Category Archives: Writers contest

* THE GIFT OF FAMILY by Donna Surface

When I was introduced to Pat Surface he was sitting down. Then he stood up to shake my hand, and it seemed like he just kept going . . . up. I am only 5′ tall and at nearly 6’8″ Pat’s stature, and his story, both really impressed me.

Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

pat

Pat and his beloved guitar

 Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

pat.family

Pat, center, with his sister, Linda and brother, Jim

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

Another gift from his family was his love of music. His mom was born a LaPlant, a family with a strong musical heritage. Her mother, Bessie LaPlant, was related to William Boyd, known as Hopalong Cassidy, The Singing Cowboy. She passed her musical legacy on to her eleven children. Years later, Pat wrote the song, “Belle of the Ball”, to honor her.

The LaPlants have been fiddle champions for decades, best known for their gospel and bluegrass music. They are also well-recognized for their instrument building skills with LaPlant crafted instruments, described by The Minnesota Monthly Magazine as “exquisite guitars and flawless mandolins of national note”. Pat remembers the day he received his first LaPlant guitar – he was 19, it was Christmas, and the gift changed his life. To this day, Pat plays the guitars hand-built by his eighty-two year old Uncle Lloyd LaPlant – the master builder whose amazing guitars and mandolins are used by famous bluegrass performers even today.

family.jamming

Uncle Lloyd, Pat, his mom, and Uncle String

Music was calling Pat, and in 1987 it became his full-time commitment.

This story continues in the Tales2Inspire™  

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* DRAGONFLIES AND THE GREAT BLUE HERON by James Osborne

For more than a decade, Great Blue Herons had a special meaning for Brad and Cindy. During those years, Brad had no hint this special meaning would one day acquire a much deeper significance.

The couple enjoyed watching the graceful herons at their summer cottage feed one hundred feet away, drawn by schools of minnows in a bay below their deck.

Brad and Cindy also saw the birds feed in a cove where they often anchored their boat overnight.Blue herons became their favorite bird. To celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary they commissioned a watercolor of a pair of blue heron.

Blue Heron

Watercolor of a pair of Blue Herons, commissioned by Brad and Cindy for their 30th wedding anniversary

The years slipped by, as they will.  Those thirty years edged toward thirty-five. Their prized painting hadn’t been framed.  One day, Brad sneaked it out and got it framed. On the night of their 35th anniversary, as they prepared to turn in, there was the framed painting above their bed, where Brad had just finished hanging it minutes earlier.

Three years later, Cindy lost her battle with cancer.  And Brad, well . . . was lost, too.

At Cindy’s memorial service, her  dear friend, Ellen led the service. She wanted to help Cindy’s young grandchildren comprehend what had occurred. Here is the story she told:

Once upon a time, a happy group of tiny bugs were playing on the bottom of a lily pond. One by one, the bugs climbed up a lily stem and disappeared. Those left behind wondered what had happened to their friends.  Then they agreed the next bug to venture beyond the surface of the pond would return and tell the others what they’d experienced.  

One day, a bug left and found itself on a lily pad. It fell asleep. When it awoke, the warm sunshine had dried its body. Instinctively, it spread the wings it had grown while asleep and began flying away. The bug had become a beautiful dragonfly with four resplendent wings. Then it remembered the promise. It swooped back toward the surface of the pond and headed downward. The dragonfly hit the surface and could go no farther. It was not able to return. Finally, it realized the others would just need to have faith that it was going to be all right.

dragonfly-Sonia

Original photo contributed by Sonia M. Smith

Before she passed away, Cindy had asked Brad to make two promises to her:

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE™

Emerald_RD

EMERALD COLLECTION

Finalist award – 2013

finalist 

* MAINTENANCE FOR MY SOUL: THE MAN FROM NOWHERE by Cami Ann Hofstadter

“Better be careful with that little bundle of yours.”

The voice startled me as I cradled my 6-week old son, “Toots,” while tiptoeing to my car from the neurosurgeon’s office in a small, one-story building. Leaving the usual puddles as its calling card, a typical Florida storm had come and gone quickly and made me mindful of each step. Tears partially clouded my view of a broom and pail at the edge of the parking lot. I stopped.

 “E-e-a-sy now.”

Towering over me was a burly, dark-skinned man in a white shirt and dark blue pants which I assumed to be the uniform of some maintenance crew. A large set of keys hung from his belt and he held a squeegee in one hand, as if getting ready to do something about the wet patches. I didn’t bother with a response because my mind was in the grip of fear over what was going to happen to my baby.

When “Toots” was born, my mother-in-law took to calling him “doll boy” because he was as perfect in her mind as a baby could be. His round face was topped with a wisp of blonde hair and his eyes were as blue as the waters surrounding Miami where we lived. He ate and slept like a champ and showed early signs of being a good-natured, easy-to-care-for baby. The pediatrician had declared him “perfectly healthy.” There was just one thing he wanted to have checked out by a neurosurgeon, he said, and that’s what had taken me to the small building I knew so well from our old friend Zacharias, who had his long-time dental practice in the same place.

Picture 1

Toots at 4 months of age

Picture 2

Growing s-o-o big

“Wait…,” the man said when he saw me turn away. “Why are you crying?” His voice was both insistent and surprisingly velvety for such a big man. You can tell me.

“N-n-no,” I stammered. The thought of sharing my despair with a stranger made my stomach churn. I come from strong Scandinavian stock and we’re all about not showing vulnerability in the face of adversity.

At first I hadn’t been alarmed when our pediatrician felt something unusual on the top of my baby’s head. “We want to make sure the bones aren’t growing together prematurely,” he said in his usual, calming way. I completely trusted this old-timer in the community, this man who was often called “the doctor’s doctor.” It wasn’t until the recommended consultation that I understood the life-threatening situation. First I watched in amazement as the specialist laid his hands on the head of “Toots” and almost instantly pronounced, He needs surgery. Then he said the plates he’d have to put into the skull were part of a procedure that he often performed but – and, somehow, I already sensed there was going to be a “but” with this doctor – the real danger was in the anesthesia. He rambled on about statistics and low percentages of survival as I stoically tried to take it all in, till it hit me. Toots was going to die.

I don’t recall how I got from the doctor’s office to the edge of the pathway. I just wanted to get into my car without having to talk with anyone, but then that man seemingly appeared from nowhere.

“Is it the baby? Something the matter with him?”

I was surprised when I heard myself speak, but somehow the look of genuine compassion in the eyes of this stranger made me feel as if he already knew what I was going to say. “My baby is dying… he won’t survive the operation… I’m going to lose him …”, I whimpered.

He put his hand on my arm and, strangely, this gesture made the words that followed stick in my mind. “I’ve been around a long time; never missed a day of work”, he said slowly with great tenderness. “Believe me, your baby’s not dying; he’ll be fine. Just have faith.”

Normally, if somebody talked about faith I’d recoil. Personal statements like that cut into the very core of everything ingrained in me from my Scandinavian upbringing, particularly when they had to do with spiritual matters. Embarrassed, I mumbled something and hurried into my car. But in the flurry of the coming weeks his words stayed with me. When the pediatrician agreed with the surgeon and everyone decided the only chance for a normal life was the operation, I suddenly thought of the maintenance man and I was surprised by an overwhelming wave of hope. But hope turned to self-recrimination. What kind of mother was I? What foolish person would listen to somebody like that talk about a life-threatening matter? Who was that man, anyhow? With stubborn resolve I finally managed to push the stranger out of my mind.

Two hours before the scheduled surgery one of the nurses called for us.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE

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Emerald Collection 

winner_mintWINNER – 2013

* SONG OF THE WHIPPOORWILL – by Micki Peluso

I enter my magical meditation garden the same way I enter into self-hypnosis, starting with deep breathing and relaxation. I like to go there right before a nap or bedtime, often falling asleep in the midst of one of my visits there. Once inside, I walk down a long imaginary staircase—or if I am especially tired or if it’s a day when my back is giving me an argument – I use an escalator to transport me at least four flights down.  That would be my conscious mind reminding me that I’m not as young as I once was.

When I feel I’ve reached my destination, I stop at a landing, which is a foyer of sorts with large sliding glass doors leading out to a beautiful countryside.  There are times when the garden will not open to me and when that happens, I just try again another day.

My garden is an Eden-like area of grass, flowers, trees and a small stream.  The sky is azure with puffy white clouds. A gentle breeze wafts about, the temperature just right. It’s quiet as I walk over to a large oak tree, sit down and lean against its smooth bark. Slowly animals appear and the air rings out with birdsong.  A white snow owl perches on a branch above me. She’s lovely, but quite sarcastic. She has no patience for my complaints or excuses and accuses me of knowing the answers to my problems, but refusing to act on them. She seems to be a part of me-my subconscious, perhaps. A large blue-gray Alpha wolf comes up and nuzzles me, his deep blue eyes full of compassion, assuring me that I am loved. His mate, shy and cautious, stands behind him. The wolf offers me strength and courage. Sometimes, a roly-poly black bear cub tumbles out and plops on top of me, insisting on having some fun and cuddling. There is always a sweet doe next to me who does not judge me, but offers unconditional love. Rabbits, raccoons and a red fox often join the group, but usually only the owl, wolf and doe speak to me.

Song of the Whippoorwill inspired artist Lori Kennedy to sketch this beautiful drawing.

In late summer when we lost Noelle . . . 

 STORY CONTINUES IN 

TALES2INSPIRE™          The Topaz Collection

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Micki began writing after a personal tragedy, as a catharsis for her grief, leading to publication in Victimology: An International Magazine and a 25 year career in Journalism. She has freelanced, been staff writer for one major newspaper and written for two more. She has published short fiction, non-fiction, and slice of life stories in magazines and e-zines. Her first book was published in 2008; a funny family memoir, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG.

 

                   Get more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

 

* UNLIKELY CONNECTIONS by Anne Knorr

I smiled as I hung up the phone from my conversation with my sister, Nancy…the universe really can be quite generous at times. Not only would I be able to sneak away for a coveted weekend with her in St. Louis but on my return flight to Denver International Airport I would be able to see my cousin, Clark.

Clark was the youngest in a group of cousins separated by only a few years. Most of us were born between 1952 and 1958 but he was the straggler, arriving in 1963. As a child, Clark was known as the ‘pest’, the five year age gap glaringly obvious to those of us over the age of eight. In time, he outgrew us all, reaching 6’-7” in stature and obtaining a doctorate’s degree in mechanical engineering. As a kid he had designed a rubric’s cube with an extra row and column to make the game a bit more challenging. My method was to simply pull off the colored squares and place them where they all matched if I got stuck. Perhaps this is why he has a mathematical theory named after him and I do not.  In contrast to his height and intelligence was a child-like naiveté and gentleness that was endearing.

As children our paths crossed every year or so when the sisters (our mothers) reunited in Alliance, Ohio or St. Louis, Missouri. When the reunion was in St. Louis, the three sisters and nine cousins would gather together for a ride on the river boat named the Admiral. It would mosey up the Mississippi river for a leisurely afternoon while we danced to music, played cards and pinball machines or just wondered around the boat taking in the scenery. Our encounters have been less frequent in recent years; weddings and funerals or an occasional conference here or there, so the chance meeting at the airport was a welcomed surprise. Clark would be in Denver for a two hour layover as he waited for the flight on the last leg of his epic journey.  After several weeks in Ethiopia, he was returning home to his eight-month pregnant wife and two blond haired, blue eyed, pre-school daughters. Accompanying him were four new family members, Elsa, Yeshi, Sintayehu, and Kasanesh. What began as a simple desire to relieve the plight of an orphaned child grew into the adoption of four teenage girls from Ethiopia. The five sojourners had trekked across the world enduring grueling hours on airplanes and endless waits in airports as they moved closer towards their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Clark and his family

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE 

TALES2INSPIRE™ Emerald_RD EMPIRE COLLECTION 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anne Knorr is a licensed architect in Colorado and has been the principal of an architectural firm for over 20 years designing homes. She is also a practicing spiritual director and writer.  Anne has written and lectured about the connection between architecture and spirituality and offers workshops and retreats on the topic. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband where she enjoys hiking the trails near her home.

 

Get more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

 

 

BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM, GROW YOUR FAN BASE – BUT HOW?

Article

We are often told to build an author platform, increase our fan base,  work for name recognition, get our names on one of those talented author lists. Easier said than done. But if you have what it takes – are a skilled writer with an Inspiring story to share – read on. Tales2Inspire™ is a true “Authors Helping Authors” project/contest.  Not only is it FREE to enter, but it delivers – perhaps even more than it promises.

Today I am highlighting THE VOICE, one of last year’s winning tales, by Dr. Stan Cupery.  His story is a true medical miracle about an infant abandoned at birth on cold basement floor of an deserted building.  The story begins with details of the secret birth, its discovered and the rescue of this baby. You can read part of his story here (but you will have to hold your breath for the ending, when Dr. Cupery’s ‘tale’ is published in the Tales2Inspire anthology).

Won’t you take the time to leave Stan a comment. He is one talented author who deserves recognition!

Visit Tales2Inspire if you think you’ve got an inspiring story to share.

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And please visit me on Facebook & give me a thumbs up if you like what you see.

MUSIC TO MY EARS! What Cami Ann Hofstadter Had to Say About Tales2Inspire

Issue 9     SOUTH FLORIDA WRITERS ASSOCIATION    SEPTEMBER  2012 

www.southfloridawritersassn.org

   

IT PAYS TO BE A MEMBER OF SFWA

By Cami Ann Hofstadter

In the spring, members got an email about a writing competition at www.tales2inspire.com, and although SFWA cannot “vouch for” any of the many items it forwards to members, I decided to take a chance.

When I went to the website, I was particularly drawn to the theme by Lois W. Stern, the creator of the competition, “Authors Helping Authors.” Also, I liked the big choice of genres in which you could submit, so I made the “leap” and submitted my story titled A LEAP OF WORDS.

You can imagine how excited I was when I came in a finalist but more than that, I was so gratified by all the “side-benefits” this has given me. Not only does Lois’s website generate a lot of traffic (try tales2inspire in one of the search-engines and you’ll see what I mean) but, in addition to the tales, she has also posts a radio interview of us authors. And I get an “emblem” to put on my own soon-to-be-built website to include among my other writers’ credentials. So check it all out by going to the authors’ page at www.tales2inspire.com/AUTHOR_TALES.html and watch a video or go directly to the ON THE AIR sign for the radio interview. You can also check out the other services Lois offers; all in the true spirit of authors helping authors.

More than all this, don’t miss your chance to participate in the next competition!

Deadline is December 28, 2012 and by March 15, 2013 we’ll know who among SFWA members is a Finalist or Winner for the

year 2013!

Get all the details about this Authors Helping Authors project/contest here.

Cami Ann Hofstadter

 

BIG APOLOGIES and INTRODUCING LAURA PRINCE-VOMVOS

My Tales2Inspire website was offline for several days before I became aware of its absence, then another three days before the problem was resolved. I know this confused quite a number of you and inconvenienced many more. I am SO sorry. To compensate for all this trouble, I have extended the deadline date to March 14, 2012 and hope this helps.

Today I would like to introduce LAURA PRINCE-VOMVOS, who submitted a wonderful “tale” to the tales2inspire contest , this one about an unidentified stranger’s generosity that made a powerful impact on her life. Enjoy STEPPING IN TODAY . . . WITH PENNIES FROM HEAVEN.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 

IN THE ZONE by Gabrielle Sitkowski

As the day of stressful classes come to an end, I reach into my strawberry-colored bag to retrieve my sturdy and intimidating flats. Like prison bars, the metal spikes stand tall and firm on the bottom of my sneaker. They are anxious to grip the ground beneath them. These spikes are ready for action to crush, tear and smother. Do not underestimate their power. Even though they are little in size they possess great strength.

Gabrielle and Teammate Pose at KPXC Field Where She Runs Races

I walk across the park, slowly approaching the starting line. I look ahead and notice how the cherry and apple trees are lined up like soldiers ready for battle. I notice the sun is at an angle, creating areas of darkness in the forest. In these areas, the squirrels scurry across the fallen leaves. To my side, the shore of the ocean peeks out through a small opening between the trees. I hear the roaring of the waves. The air is crisp. I take a deep breath to relax before my race. I smell fresh air with a hint of burning wood. This moment in time is where I become one with nature. I rely on nature to guide me through its path, to make it out to the finish line. This moment is one of relaxation, peace and tranquility. I treasure this moment; it is precious. It is the last time I will be calm for the next twenty five minutes.

The whistle has been blown, commanding every racer to take their position on the starting line. Becoming prepared for this race is a mind game. The nerves throughout my body are fluttering; I can feel my heart beating throughout my body. The tension is so high I want to break down and cry. I try to resist the intimidation of the other racers. This task is difficult, for their faces are aggressive and fierce. I repeat to myself “I can do this” over and over, instilling this fact into my brain.  I take one last deep breath, “This is it” I mumble to myself, “On your mark, ready set……”

I am in the zone. My surroundings are blurry-I cannot focus on anything around me. The screams of people cheering on the sidelines all mush into one monotone sound. Nothing matters. The only thing that is important is crossing the finish line with that feeling of accomplishment. As I run down the hill, my brain jars with the unsteadiness of ground beneath me. I feel my head bop up and down. I feel all of the stress from my life leave my mind, it evaporates into the fresh autumn air. As I pound harder into the ground, more and more sweat drips from my entire body. I am being cleansed. Cleansed of all of the tension that life brings. Cleansed of the corruption I have witnessed in the world. The only thing that is left is my true being; myself and all of the world. I have an entire world to explore and an entire lifetime filled with discoveries.

Running teaches you so much about life. It teaches you how to overcome obstacles. It reminds you that there is light at the end of every dark tunnel. It gives you the opportunity to go beyond your potential, to exceed your limit, to reach a place you never thought was possible. You learn how to deal with pain. You learn that if one suffers on this earth that it will not be forever. I experience pain for those twenty-five minutes, knowing when I cross the finish line, I will feel great joy and pride. Running teaches you how to react to failure. Not everything in life will go your way, and a person needs to be prepared to be put down. The most important thing is to learn how to react to these setbacks in life. If one reacts properly, they will be set on the right path back to success. Unlike any other sport, running involves no contact with opponents. There is no pushing or shoving. Our diverse world needs to recognize this peaceful way of competition. Taking part in a race is the one place where you are isolated from all of the violence in the world. You forget about the murders, rapes, wars and bombing. In running, war ends with a shake of the hand and pat on the back.

Although many people refer to these twenty-five minutes of running “hell”; it is heaven to me. All of my recognitions about life and important decisions have taken place while running. Running sets your priorities straight; it brings tranquility to your mind. It makes you one with nature. It teaches you lessons about life. Most importantly, it makes you stay true to yourself.

Only a runner could relate to this experience. Once a person starts the hobby of running, it easily becomes a passion. I express deep sympathy for a person who has never been in the zone.  They have missed out on a beautiful part of life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Gabrielle Sitkowski and I am twenty years old. I grew up in Kings Park, New York. I am currently a junior at Marist College pursuing a degree in accounting. My favorite pastime is writing. I have published works in my college’s literary magazine The Mosaic. Last summer I finished writing my first book, which I am trying to get published. Another popular pastime of mine is running. All four years of high school I was on the track and cross country teams. In the future, I plan to attend graduate school at Marist College to receive my MBA for accountants as well as becoming a CPA.

Get more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

We welcome your review of this story in the Comment box below. Your name and credentials will be included with any review we post on Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s highly respected Book Review Blog under the TALES2INSPIRE banner.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 




WHAT WOULD I DO IF I WASN’T AFRAID? by Anne Knorr

A friend recently asked me, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” She wasn’t talking about jumping out of airplanes or climbing Mount Everest, but the subtle things we do or don’t do because we’re afraid, such as letting go of a relationship that doesn’t work any more, speaking up to voice an opinion, changing careers or simply singing Karaoke. With more days behind me than in front of me, (unless of course I beat the odds and live past 100), now seemed as good of a time as any to start living from my heart and push past some fears that were limiting my choices. I was reminded of a quote by Martin Luther King Junior, “Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.” Inspired, I decided to launch into the second half of life with a willingness to master some fears.

 First on my list of fears to conquer was to ride in an Arabian horse show on my daughter’s horse SBA Sensational, otherwise known as Al.  We’re not talking the low-key, local fairgrounds type horse show, but the kind where fancy horses and riders with trainers attend.  Easy enough, I thought. I can do this.  After all, I’d been watching my daughter compete in horse shows throughout her junior and senior high school years and figured I had a pretty good idea of what to do. As a seasoned trail rider, how hard could it be?  The scary part for me would be riding into an arena to be judged on my performance and compared with other accomplished riders – a situation I normally tried to avoid at all costs. Three days before the big event my anxiety mounted and an old whiplash injury flared up. The muscles in my neck and shoulders were so tight I pinched a nerve resulting in a slight tingling sensation down my left arm that continued into my hand and fingers.  The throbbing headache at the base of my scull didn’t appear until the night before the show. Maybe my body was trying to tell me something? Well, vanquishing fear was not for wimps, and I certainly was no wimp!

Driving to Denver on the day of the show I could feel the cortisol coursing through my body and wondered if showing was really such a good idea after all. Thoughts whirled through my head – what if I embarrass myself, what if Al gets the wrong lead, what if I accidentally cut off another rider, or what if I can’t get Al to go into the show ring? I began to think, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” is a ridiculous question and I’m no Martin Luther King Junior. Undeterred by my raging self-doubt, I exited onto Interstate 70 towards the arena. Once inside the building, I found the area where Al was stalled along with the other horses from my barn. A quiet tension filled the air as the grooms busily readied horses to be shown and riders put on makeup, pulled their hair into tight buns held into place with layers of hairspray, and pinned entry numbers onto their riding jackets. I stopped to check on Al who had been transformed into a beautiful creature, his mane neatly braided and eyes and muzzle highlighted with baby oil enhancing his chiseled Arabian face. As I gazed into his eyes and scratched his ears I tried to determine what frame of mind he was in, hoping he was relaxed and not in one of his stubborn, defiant moods.

Now it was my turn to be transformed. I headed to the dressing room where I traded my comfortable frayed jeans and T-shirt for tight tan breeches, a button down blouse, and tailored jacket. My worn clogs were replaced with tall black boots, and along with a velvet helmet and black leather gloves, the outfit was complete. With my hair slicked back and makeup in place, I felt like one of the Texans I’d seen (and made fun of) at the ski resorts dressed in swanky clothing attempting to blend in and disguise their lack of skill. Funny how fate has a way of reversing itself. A voice echoed across the loud speaker announcing that Adult Amateur Hunter Pleasure was the next class up and to please check in at the gate. So the moment of truth had arrived. I mounted Al outside the arena and along with four other riders awaited the cue to enter. We looked like clones of one another, each wearing the same riding uniform other than slight variations in color.  The only marked difference was that Al fidgeted and pranced while the other horses stood quietly in attention with a calm rider on their back. Little did I know that this was an omen of things to come.

Katie, Al and Anne

When the gate opened, I took a deep breath, faced my fear and trotted into the stadium.  So far, so good. We circled around the arena at a trot and I was beginning to settle into a rhythm when I heard my trainer barking orders from the side rail “Bridle him, bridle him, more leg, more outside rein.” I immediately tensed up, pulled on the reins and added pressure with my legs hoping Al would arch his body into a “collected” frame only to have him stop dead in his tracks and then begin backing up. We’re not talking a few steps, but half the length of the arena. Other riders veered around us to avoid a collision as I continued to coax him forward. This was not good. I was beginning panic and all I could hear was a distant voice instructing me, “More leg, kick him with your spurs, sit back.” I was mortified but finally managed to get him moving forward as the announcer called for the hand gallop, a gait we actually did quite well. For the remainder of the class my only goal was to finish without any other major mishaps. After a few more minutes of trotting and walking the class ended. Relieved, Al and I lined up in the center of the arena with the other riders in front of the ring steward. The judge made one final request as he walked past each horse, asking riders to back five steps. Standing in front of me he grinned slyly and said, “Well, I guess we know you can back up!”

Leaving the arena with my 5th place ribbon, I didn’t feel like I’d mastered my fear completely, but I certainly made some progress. My underlying fear of failure, which I certainly did with some flair, was lessened as well. A fellow rider with a wicked sense of humor asked if I planned to move forward next go-around. Fortunately, the following class was for beginner riders and Al out-performed the other sole contender to win first place. As my brother would say, “We were the best of the worst.” I like to think Martin Luther King Junior was sending a little encouragement my way. Perhaps a bit of his courageous spirit dwells in all those willing to face their fears, large or small.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anne Knorr is a licensed architect in Colorado and has beenthe principal of an architectural firm for over 20 years designing homes. She is also a practicing spiritual director and writer.  Anne has written and lectured about the connection between architecture and spirituality and offers workshops and retreats on the topic. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband where she enjoys hiking the trails near her home. Click here to visit her website.

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