths who couldn't get to me for an hour or more I determined that there were at least ten other people in the area in the same situation. So, I decided to take more drastic measures.

I tried to force the back window open with no luck. Of course, a frantic woman scrambling around in the back of a pickup at a busy gas station draws attention, and several men wandered over. Two were truckers. One provided a coat hanger and the other moral support. Abby did her part by wagging her tail and barking, but I could also see that she was panting heavily and looked as worried as a Jack WaWa can possibly look.

After five minutes of unsuccessful coat-hanger wrangling I could see that the heat was getting to Abby. I had to get her out of there now! I had sent the truckers off in search of a hammer or a large rock so I could break a window when an old white Lincoln Continental pulled up in the bay next to me. An elderly gentleman eased himself out of the car and wandered over. After asking what the trouble was he calmly said he'd had the same thing happen to him a while back. Then he went back to his Lincoln, pulled his key out of the ignition and stuck it in the keyhole in my truck door.

I held my breath. He turned his wrist. Abby peered intently through the truck window. The truckers put their arms around my shoulders. . . . The lock clicked, the door opened and Abby fell into my arms.

Of course, I try to use every experience as a learning situation. So I now have a spare key hidden somewhere underneath the truck, and my back window will never be locked again. Does this leave me open to theft, both of the truck and its contents? Maybe. But I feel much safer knowing that I can get into my truck anytime day or night, anywhere, anyplace, whether my keys are in my ignition or in my hand. And I will never forget the kindness of strangers. Hopefully I will have th opportunity one day to help someone in similar circumstances.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! When I was a child Memorial Day was a big event. Growing up in a small town, there was always a Memorial Day parade followed by a community picnic in the park, and it was a wonderful time for the younger generation to hear stories about those who came before them.

As I got older, I either rode or drove my white Appaloosa mare, Snoqualmie, in the parade and we always had a great time. She seemed to think the people who were lined up on the sides of the street were there just to see her and she had a great time prancing slowly and respectfully for all her admirers.

Today, this day of national celebration seems either to be an excuse to not go to work, or, for some, another routine workday. I wonder how many people today know that memorial days began in ancient Greece more than 2,500 years ago when graves of local heroes were decorated with flowers. Some native cultures had similar days of remembrance long before that. Then, during the American Civil War, memorial days were celebrated in towns on both sides of the conflict. While the last Monday in May was first chosen as Memorial Day in 1868, it wasn't until 1971 that it officially became a national holiday to honor those who have died in our nation's service.

If you missed taking time with your family this Memorial Day to talk about friends and family who died serving our country, you don't have to wait until next year. Instead, do as the ancient Greeks did and choose a day, any day, when you can gather to talk and remember. Both you and the younger members of your family might just find something worth keeping.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Finding Your Passion

I'm often asked how I can find enough words to write a book. The thought of writing 70,000+ words is intimidating to many but for me it is as easy as breathing (well, almost). I speak regularly at writer's conferences and find so many "writers" agonize through the entire process. They are miserable. My thought here is if writing is so difficult, why do it? Maybe there is a better way to express yourself.

I understand the need to create, the compulsion to express, the fact that you have something to say. But this does not have to involve words. The creative process should be fun. It should refresh your heart and soul. It should be energizing. And there are so many ways other than writing to be expressive and creative. There is quilting, scrapbooking, music, art, crafting, dance, acting, speaking and a host of other activities that could be better suited to you than writing.

I love horses and I love to write about them and horse people. I especially enjoy being around books and writers, but if the writing process is not enjoyable for you, consider another activity. Life is short, but a creative effort can last forever--especially if it was created with happiness and love.