A Story Worth Tellin’

The following post is dedicated to and written for the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.

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“The idea is not to live forever. It is to create something that will.” ~Andy Worhol

As I was driving home yesterday, we passed our neighbor’s teams of black percherons standing together in the corral.  It was said to me, “that is something I could never get into or find the fun in.”  And I thought about that, and it hit me hard how much the world has changed into a fast and so-called improved pace of life.  And I slowed down, and I smiled to myself thinking, “I could.”

I hear it often. The “I don’t get it. I don’t understand why you hitch a team to feed cows when you have a perfectly good motorized vehicle at your disposal?  Why don’t you use a 4-wheeler instead of that cold-backed colt to night check those heifers? Who cares about seeing the Bob Marshall Wilderness from the back of a horse leading a string of mules?  What is the point of climbing on that bronc just to hit the dirt short of eight seconds?  I don’t get your ways.”

Here’s my answer to that…

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I say iron sharpens iron.  Sociologists may label the cowboy’s choices a lifestyle.  Psychologists may see it as obsessive to worry over critters and hay crops and good horses.  Economists just say it’s damn pointless to throw your money and effort after foolishness.  But as for the cowboy, well, he just calls it living.

What you get out of life is just what you put into it.  And the benefits of being a cowboy, well, words don’t suffice.  It’s a life well lived and even harder earned, but it’s tradition and knowledge and heritage. It’s a legacy made of generations of hard living, hard working men and women before that carved a life out of the coulees and mountains and sagebrush seas.  It’s fixing old, worn saddles and harness, not buying new.  It’s the satisfaction of a well-aimed heel loop on a wily calf to drag them to the branding fire. It’s knowing that young colt is gonna test your mettle, but if you gentle him right, you’ve got a good dancing partner. It’s knowing nothing is going to be handed down to you on a silver platter, and you wouldn’t want it to be anyway.  Because the grit in your gut and the try in your soul is what makes the man.

It’s honoring traditions, and taking time to listen to the old men that talk about the days of long ago.  It’s considering yourself lucky to look out over a herd of well-matched and bred angus in the heat of summer grazing. It’s blazing new backcountry trails on a fine mountain pony.  It’s helping your neighbor come branding time whether the cooking is any good or not.  It’s teaching the younger generation the meaning of a little hard work while getting dirt under their fingernails; it’s responsibility and knowing their roots. It’s about having a story worth telling at the end of the day.  It’s a legacy.

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So, I believe in the old cowboy ways.  The things a cowboy has are simple. It’s work ethic, appreciation for land, good stock, a hard-working partner, and good neighbors.  These traditions deserve to be preserved and honored.  Take the time to visit with an old cowboy or cowgirl. Look around at this Big Sky country with its Charlie Russell sunsets, and be grateful for the cowboy, the Native American, and the land that made them. Is your story worth tellin’?



Happy Trails,

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Heather

 

 

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Life, Live It

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” ~Buddha

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These past few weeks, I’ve once again found myself looking at life through a lens of loss and struggle and a gamete of emotions I am unable to reign in, and not even really wanting to try.  I’ve needed to feel the rawness of it, the deep love of my family, and not take one, single breath for granted.  It isn’t all sad, but I am learning to hi-light the good moments and savor them a little longer; letting them take the edge off the sadness that revolves around death and loss.  It also, as it well should, makes me reflect strongly on my personal journey in this one life I get. So this rambling is written out of a place of realness and vulnerability and projected out into this big, wide world for your interpretation and judgement, but also as a source of strength and perhaps a self-check.  What are you doing with this one life you have?   If a loved one were sitting at a desk tonight penning your obituary, what would they say about you?  

 The harsh reality of a death is that you dying doesn’t affect you, but impacts those left behind.  The hardest part isn’t saying goodbye to someone; it’s learning to live without them. It leaves a hole in a heart, it leaves an empty chair at a dinner table, it leaves words unsaid, it leaves dreams unfulfilled, it leaves a stillness and quiet that in fact echos off the walls of one’s mind & heart.   Your birth and your death are your bookends, your timeline, to squeeze in as much as one can into the book of life, and if you’re lucky, you get to write numerous chapters full of life lived through good times and bad.  The truth is, we are all pushing the time we have in this world. So I ask you again? What would those left behind have to say about this one life you lived?

Were you strong because you knew your weaknesses?  Were you beautiful because you knew your flaws? Were you fearless because you knew it was your chance to fly?  Were you wise because you learned from your mistakes?  Did you love because you felt hate?  Did you laugh because you knew sadness? Did you live with a sense of urgency?  Did you share your heart unselfishly?

 Maybe the real tragedy isn’t in fact our death, but what we let die inside of us while we lived.  Because, the trouble is, we think we have time.  We think we can tell someone we love them later, we think we can take our kids fishing another time,  we can take that Sunday drive in that old pick-up truck another day, we can mend that broken fence later. Guess what… we don’t always get that time.

I don’t want to leave this world with doubts, or worse, leaving anyone else doubting. I want to use up every minute, and I want that to be my legacy.  I want my obituary to be so full of good things, ornery sentiments, integrity, honesty, smiles and tears and love, not for me, not for my memory, but as a comfort and a reminder to those left behind. A reminder that you have this one life, so live it.  

The gate only opens once to that ol’ rodeo of life. You might as well spur the hell out of that bronc and just let ‘er buck!

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Happy Trails,

Heather

Cowgirl, Who Are You When the World Ain’t Lookin’?

I will admit, I’m a people watcher. I find myself intrigued and wondering what makes up the character of a person. As women, we often feel threatened by what we perceive other women to be. We measure ourselves strongly against other’s physical appearance, by successes, by well-behaved children, by the cars we drive, by relationship statues, by friendships, and facebook posts. We constantly strive to measure up. And sadly, I catch myself doing the same. In that acknowledgement, I also realize that life is so often not what it seems. Every single one of us has a unique story, has scars, lives with fear, smiles through tears, or has a chapter in our life story we don’t read aloud. This realization levels the playing field.  We’re in this life together to help each other, inspire one another, cry with one another, and embrace our differences. 

So, that is where the following rambling came from, knowing we all have secret hopes and unfulfilled dreams. I challenge you to not compare your uniqueness to another, to look deeper than the surface of yourself and others, erase expectations and preconceived notions, and see the heart and soul of someone. Read between the lines. You may be surprised what you find you can relate to…

Cowgirl, who are you when the world ain’t looking begging you to be all it expects you to be? What are your hopes and dreams? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you happy with what you’ve come to be? Do you beat yourself up because you think you’ve failed? Do you like who you see? Are you still searching, longing to find your voice down deep inside? Are you happy, really truly happy and feel life is as it should be?

Are you looking for love? Are you married and struggling to reconnect? Do you still long to find your childhood love and ride off into a sunset? Are you missing someone? Their touch? Their smile? Their laugh? Do you ask if love will ever be? Do you have good friends? Or do prefer to just be?

Who are you, cowgirl, when this old world ain’t looking, waiting for you to make your next move? When it’s not asking you to be what you don’t want to be? Do you close the chapter on your book of life that hurts too much to read? Do you hate yourself for your mistakes? Do you wish you could just change everything? Anything? Just that one thing? Do you have regrets? Do you share unselfishly your gifts and talents with others, or tuck it away in safety away from the world’s harsh reality? Do you know who you really want to be? Do you rise up? Do you try again? Do let it all go? Do you let it be what it will be?

Are you hardened or closed because you’ve built walls to guard your heart? Do you cry for no reason at all? Are you sick? Are you tired? Are worried about it all?

Hey cowgirl, who are you when the world ain’t looking?

Do you dance in your underwear and sing in the rain? Do you drink wine straight from the bottle? Do you like your whiskey straight? Do you paint your nails red, bright, shiny red because it makes you feel pretty? Do you let your hair down, or cut it off because you just need a change?

Do you hike a thousand miles through the wilderness just to know your real heart?  Do you love whomever you want? Do you raise babies, and ride broncs? Do you work at your passion? Or just a job to get by?

Do trail cattle on the  calico prairies and sagebrush sea? Do you let that wild horse run? Do you let your lungs breathe the mountain air deep? Do you travel the world to see through new eyes? Do you put down roots and watch them grow? What is your story? Why?

Cowgirl, be who you want to be anytime, anywhere… Even if this world is watching, do just as you care.  Quit waiting, quit wondering. Just get out there and live, cause this one life ain’t waiting on you, so why are you waiting on it?

Happy Trails, Cowgirl~

Heather ©

Look Up

“Pretty little thing, sometimes you gotta look up, and let this world see all the beauty that you’re made of, because the way you hang your head, nobody can tell, you’re my Virginia Bluebell.” ~Miranda Lambert

I’ve had so many dreams in my life. So many things I thought I would be by now. I’ve outgrown some of them, and some of them have outgrown me. And there are those I still long for to come true. And they will. I have faith.

The first time I saw thirteen year old Rachel Myllymaki run the barrels at a local rodeo, her yellow hair flying out under her hat and her horse on fire, I wanted to be a barrel racer… Some days I still want that.

I wanted to be an equestrian cross-country jumper the first time I watched it on the Olympics.  I borrowed my mom’s dressage saddle and jumped my pony over every log, ditch and downed tree I could find. Until the big girl dreams came along, but some days I still long to take that jump, too.

I wanted to be a female horse trainer and rancher and equine vet. Yes, all of them.  I wanted that big, blue sky ranch with horses as far as they eye could see. I still want that, too.

Nowadays, I find myself longing to help others through horsemanship and the wilderness and helping run the family business. I also want to write novels and short stories and take pictures of the beauty that graces me every day. And I will.

You see, sometimes we outgrow dreams, and sometimes they outgrow us. But they also follow along silently until something, or someone, reminds us that they’re still beating in our heart and soul, and they’re worth giving another thought.

I lost focus along the way. Life changed so fast and my priorities morphed over the years to accommodate choices I made. And it wasn’t bad.  But my dreams didn’t go away. I just forgot to look up. Worrying about failure, worrying about timing, worrying about finances, always worrying and always wondering. And then I finally asked myself why? What in the hell am I waiting for?

We all ask ourselves these questions when we set out on a personal endeavor. The importance of feeding our souls and feeding our dreams with good people, positive thinking, beautiful scenery, love and light, fuels the fire of wanting to accomplish something significant. When we’re passionate about pursuing life, it spills over to others.  It is the want that keeps us trying.

When dreams are written on our hearts with permanent ink, tattooed there, they may fade, but it’s our job to not let ourselves down.  

Don’t be hard on yourself. Take a moment to look back on where you’ve come from, from where all you’ve been. Revel in it. Marvel at it. Evaluate the heartache you’ve felt, but nurture your new found strength. And grow in it, and trust that you’ve got this and God has you.

Despite all you’ve been through, you’re still here. Even though the sun didn’t always shine, you still grew. You’re a mosaic of all the shattered pieces of your life, with the bits of dreams still there and the flicker of hope still burning.

It’s never too late to get your shit together. Because that’s the beginning of something good, something strong, and something that’s right for you. In that pit of anger, of sadness, of frustration… that’s your new beginning. And those tucked away dreams are your way out.

So, pretty little thing, don’t forget to look up, and show the world all the beauty that you’re made of.

Dream big. Dream forever. Live authentic and live true to yourself.

~Happy Trails

Heather

A Pace I Long to Keep

wp-1470584727537.jpgThese past few summer months have been nothing short of crazy and chaotic between work and home life.  Some of you may know that I work for an electric and telecom company here on the hi-line of Montana, but what you don’t know is I am a credit representative.  That means I get the pleasure of disconnecting services for non-payment and am somehow the late bill and payment negotiater.  Let me just say right off, I am fairly sure this must be karma biting me square in both butt cheeks, because I have had my way a time or three with  a Dish Network or Verizon wireless customer service rep in the past.  Truly, what goes around comes around, but at the end of the day, I usually go home feeling like I’ve been hit by a freight train driven by a sixteen year old that was just given the keys for the first time.  And on my drive home nightly, I ask myself why? What lessons am I learning? How can I be a better person? And as I am beating myself over the head with all these thoughts and “lessons” I am learning in my job, my mind drifts to a simpler time.  A time when I didn’t have to think about much except what to make for dinner… A time I could watch my life unfold between my horse’s ears down a mountain trail at a pace I now find myself longing for…A pace I long to keep.

Between these ears my life unfolds at a pace I long to keep.

Every breath, every thought just makes more sense here.

My heart and mind are put at ease.

No phones are ringing, no device needs response

No man is whining about his selfish needs.

All the while the trail unfolds between my horse’s ears

At a pace I long to keep.

The hustle and bustle of life’s worries & strife

Become a distant sound muffled by my horses’ feet

As ol’ roany clips over God’s landscapes

And I watch my life unfold at a pace I long to keep.

Between these ears I see vistas grand and Big Sky true.

From towering mountain peaks to sagebrush coulee breaks

I think what more could this girl need?

As my horse travels freely along at a pace I long to keep.

You can keep your city life, your heels, dresses and fine wines.

As for me, I will don boots and jeans, while the wind teases my hair

And Roany and I will slow lope across the miles while life unfolds

At the only pace I long to keep.

In closing, be nice to the person on the other end of the phone; she’s just trying to do her job. Your life is a one time offer. Use it well. Love often, share a smile, be kind to one another, lend a hand. Remember what really is important to you in this life, and remember who you want to be. Ride high and stay grounded.

Happy Trails,

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Wild Once

“Love her, but leave her wild.” ~Atticus

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You’re just some wild thing, with a faraway look in your eyes. The memories of freedom seep back into the unsealed cracks of your buried heart. No one can tell you, no one can really see, what goes on in there, the heart between the one you were, and the one you’re yet to be. It’s a sagebrush sea of haze and blue, to navigate all alone. The place where you crave the shelter, yet seek the crazy storm. The flame and longing in your eyes fuels the fire in man, and everything he loved and admired about you, the wild look, the catch me if you can, the youthful beauty, has become something he unknowingly tries to tame. You learn to give, you learn to bend, but your heart always runs, it runs with the calico pony off into the sun. Those wild winds, they always call, they speak straight to the core of your soul. Stay true to that wild, and stay true to that free. Remember this world can’t break you, it can’t change what you’re really meant to be… Because deep down, you and me, we are always meant to be wild and we are always meant to be free.

Raise ‘Em Up

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This is how kids should spend every day…learning to work, learning their worth, learning to contribute positively to society, learning how strong they can be, learning the physicality of the elements, learning to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, learning teamwork, learning compassion, learning to use common sense, learning that life doesn’t involve a screen and being entertained endlessly, learning to smile and joke and to have a sense of humor, learning to cuss and thank God in the same breath, learning that this is real life, learning a job well done doesn’t necessarily reward you monetarily, but emotionally, and learning to feel good at the end of the day about your accomplishments and to be grateful for the opportunity offered. So, raise them up strong…raise them to know right from wrong. Raise ’em up.

Brandin’

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For my generous friends and their families that have been kind enough to share their way of life with me… Thank you…

I haven’t written much about the hi-line of Montana since moving here.  Mostly, because I was fairly certain that nothing about Havre could compare to the spring beauty of my home in the mountains, but I’ve been proven wrong.  And as much as I love the receding of the snow-line on the mountains, and birth of the wildflowers and watching the ice retreat from it’s alpine lakes, spring on the prairies of central Montana are truly awesome. The foothills of the Bears Paw Mountains are beautiful in their balsam root bloom, the fresh scent of sage, the greening up of winter wheat and alfalfa fields, and pastures full of newborn calves and new mamas that speckle the landscape.

But as picturesque as the landscape is, the ranching and agriculture families of the hi-line are the heart of the country.  That becomes so evident during the spring and branding season.  Ranchers are a proud, hard-working lot that carve their livelihood out of the formidable landscapes of the west.  Raising cattle ain’t for the faint of heart.

By the graciousness of my friend and co-worker, I was allowed to spend the weekend riding and to help out with their branding.  I didn’t grow up working cattle; the mountain horses and mules from our dude ranch were my exposure to livestock.  And I thought I had somewhat of  a handle on that cowgirl lifestyle…until now.  I’ve ridden rugged mountain terrain all of my life, and the prairie handed me my hind parts on a worn leather platter. Those hawthorn-covered coulees are steeper than they look when you’re at run downhill after a wiley little calf.  We pushed cows and calves where cows and calves didn’t want to go. And my horse worked harder than he’s probably ever worked since I’ve owned him.  I swear we covered 20 miles in 10, and the majority of it at trot or run. That grass wasn’t growing under anyone’s feet.

Eventually all the cattle were penned and separated, and once the branding started, it was all hands on deck. There were family members, neighbors, strangers and friends all working to get the same job done.  There were calves making men outta young boys bucking and kicking all the way to the fire.  There were no gender roles, girls roping, and handling stock just the same as the next.  Fathers helping daughters, husbands working with wives, and kids working with kids, and the older generation helped guide and coach the younger along. I let my eyes take it all in and felt a lump rise in my throat. These moments are exactly what life is all about.

At the end of the day, the cattle were branded, cold beers were drank , good food was eaten, and stories about back in the day were shared around the table. With pride for a job well done, and feeling lucky to have been part of this tradition, I threw my leg back over my ol’ roan horse and we headed out to push the cattle back out.  What a sight watching mamas join back up with babies as the bawled and called their way back up over the hillsides.

The smiles in the eyes, the ‘thank yous’ and the ‘good jobs’ were generously passed around.  It was an honor to be part of something so worthwhile, with people I am proud to call my friends.  And the best part was being asked back to do it all over again the next day…

I will forever be grateful for these opportunities that the generous families around here have been kind enough to ask me to be a part of.  Life is good on the ‘ol hi-line, and it’s even better in the brandin’ pen.

Happy Trails,

Heather

I Gotta Horse For Sale…

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Those of you in the horse world have seen them…those “horse for sale” ads and groups on Craig’s List and Facebook.  Now, I don’t begrudge someone wanting to sell a horse, and possibly recoup a little of the money spent on raising or training one, but from what I’ve seen lately, I’d rather buy a goat. And, before ya go and get your undergarments in a giant wad, or your hinder in a binder, here’s an example of what appears to be an acceptable ad these days:

RANCH DISPERSAL SALE

‘Beautiful Brood Mare Prospect’ 10 years old sorta broke registered American Quarter Horse grade paint brood mare with one eyeball, accidentally bred to my neighbor’s jack donkey through the fence. Bloodlines are amazing triple bred Doc Bar on sire’s side but the dam mighta been out of the great bronc, Lunatic Fringe.  She appears to be built for speed, but only when I try to catch her out of the 40 acre pasture, but most of the time she’s real friendly and you can catch her pert near anywhere with a grain bucket.  She’s pretty good with three of her feet, but that left hind is kinda a bitch. She might take your head off.  She’s a little toed in, and spavin hocked, but her teeth are good.  She may make a real nice barrel horse if you give her a 200 foot by 400 foot arena to turn her in.  Only asking $10,000 or best offer, but to a good home only.

’16 Year Old Seasoned Head Horse’ He’s a little stiff in the morning, but hell, what guy worth a plug nickel ain’t?  Appears to loosen up after stumbling a few laps around the the arena or 2o minutes of ground work.  He needs a little extra padding on them whithers and every month or so needs some cortisone injections, but he likes the vet.  He hates dogs, but would probably make a good “husband horse”.  I do believe John Wayne learned to rope off him.  He ground ties, trips into the trailer, and sleeps standing up.  He’s safe for most folks, but occasionally spooks at his own farts. He’s a steal at only $15,000. Won’t last long.

‘4 Year Old Green Broke Roping/Hunter/Jumper Prospect’ Nice tall boy. About 16H, a little narrow chested, but will grow. Has one testicle left but seems real calm and quiet.  Started him hunting and packing last fall.  That’s how we found out he’s a jumper.  Had him at the pack out corrals and he jumped the 8ft fence to flirt with the neighbor’s mare.  Once we caught him and had him tracking on some elk, he spooked when we shot the rifle, and we got to spend the rest of our time hunting him.  Brought him home and put him to work ranching, because we’re real ranchy punching cows and stuff. Threw a loop off him and he seemed to settle in real well until I realized I pantyhosed the calf, pissed off the mama cow, and ran the rope up under his tail.  He bucked just a little and cow kicked at me as I went off, but he just needs a little more ground work I think.  He’s gotta go though, cause I got some hospital bills to pay.  Only asking $14,500.  That should about cover the doc’s bills.

After all that… who needs a horse? Y’all be careful horse swappin’ out there… As for me, I’ma gonna buy me a goat…

Happy Trails~

Heather

 

 

Forever, My Girl

“I know a girl, she puts the color inside of my world…” ~John Mayer
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18 years… Seems like yesterday, my beautiful Kiley Dawn.  April 15th, 1998 at 7:25 A.M…they laid you in my arms.  I knew my life would never be the same, and as cliche as that may sound, it’s entirely true.  You were my first overwhelming, selfless love. You were my first in so many ways, and if I knew then what I know now, I’d hit pause for just a while on all those firsts…
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The first minutes of your life, the look in your daddy’s eyes when he first saw you, the first smile you smiled, the first words you spoke, the first steps, the first time you rode your horse, the first time we took you fishing, the first time you bugled elk with Dad, your first days of every year of school, and now the first day of the rest of your adult life…
fb_img_1460562680316.jpgSo, here we are, and I just want to make the moment last just a little longer.  And as much as I want you to spread your beautiful wings and fly, and am excited about all the amazing things you’ll do in this life, I want just as badly to hold on to the last little bit of your time at home with us before you strike out on life’s grand adventures.  I wonder if I’ve given you all the love you needed to succeed, the proper guidance and direction?  Do you know how much you are admired and loved, and just how proud of you I am?  Because I feel I could never tell or show you enough.  Moms are just that way… So, before you go, I give you these words, so you may always know just how much you’re loved and supported, and know that I trust the decisions and choices you make, even if they’re not ones I would choose for you.

Remember that you have what it takes to climb that mountain, and don’t take the easy way. That grit in your gut is pure strength and passion.  The challenge builds character, makes your lungs burn, and reminds you how alive you are.  When you doubt yourself, trust in God. He wants even more amazing things for you than you or I can even fathom. Don’t sell that ride short, ever, because there are no short-cuts to anywhere worth going.

Integrity is everything…Doing the right thing when nobody is looking is your soul proof. I know this is not something you will ever struggle with.  You have strong and true convictions in right and wrong… You always have.  Don’t ever ask of someone what you are not willing to do yourself.  Be the example and the change you want this life to see.fb_img_1460562258527.jpg

Please don’t forget to nurture that beautiful, little girl still inside you. Never ignore her.  You will need her in the years to come, and the passions you lived for as a child, will carry over into adulthood.  Sing….Girl, please sing and share that amazing talent with others.  You’re meant to be heard. Learn to dance, ride wild horses, pick wildflowers, play in the rain, and forget the boys once in a while…always do these things because they will help keep you young.  It’s not ever selfish to get back to the roots of just being you before the world told you who you should be. Don’t lose the smile it brings to your face and soul because yours is simply too amazing not to share with the world beautiful daughter.

Be forgiving and humble…and sort out what is worth holding on to emotionally, and just let go of the rest.  Anger and discontent become extra weight you will be better off without in the long run, and remember you never truly lose in apologizing.  There is always something to learn from every situation or conflict.  There are always opportunities for emotional growth, so learn from them.  You’ve taught me so much about myself over the years just by simply being your mom.  You’re a reflection of me and my actions, and more often than not, I got it all wrong. But from that, I see wisdom and strength in your young eyes, and more importantly, in your heart.

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Travel, explore, and be adventurous.  Try something new any chance you get.  You will need these memories to take out and reflect on now and then. We all need “remember whens”.  But, don’t forget the door to home is always open, and my shoulder is here for you to lean or cry on.  When you have troubles, I promise to just listen and not talk.  When you have good news to share, I will rejoice and celebrate with you.  When you just need a place to be…home is here for you with the door unlocked, clean sheets on the bed, and ice cream in the freezer.

Family really is everything, and so is learning to count on yourself.  Family is your anchor, and a complete pain in your ass, but they have your best interest at heart, and are there when the shit hits the fan.  Listen to your grandmas’ advice, hug your grandpas’ necks, make your brother one of your best friends, be an example for your younger cousins, and know your aunts and uncles are a second set of parents with their own words of wisdom and adventurous advice to share.  Visit them as often as time allows, and honor them because they love you like you were their own.

20160305_151924-02.jpegIf your life and circumstances allow, always own a horse or a dog. And if you can’t have one out your back door, I promise to always have one for you.  You already know all the reasons why…but mostly because it reminds you how to love something bigger than yourself, gives you purpose, and a reason to get outdoors.  And they always provide love in return.  They teach you about yourself, your strengths and weakness, and where your character needs improvement.  Besides children of your own {someday}, they will be your best teachers.

Laugh…laugh at the silly and the stupid and the simple things.  Just laugh. It’s infectious and makes others smile.  Give people a reason to laugh, and do it often.  Laughter through tears heals broken hearts…And cry. Never apologize for tears.  They’re real and exist because of a feeling, and sometimes for no damn reason at all.  That’s just being a woman.

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In the end, be grateful… Grateful for hurt, pain, and triumphs no matter the size.  There is always something to be grateful for in this beautiful life, Kiley.  The more you know yourself, the more there is to rejoice in.  Remember to take the time to get to know the new and changing you, now.  The big choices and decisions don’t have to be made at this moment.  Don’t let this world jade you, chew you up and spit you out.  Stay grateful, stay true….Stay just you.  Boys will wait if they’re meant to be. College can wait. Marriage can wait. Babies can wait.  But life can’t wait.  Some days you will make great strides, and others will feel like two steps forward and one step back; it will feel like you’re treading water.  Go to church now and then… We all need reminders, and wait on God in those moments…Just wait.  He’s busy clearing a path in your heart to prepare you for what lies ahead. Reflect, listen, learn, but always love.

Never forget you will always be your daddy’s little girl, your mama’s best friend and riding partner, and your little brother’s advocate and confidant.  I am so damn proud of you.  Spread those new-found wings, spread them as far and wide as you can, and know that I love you…Yes, to the moon and back. And always…

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