Non-horsey

Have you ever seen a mirage? I have.

mirage
With my second cousin, Jeaneen at her wedding

As some of you know, I recently had surgery on my right eye. I had a creased retina, or in doctor terms, a macular pucker. I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently, it's pretty common. We have a gell-like substance in our eyes called vitreous gell. As we age, the gell can begin to harden, causing it to pull away from the retina and form scar tissue called an epiretinal membrane. If this happens near the macular, the part of the retina used for sharp central vision, it results in blurred vision. My gradual loss of vision is how I realized something was wrong.

The only treatment is a surgery called a vitrectomy. The vitrectomy is performed as an outpatient procedure and removes the vitreous gel, replacing it with a saline solution. The surgeon then peels the epiretinal membrane off the surface of the retina with forceps. 

After the surgery, the saline solution made it impossible for me to see anything out of my right eye. This made depth perception difficult and plagued me with a constant feeling of seasickness. As I write this, I am one-week post-surgery. The water is subsiding, but there is still a small drop at the bottom of my eye, and my vision is still very distorted. Due to this, I have found day-to-day activities cumbersome and haven't been able to work. 

So, what does this have to do with a mirage?

Nothing really, but it did get me thinking about how much we take for granted our vision and reminded me of a time when I was traveling from Las Vegas to LA and experienced a mirage. 

It was the summer of 2000. My cousin, Susan's, daughter, Jeaneen, was getting married in San Pedro, California. I flew out to LAX and met my mum and dad there. They had accumulated so many Delta Skymiles that they flew for free. My parents traveled over 5,000 miles from England before cellphones were commonplace and just hoped that we would be able to find each other in one of the largest airports on the planet. As luck would have it, we did. 

The ceremony was spectacular and held on the lawn at Fort MacArthur overlooking Los Angeles Harbor. We partied until the wee, small hours and slumped into bed exhausted. The following day we had arranged to drive to Las Vegas and spend some time with Susan. Tired and somewhat hungover but sufficiently fueled with a much-needed jentacular caffeinated beverage, we set off on a four-and-a-half-hour drive and headed 'out of Dodge.' Highway 15 connects LA and Las Vegas and climbs slowly out of the San Bernadino Valley toward Cajon Pass and through the Mohave Desert. 

The busy, drab, grey concrete scenery gradually gave way to magnificent, stunning, picturesque rock formations decorated in hued reds, carmine, terracotta, and bronze. As we left behind the thick smog of LA, the temperature gradually climbed along with our ascent. I had taken the first leg of the journey, and after three hours, I was done! We pulled over in Baker, CA, at the World's Tallest Thermometer. The temperature registered at a blistering 112f (44.5c). The dry heat of the desert and the absence of anything resembling a breeze took my breath away as I swapped the driving seat with my dad. 

The vastness of the scenery was difficult to comprehend, with enormous stretches of dry scrubland interspersed with shrubs and wayward tumbleweeds and bordered by rugged, imposing mountains. Thirty minutes after our pilot change, we navigated Mountain Pass before dropping into the Primm Valley located on the Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed. 

Armed with nothing more than our desire to rest and a well-worn paper map, we cruised into Las Vagas, past the airport, skirted Sin City, and on to North Las Vegas and the cool and comfort of my cousin's home. 

Our visit was relaxing and filled with reminiscing talks about departed family members and happy memories of Susan visiting us in England many years before. Of course, we touristed along quintessentially Vegas hotspots of Freemont Street and The Strip. The neon-soaked promenades exuded splendor lined with exuberant hotels, opulent restaurants, palatial music venues, and of course, resplendent casinos—the soaring choreographed Fountains of the Bellagio danced and mesmerized visitors. The replica Eifel Tower beckoned with the promise of a sweeping view. 

Not being gamblers, we set ourselves a limit and nonchalantly fed one-armed-bandits with quarters. We made sure to be actively nourishing the hungry machines should a scantily dressed cocktail waitress pass our way. Gamblers are plied with free beverages to encourage them to stay, and we took full advantage of this service. 

Time to leave

After a very pleasant couple of nights with my cousin, we needed to head back to LA to catch a flight back to Charleston. With clear heads and not a hangover in site the trip back was far easier than the journey out. With our magnificent California and Nevada journey coming to an end, we solemnly left Las Vegas with heavy hearts and happy memories. Silently we passed Last Chance to Gamble, Whisky Pete's on the CA/NV border, and gradually began a gentle climb out of the dusty, extinct lake bed. 

I glanced over to my left and noticed a huge, glistening lake with a tall-masted ship sailing majestically across it. 

 "I don't remember seeing a lake when we were driving here."
 "Neither do I." replied my dad.
 "Look, there's a boat on it." My mum added.
 "How did we not notice such a large lake?" I asked.
We were all dumbfounded. As our journey continued, the craft slowly floated across the shimmering lagoon.

As we drew closer and closer to the vast waterhole, it appeared to shrink before our eyes. The once sparkling expanse evaporated into oblivion. And, what used to be a luxurious sailboat morphed into a fence post. We couldn't believe what we had just witnessed. The lake, the water, the boat, had all been a mirage. I am so glad my mum and dad were there to experience it with me. We talked about it often, and as with many of our stories, we 'dinned out on it' on more than one occasion. My dad was such a good storyteller. He would say that fun, exciting, memorable things happen to everyone. The nack is noticing and remembering them so you can pass them on to others. I hope I have inherited his gift.

So, back to where this story started, our eyes. We can not always believe what we see. That should not stop us from looking for the good in everyone, the beauty in nature, and the peace brought to us by good friends. 

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Radio Luxemburg

radio luxemburgDo you remember piling into your friend's house and listening to Radio Luxemburg? 

We would carefully search for the aloof signal wafting across the airways all the way from Europe. The melodic tones would fade in and out with an eerie wailing resonance. The illegality of it added to the excitement. 

I'm sure many of you reading this did your early 'courting' while listening to Radio Luxemburg. A clandestine tryst while supposedly doing homework or, 'we're just going to listen to some music'. Were our parents really that naive? 

Many evenings were spent soaking up the latest musical releases along with the interjections of the alluring DJs. Voices like Kenny Everett, David 'Kid' Jensen, Alan Freeman, Noel Edmonds, and the now-infamous Jimmy Savile. Commercial radio was such a novelty to us. For some reason, I distinctly remember the ads for tampons. 😜 I would try to act so nonchalantly while cringing inside. 

Things have changed beyond all recognition. We now have access to unlimited tunes at the simple press of our finger. We carry a device in our pocket with more power and technology than the spaceship that went to the moon. But, that can not surpass the nostalgia of our misspent youth when music and friends meant more to us than anything else. 

My favorite way to steam music is Amazon Music (UK link). (US link to Amazon Music). What are some of the songs that remind you of your teen years?

How my Horses Helped to Save my Life

I know the title of this blog sounds rather dramatic but that doesn't make it less true. Let me give you some insight into how and why my horses helped save my life.

save my life
Sam riding his pony when he was three-years-old.

In June of 2018 my adult son, Sam Davis vanished without a trace from his home in Charlotte, NC. The police thought he had taken off to clear his head and would pop back up again. I knew differently. As mothers, we know our children no matter how old they are. My husband and I pinned posters all over the area and I created the Find Sam Davis Facebook page. I regularly posted updates even though they were few and far between. Every Friday I would do a Facebook live video to mark the passing weeks.

My life was a living nightmare. Sleeping was difficult, eating was optional, and showering was no longer necessary. Every second I was consumed with dark foreboding thoughts, devastation, disbelief, and the enormous feeling of hopelessness. I had no enthusiasm, at all. I stopped teaching horseback riding. My only focus was on finding my child.

Days, weeks, and months blurred together. But, finally, after eight months of not knowing where Sam was a teacher at a local elementary school found what was left of him in some bushes after retrieving a wayward ball. My whole world fell apart. I thought I was prepared for the news but I was so wrong. My agony, despair, trauma, torture quadrupled in a split second. Even though I still had a teenager at home who needed me all I wanted to do was go to sleep and not wake up.

Learning to stay alive

All throughout this horrific experience, I had horses, cats, chickens, and a dog, not-to-mention people to take care of. Staying in bed wasn't an option. My barn became my sanctuary, even more so than normal. My horses had no idea what was going on in my life. To them, everything was normal. Night followed day and mornings meant coming in to stand in the cool barn, caressed by the fans, and lavished with breakfast and copious amounts of hay. Their soft nickers, judgeless eyes, and impatient stomachs kept me grounded.

Solitude is lonely, grief is even lonelier. Amazon Music kept me company while I took care of barn chores. I also discovered that an empty barn is a good place to cry. I can not count how many times I paced up and down the aisle weeping while talking to myself, to Sam. Trying to put into perspective what my new life now looked like.

Life goes on

Grief is a very personal journey. It is a journey, not a destination. Two years on I still have days when I don't want to get up. Unless you have experienced deep depression you can not imagine how difficult the simple act of putting your feet out of bed each morning can be. Think of yourself as very fortunate. But, every day I get up, get dressed, and head to the barn. I look at the world differently now. The sun is brighter, the dew on crisp mornings is clearer, the air is sweeter, and, most days, my smile comes more easily.

My barn is still my sanctuary. There is something very cathartic about cleaning stalls, grooming a horse, or sweeping the aisle. My horses know my secrets, and I know they won't tell. I feel Sam in the breeze occasionally, and I even smelt his aftershave one day, true story.

I am enormously grateful to my patient clients, my loving family, and the kind support from complete strangers. And, of course to my trusted horses who did, literally, help to save my life.

Let us know how your horses have positively influenced your life.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts please reach out to a medical professional.

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Why does the United Kingdom have so many names?

The quick answer is, it doesn't. But, I can see why people would think it does.

This non-horse related blog is brought about by questions and comments from people over the years who have asked me what the difference is between England, Britain, UK, and so on. I will attempt to answer them here.

I will start by saying that I am from England. I am also from Britain, and the United Kingdom, and the British Isles. I could go on and add Europe into that mix. It's very easy to see why people are confused. 

I will start with the large picture and work backward.

Europe

Europe
Europe

Europe is a continent, not to be confused with the European Union, a political and economic union of 27 members located primarily in Europe. Europe, the continent, covers 3.9 million square miles and is made up of forty-four countries. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and Asia to the east.

The British Isles

British Isles
British Isles

The British Isles is the name of a group of islands situated off the northwestern corner of mainland Europe. It is made up of Great Britain (more about that later), Ireland, The Isle of Man, The Isles of Scilly, The Channel Islands (including Guernsey, Jersey, Sark, and Alderney), and over 6,000 other smaller islands.

The United Kingdon, known as the UK for short

United KingdomThe United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign state made up of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In international law, a sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area.

Great Britain, aka Britain

Great Britain
Great Britain

Great Britain is not a country; it is a landmass. It is known as 'Great' because it is the largest island in the British Isles and houses the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales within its shores.

England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

England, Scotland, Wales, Norther Ireland
England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are countries. Scotland and Wales have their own governments led by their First Ministers'. They also have representation in the English government in Westminster, London, by elected members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Northern Island is also a country, it has its own government called the Northern Island Assembly. It also has representation in the English government. 

Ireland

Ireland is an independent country. It is part of the British Isles but not part of Britain or the United Kingdom.

So there you have it, as clear as mud! 

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