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 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


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


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.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bad Blogger

Okay, I admit it. I'm a bad blogger. First I had a computer crash and couldn't find my login info on my backup. Then I was traveling and then I had family commitments and then I was on deadline with two projects. Long story short, there's always a reason, but never a valid one. The real issue here is scheduling the time to do things that are important.

So many of the people I see at my equestrian and leadership clinics and seminars have the same problem. One tries to fit too much into the day and another has no plan at all. Neither accomplish everything they hoped to do.

The lack of blogging time made me reevaluate my time commitments and as busy as I am, I found a lot of things I didn't really have to do, and I found tasks that could be delegated to someone else. I also found more efficient ways of doing what I had to do. Not that I have a lot more time, but I do have a little. And sometimes a little is more than enough.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Weather

Winter weather can be an adventure. While in Minnesota for the holidays we went from snow to wind chills of 40 below and colder, to more show, then (amazingly) 40 above, then rain, then ice, then snow, then more below zero temperatures. It can make travel iffy but you quickly learn to plan activities around the weather. When traveling by air, however, you are at the complete mercy of Mother Nature.

Just after the first of the year I flew from Nashville to Seattle. Or that was the plan. I was going to stay on Bainbridge Island for a week or so to work on a book. All was well until our plane neared Washington state and we learned that Seattle was having so much wind and snow that dozens of planes were already circling the airport waiting out the weather before they could land. Our plane had originated in San Antonio and had then stopped in Dallas and Birmingham before I boarded in Nashville. We did not have enough fuel to circle so we landed instead in Spokane. Lots of snow there, too. It was about 8:30 p.m. when we got to the gate and it was decided that, as it would be at least a few hours, that we could get of the plane and wander the airport for a while. That was wonderful except that none of the shops or restaurants were open and after just a handful of peanuts and a four hour flight, most of us were hungry. Imagine close to 700 stranded people from three different planes who were all starving and cranky.

As we were the third plane to land to wait out the storm, we were supposed to be the third plane out. But, as our flight crew was quickly running out of working hours, it was determined that if we didn't leave first, that our crew would have to be replaced. And, as there wasn't another full crew anywhere close to Spokane we'd end up delayed even longer. So we all got back on the plane (which was completely full) and flew to Seattle.

We were able to land fairly quickly but as all the planes that had been delayed by the storm were now at the gates, we had to sit on the tarmac for about 45 minutes. That made some people very angry, including a man sitting behind me who began loudly berating babies, fat people, airlines, businesses in general, and the government. As no one seemed to be listening to him he called his girlfriend and repeated the litany to her just as loudly and she did the right thing and promptly hung up. Well, this angered him further so he began cussing all of the above and added his now ex-girlfriend to the list. Flight attendants finally converged upon him and escorted him to the back of the plane where he sat out the remaining wait in the rear jump seat guarded by a male flight attendant.

A gate eventually was cleared for us but the 45 minute wait with the engines running had melted all the snow around our plane to ice and we were now stuck, so the pilot called for a tow vehicle. This created another 15 minute wait but we did get our plane towed to a gate. Now the problem was with the baggage handlers who were quite overwhelmed with all baggage from all the planes that had landed virtually at once. The 52 minute wait for my luggage was not too bad. At least I was out of the cramped seat and actually standing up.

By this time it was almost 1:00 a.m. To get to Bainbridge Island I had to take a 30 minute cab ride to the ferry and the last ferry was scheduled to leave at 2:10 a.m. So I hurried to the cab stand to find I was the 208th person in line. And, as most of the people in line were students returning from break, or military personnel headed to base, no one else seemed to be heading to the ferry. Rather than get stranded at the ferry station, my wonderful literary agent found a hotel room for me for the night and I ended up on the island the next afternoon.

I mention all this because, although I was very tired from all the delays, what could have been a horrible trip, had some unexpected perks. I met some great people, including a number of students who were excited about entering the job market and making a difference in our world. There were some very capable young military men who led me to believe we are very safe in their hands. I met several business people who were working on exciting new ideas in technology, science, teaching and medicine. So instead of being angry about delays that I could not control, I came away from the experience excited about the many people who are all working in their own small way to make our country and our world a better place. So next time you are delayed in your travels I hope you will take time to reach out to those around you. Get to know them and hopefully you will be as encouraged about life and our country as I was.