Category Archives: Stories

If wishes were horses

Lynne stood near a pile of horse manure, leaning on a fence post, flies zooming around her in the late-afternoon sun. She squinted her eyes and watched the creatures before her, a lump in her throat and tears threatening to overflow her eye sockets. She sighed away the feeling of being consumed, which had come uncomfortably close to enveloping her.

She hated when that happened. Why couldn’t she just allow the ecstasy to flow on the rare occasions the conditions were right?

Because it didn’t seem appropriate in a horse pasture. And with this woman she barely knew. And, of course, in front of Grace. Grace freaked out at tears, even happy tears.

Lynne never thought she’d find this woman, this creature, this possible solution for her daughter. She’d searched for two years, ever since equine therapy was first suggested as an idea to try for her daughter. And though Lynne had had to be patient, the possible solution had unfolded beautifully.

Weeks before, Lynne had entered the local health foods store. She never checked the community bulletin board in the entry way, but this day, as she left the store with her baba ganouj and Greek yogurt, she stopped to read a flier. “Art/Music Festival this Fri/Sat 10-5.” Surprisingly, the address was within biking distance from her home. Lynne made a mental note to take the family to  the Art/Music Festival sometime during the upcoming weekend.

On Friday, Lynne and the kids drove past the intersection listed on the flier. Looked like a very small Art/Music Festival, Lynne thought to herself. This isn’t even in a parking lot — it’s in someone’s yard. She and the kids were on task for something else and didn’t go to the Art/Music Festival that day.

Saturday was full of duty. Lynne and Rob got their yard mowed, some weeds pulled, the groceries bought, some calories burned. The day was slipping away when Lynne remembered the nearby Art/Music Festival. She knew her husband was a sucker for local music. C’mon, let’s go, she’d said around 3:30.

They got to the teeny-tiny Art/Music Festival just an hour before closing time. Along the perimeter of the lot were maybe six white tents providing shade to vendors of knit caps, airbrushed artwork, and handmade wind chimes. In one corner was a small stage with a miked and amped guitarist, vocalist and drummer. In another corner a guy was offering chair massages.

At the entrance to the clearing, a pretty blond woman was offering horse rides.  Grace begged to ride, so Lynne approached the woman to find out how much a ride cost. “Five dollars. This is Pinto,” she said pointing to a liver-spotted horse. “He was a rescue. He’s very gentle.”

Grace’s pleadings reached a fever pitch remarkably fast, even as Lynne fished cash out of her purse. Grace’s difficulty in focusing on schoolwork was accompanied by a peculiar ability to hone in on what she wanted and not stop petitioning until she got it. The blond woman arranged for a young high school student wearing jeans and boots to lead Grace, atop Pinto, on a 5-minute circuit around the lot. Twice. Grace could not get enough so they went around a third time.

Lynne chatted up the horse owner. “Do you know anywhere around here that offers hippotherapy?”

It was a highly specialized field. Not only did the horse need to be trained in dealing with children who had special needs, but the human also had to be trained in fields like occupational therapy, speech therapy, maybe even psychotherapy. Lynne had searched for years in vain, finding such horse+therapist combination an hour’s drive north or an hour’s drive south. Not doable.

How had it come to this? It had become clear that Grace was not getting what she needed at school, at home, through their medical network. No one had even been able to figure out what she needed. Grace was falling behind academically, she was having difficulty with relationships, she was combative at home, and though infinitely lovable, Grace’s presence was a whirlwind of chaos. Lynne and her husband were exhausted in dealing with her and trying to help her. They’d tried numerous strategies, therapies, even medications. Nothing had helped Grace focus, stem her impulsiveness and tendency toward opposition, or “click” with reading and math skills. Lynne and her husband were growing more and more fearful that maybe an answer didn’t exist.

So the blond woman’s response was nothing short of miraculous.

“I do hippotherapy.”

Lynne could not believe her ears, her luck.

“You do? Where?” fully expecting the answer to be in a faraway town.

“Right here. I’ve just returned to the area and I’m setting up riding and therapy again. I’ve worked in the past with children of all abilities and with all sorts of issues.”

She told Lynne her fees, which were not as high as she’d feared. Phone numbers were exchanged, and soon Lynne had set up this first lesson.

Best of all, Grace, with her love of animals, did not even know she was getting assistance. Being different from other “normal” kids had been the downfall of other therapies and activities they’d tried. But this? This looked like learning to care for and ride horses.

In reality, the reported benefits of equine therapy include learning to be respectful, being calmer in the body, honing social skills and understanding the subtle give-and-take, improving the eye-movements essential to reading, reinforcing sequencing, building self-esteem, and experiencing trust.

It remained to be seen if Pinto and the blond woman could bring about any of these changes for Grace, now sporting a borrowed riding helmet and sitting with a straight spine atop the horse . But as Lynne stood in the glow of the afternoon sun, watching her daughter ride with confidence and focus, she was supremely hopeful.

The night my house broke up with me

It was a dark and stormy night.

Actually, it was a frigid January night, and all the homes in our old neighborhood were shut tight. As tight as the skin on Joan Rivers’ face.

I was in the bathroom bathing the kids, then ages 4 and 2. Roger was out of town and not due until the following night. His absences were particularly hard during those early years, and I would celebrate his return with a quick peck on the cheek (well, not consistently) as I headed out the door to go, well, anywhere alone for several hours.

Our home was, at the time, 115 years old, a majestic Victorian with “character” in Denver proper. The sole bathroom was on the second floor, a small postage stamp-size with limited cabinet and towel-hanging space. It had a row of windows that faced the south.

The kids played for a bit and once they were¬† squeaky clean I pulled them out and bundled them up in their ducky towels. Reed, the 2 year-old, was the first to be ready to leave the steamy room. He pulled on the doorknob — original with the house — and it came off in his hand, to his delight.

“Look, Mommy!” He presented me with what he thought was a glorious unexpected windfall.

My eyes grew wide in horror as the implications washed over me, drowning me in dread.

  • I was locked in a bathroom.
  • With two small children.
  • For 24 more hours.
  • No food, blankets, pillows, clothes (for them), diapers (for Reed), and with only a few bath toys for entertainment.

Can you feel my horror?

Looking for a way out, I opened the creaky windows and a blast of arctic air rushed in. I yelled, “HELLO? CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?” several times, hoping against hope that someone was out and about in our neighborhood as evening bordered on night. What I thought they could do to help, I did not know. My call was greeted by calm silence that belied what was going on inside me.

I managed the panic the best I could and resigned myself to our fate. It would be HORRIBLE but not life-threatening. Hopefully. I mean I HOPED I would not threaten anyone’s life in the coming 24 hours, especially my own. I began to contemplate how we would all sleep in the bathtub with only two ducky towels, a hand towel and a washcloth to serve as mattress, blankets and pillows.

It was going to be a loooooooooooooooooong night. I was filled with hatred for the house.

Suddenly, with one stroke of genius, Tessa saved the day. “Mom! Look!”

She pointed at the phone I’d had in my hand as their bath started, now sitting on the counter under an unused washcloth.

Hear the sounds of angels singing a four-part chord, bathed in a warm heavenly glow?

My adrenals unclenched as I dialed my parents. I found Mom and Dad at home, told them my plight and asked if they would let themselves in with our spare house key and release us from our prison.

Thirty minutes later we were sprung. We slept in our beds, our amazingly comfortable, warm and spacious beds. In the morning we ate a delicious breakfast — Cheerios never tasted so good.

I love my parents. Can’t say the same for that house. I’d been thinking of moving for awhile, trading in for a younger, roomier model in the ‘burbs. Did my house want to be the breakER rather than the breakEE? What-ev.

We sold it 4 months later. Doorknobs and all.

How my underwear saved a marriage

My phone rang in between the time I dropped my kids at school and the start of my yoga class. My friend got right to the point.

“Do you, by any chance, wear Calvin Klein size M underwear?”

I thought back to the last time I bought undies, trying to remember my size. It was Costco, probably sometime in 2008.

“Why, yes I do.” I began to get excited. My friend is well-connected, and I was wondering if she was passing on to me a bloggy review for Calvin Klein. Although, had I taken the notion a bit further, I would have thought it odd that there would be such specific size qualifications.

“OH THANK G*D!!” I heard her sign deeply, and I could tell, across the miles, that a big gob of stress just left her body.

Does this mean I don’t get free underwear? I thought. Silently.

“I found some women’s underwear in my husband’s bag this morning,” my friend spilled. “While I was getting the children ready for school, I advised them in my head to give Daddy a big hug now because they’d never see him again. I was halfway to changing the locks. And, simultaneously planning to gather the kids after school and go far far away.”

Slowly I started to understand. MY underwear — worn — were out there in public. Horrors! And they were linked with her husband. What!?

I tried to put the pieces together while she continued to tell me her thought processes since the discovery. In the back of my mind I tried to remember if I had an af.fair with her husband.


But I WAS using half my brain to figure out how my undies got in his bag.

Which I must have said aloud.

“When you visited me” she reasoned, “you took an overnight trip-within-a-trip to another friend’s. Remember we loaned you the bag so you didn’t have to take your suitcase?”

Aaaaah! The pieces began to fill in. Clearly, I hadn’t completely emptied the borrowed bag when I returned to her house. Again, horrors!*

I try to be a low-impact guest. I try to make sure that I don’t leave my stuff around the house when I am a visitor. I clean up after myself. I try not to leave a trace.

I left a big trace this time. Size 5, to be precise. And it gave Melissa and her emotions a terrible, horrible, no good rollercoaster ride.

Ultimately, Melissa was relieved that I’d left my panties there — as relieved as I was horrified.

We hung up so I could go to yoga. And so she could cancel the locksmith.

* at least it was a non-ratty pair.

Image: (not the actual pair in question)