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Rise II: It’s Time To Talk About Depression

Over a year ago, I published a blogpost about anxiety in which I wrote about the stigma surrounding mental illness and described what anxiety is like for those who might not understand it.

The response I got blew me away. For weeks afterward, friends, coworkers, volunteers, family, and even Internet strangers told me how they too managed to live with anxiety, that they felt like someone else understood their struggle. I had included tons of resources and – judging by the responses – they seemed to help my readers as much as they had helped me.

That blogpost and its subsequent reactions only furthered the thought I had when I first wrote it, which was that we as a society need to talk more about mental illness.

Source: http://powerlisting.wikia.com/wiki/Mental_Disorder_Manipulation?file=Mental_Disorders.png

Mental illness – which the American Psychiatric Association defines as a health condition related to changes in thinking, behavior, and/or emotion – is stigmatized even today. One common misconception about mental illness is that it doesn’t really exist; people with one of the many illnesses are either making them up, trying to get attention, or not trying hard enough to be ‘normal.’

Without getting into scientific articles about psychiatric reviews or necessary diagnoses (which do exist, if you are so inclined to look them up), mental illness is real. Just as a physical disease affects the human body, mental illness affects arguably the most important part of our physical buildup: the mind. Most importantly, they are treatable.

One of those mental illnesses is depression.

Source: https://imgur.com/gallery/PhQg7/comment/203096626

This is probably a good place for me to post ***TRIGGER WARNING*** so those of you who don’t want to read about depression can go somewhere else.

It’s difficult to find a place to start. I wasn’t really sure what exactly I wanted to say when I began this, other than having a general desire to a) explain depression to those who might not understand it; and b) provide help and resources for those who live with it.

I initially kicked things off by writing the sentence: “Depression is an incredibly personal journey.” My intention was to dive a little bit into my experience with depression that occurred during a good portion of my teen years and arose again several months ago.

And that description didn’t seem right, because journey gives the idea that depression is a heroic quest, during which the hero is saddled with a task only he/she can accomplish through action and heartbreak and bravery and the triumph over evil in the end. Like depression is a means to finding one’s true self and going on the adventure of a lifetime.

Then I wrote: “Depression is an incredibly personal odyssey.” That gave the impression of a heavier, scarier, darker version of a journey, which seemed a bit more fitting.

But even that wasn’t right. An odyssey is a lot more complicated than a journey (especially in The odyssey, where complexity is usually synonymous with dumbassery), but it still gives the impression that things happen. Friend and foe are met. Battles are won and lost. Lessons are learned. Tasks are accomplished. Odysseus comes home to his family.

With depression, there is nothing.

 

 

 

 

Emptiness.

 

 

 

 

Darkness.

 

 

 

In the last post, I likened anxiety to a Something. Depression is a Nothing.

 

 

 

Sometimes, you get both. If you’re among the 50% of individuals with depression who also have anxiety (Morin, 2018), the Nothing is punctured only by the ebb and flow of the Something – a harrowing, terribly unpredictable path.

Source: https://depression.help/stanford-researchers-classify-5-subtypes-of-anxiety-and-depression/

Depression alone is a mental illness that affects 300 million people all over the world (World, 2018). In the United States alone, 16.2 million people suffer from depression and every year, 44,000 of them commit suicide (Morin, 2018). Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24 and the tenth leading cause of death for everyone in the U.S. (Morin, 2018).

And yet there’s still a stigma around depression. People feel the urge to hide it, to push it down, to put forth an image to the world that they’re fine, everything is fine. Only one in five people with depression receive treatment “consistent with current practice guidelines” while 37% receive none at all (Morin, 2018).

Source: https://jurysoutblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/depression-and-me-why-i-lose/

Some people wait years before getting help. Some people don’t know help exists. Some people don’t know what they have is treatable.

And then we get stories like this one.

Or a close friend or a relative or a neighbor or a coworker is gone without warning.

Or maybe – just maybe – one night, from the depths of the long-lived Nothing in your mind comes the thought that you would be better off dead.

Over the past few months I have seen a number of stories and posts about the seriousness of this disease, and we need to continue to bring depression into the limelight. Not so we can glamorize it, not so we can make #IHaveDepression a trend on Twitter.

So we can understand and combat it.

Not everyone understands what it is we’re understanding and combating here. That is why I’m writing this, a Part Two to my last post, if you will.

And as was the case with Part One, I don’t want to write this.

I need to.

Source: http://www.paintedteacup.com/10-depression-quotes/

I lived with depression for over three years, from the time I was fifteen to nearly eighteen years old.

Then, several months ago, my mental health once again spiraled almost completely out of control.

Some days, all I could do was curl up in my bed and stare at the wall.

Functioning as a human being became a nightmare. Every day I could barely do my job or keep my little household running. Saying words to people in a way that made sense, walking around on my own damn feet, even getting out of bed in the morning became suffocatingly, painfully difficult.

And those were the days that thoughts I’d had when I was sixteen came billowing back, unwanted, unannounced, into my brain:

There’s no point to any of this.

Nothing matters.

I don’t matter.

When my alarm went off in the morning, I would wake up feeling heavy. After days, weeks, a month, I couldn’t feel anything but that weight. Honestly, some mornings the only thing that got me out of bed was knowing my two cats and my horses relied on me.

I spiraled for many reasons, none of which need to be writen here.

And one night six, seven weeks ago ago, the whisper returned.

The whisper that came from the Nothing that took over my life then and was creeping back now.

The whisper that I’d heard when I was sixteen, when I’d Googled where to buy guns and at what part of the head one should aim.

And that night, I knew I needed help.

Part of the way I deal with things is by pondering them and then writing about them, preferably in storytelling-format with lists and charts and figures and references and color coordinated bullet points. That’s the type-A perfectionist in me. My professors loved my papers in college almost as much as I loved writing them.

And so this post is just as much about compiling a detailed explanation of depression from the point of view of someone who is currently fighting it as it is about offering some resources for those who might want them. (Spoiler alert, to rid you of any concern right away, I am getting professional help in addition to sitting over here making my lists.)

I’m not the only one who has gone through this, far from it. And before I went through it, I certainly didn’t understand it.

And so, we go to the part of this post where – hopefully – I pass on some facts about depression that will better explain its seriousness and complexity, sans color coordination. There are charts and references, though.

~

1. Depression and sadness are not synonyms.

In the same mindset that stress and anxiety are not synonyms, it is important to understand that sadness is not one and the same with depression.

Depression does not mean extreme misery all the time. At least, not after a while.

See, when you’re falling into a depression, at first you feel things too much and all at once. You have too many feelings and processing them is a challenge, if not an impossibility.

And suddenly, at the peak of when you should be feeling all the feelings, you don’t.

You shut down.

You lose your ability to feel. To care.

You feel hollow, empty, void of any direction or purpose.

I wish I could make that sound less melodramatic, but there’s no other way to explain that depression is the true essence of Nothing.

Sadness is a temporary feeling that is a normal reaction to a situation. Depression is not normal. It is longer-lasting, deeper, and accompanied by feelings of poor self-image, being overwhelmed, or feeling a general hopelessness – all of which is hidden behind a mask.

Source: https://www.amandapattersonlmhc.com/difference-normal-sadness-depression/

~

2. There are several causes – and signs – of depression.

I won’t get into details of brain chemistry here or anything like that. Suffice to say that depression strikes people in different ways and for different reasons, and sometimes that reason is – seemingly – no reason. Certainly some people are more susceptible to it than others based on their experiences or genetics. But it is important to understand that anyone can experience the following:

Source: https://www.cwmt.org.uk/recognising-depression

Anyone can also experience any of the following known factors that can contribute to depression (taken from PowerofPositivity.com)

  • substance abuse
  • poor self-image
  • isolation or rejection
  • being overworked
  • compassion fatigue
  • trauma or grief
  • physical health conditions

The point here is that – similar to other diseases – depression manifests itself for different reasons, and in different ways, for everyone.

More on this later, but I find it important to note here that it can be extraordinarily difficult to detect signs of depression in other people.

Source: https://drmargaretrutherford.com/the-ten-characteristics-of-perfectly-hidden-depression/

At the end of this blogpost are tons of resources and among them is an article or two about how to catch signs of depression from friends or family. I encourage you to read them.

~

3. I don’t want to write this one.

*** Trigger warning: suicide ***

Skip down to number four if you need to.

I’m just going to say it. Suicide is a card that’s either in your hand or facedown on the table when you have depression.

In the past few months, suicides have struck the news with alarming proximity. Everybody knows someone – or knows of someone – who is deceased due to suicide.

And I always hear the same question from everybody left to pick up the pieces after they are gone: “Why??”

Here’s my answer to that question. And I’m sorry to go here, really. But it needs to be said.

People suffering from deep depression don’t want to kill themselves. They just don’t want to be alive anymore.

Source: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

A drug addict doesn’t want to shoot up heroin. An alcoholic doesn’t want to take another gulp of vodka. They want – need – to fuel their body’s craving.

It’s a means to an end.

If depression gets bad enough, suicide might be viewed in a similar way.

It’s not that we want to die.

It’s that if we don’t get help, if we don’t pull ourselves back or get pulled back from the Nothing, we don’t want to live.

As George Washington says to Alexander in Hamilton: “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.”

~

4. Your “just be happy!” attitude is insulting and hurtful.

I get it. People mean well. They want to help and not comprehending how depression works can lead to some ill-placed advice or insensitive comments.

I’m here to say, any insistence on us turning a magic switch to become sunshine and rainbows is about as tactful as dangling a piece of candy over the head of a five-year-old and insisting he reach up to grab it.

Of course the five-year-old is going to jump up as high as he can with his arms in the air. He wants the candy. But like the child, those with depression are physically incapable of accomplishing a task at hand, be that eating a Snickers bar or suddenly becoming joyous and cheerful.

Source: https://removingthismask.com/2017/03/20/depression-is-being-colorblind/

When I was a teenager, back before I knew what I had was depression, I remember getting so frustrated for not being able to turn a dial in my brain at the request of my family and be happy. “What’s the matter with you?” I heard. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

If I was ever pressed for more detail about what was wrong – be it from my family or others – I could only come up with the description of feeling empty. And the number of times I’ve been told – then and now – that maybe I just need to try essential oils, or do yoga, or meditate, or eat clean, or exercise, or start a gratitude journal, or smile (just smile!), or volunteer at a food bank, or take a bath, or focus on the positive….

Yes, all of those are great contributors to a healthy, positive lifestyle. I’m not denying that. But – depending on the cause – depression requires more aggressive treatment that can range from many types of therapy to many types of medication. You wouldn’t tell a diabetic to go smell flowers rather than take her insulin. You wouldn’t tell someone in a coma to snap out of it.

Please don’t tell us to just be happy. Trust us, we would if we could.

~

5. We feel like a burden on others.

This is as straightforward as it gets here. Because we feel like our mess of non-emotions is a burden on others, we feel the need to hide depression from our loved ones, strangers, the world.

Source: http://pkahill.com/ugblogweek-day5-the-difference-between-sadness-and-depression/

For me, part of that desperation to hide depression was denial. See, if I admitted something was wrong, then I would have to face it head on.

Also, because parts of society are lacking of understanding about depression, it is a hell of a lot easier sometimes to just swallow back the Nothing. Sometimes it’s a hell of a lot easier to let someone think they’ve helped, when in reality all they’ve done is cheerfully informed you that you just need to see the sunshine and rainbows.

Here’s the main takeaway: don’t assume. Ever. You’d be surprised what lurks beneath the surface in a lot of people.

And I’ve found that usually, those who seem like they have it all together are the ones falling apart.

~

6. Asking for help isn’t just hard, sometimes it feels impossible.

In June, on the same night I admitted to my husband that I didn’t want to be alive anymore (which took more out of me than I could describe), I agreed that I needed help and promised him on the spot that I would make a call to an EMDR therapist, one my boss had recomended.

I didn’t call for almost a week after that night. Every day my husband asked if I’d done it and I made excuses.

Finally, one late afternoon he came into our room where I was laying in bed, staring at the wall, and asked if I’d called.

“No,” I said.

“You should call her now.”

“It’s a quarter to five. She’ll be in a session or on her way home.”

“Why don’t you leave a voicemail?”

“I’d rather call during her regular hours.”

“She’ll get back to you if you leave a voicemail.”

“I’ll call tomorrow.”

Silence. Then, gently, lovingly, from him:

“You said you would call.”

He wouldn’t call for me. He could support me, he could encourage me to do it, but if I wanted to get help, I had to be the one to ask for it.

My hands shook and my heart rate rose as I finally picked up my phone and dialed. I swallowed the lump out of my throat and tried to steady my voice as I left a voicemail for the therapist. She called back half an hour later and after talking for a long time, we scheduled my first appointment for within the week.

And when I sat down in the waiting room to fill out the paperwork on the morning of my first session, blinking back tears, it took all my courage to not run out the door as fast as I could.

Here’s why it’s hard to ask for help: the only way out is through.

Getting help means we have to wade through the darkness and confront it. The way out is painful and terrifying.

We don’t know how long it’s going to take. We don’t know what we’re going to face.

Help us get help. Be understanding. Be insistent. Be gentle. Help us be brave.

Which leads me to this:

~

7. Please don’t give up on us.

We are doing the best we can.

Source: http://awesoroo.com/110-best-depression-quotes-to-say-how-much-it-hurts

~

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life is live when I’ve wanted to die.

I wish I could soften that, somehow make it less shocking or upsetting.

But I want you to know – yes, you – that if you have ever felt this way, you are not alone.

Since the end of June, I’ve been going to an EMDR therapist weekly as well as making some changes in my daily life that are turning the consuming Nothing into a manageable Nothing.

But help looks like a number of things. Because depression is different for everybody, as you can imagine, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment plan available.

The first thing – the most important thing – is this number.

1 (800) 273 – 8255

It’s easy for me to say please call this number if you are having thoughts of suicide. It’s easy for me to say that is the first step towards recovery.

I know it’s hard.

Be brave.

Remember, you are a worthwhile investment.

Source: http://www.picturequotes.com/be-strong-enough-to-stand-alone-smart-enough-to-know-when-you-need-help-and-brave-enough-to-ask-for-quote-15579

If therapy is an option for you, please know there are many types available. This is a great infographic that breaks them all down. To repeat what they say, please consult a trained professional to determine what therapeutic route would be best for you.

Remember, you are a worthwhile investment.

Source: https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment/therapy

Help also looks like self care. One little change in your day that makes something easier, or brings in a little bit of brightness. Maybe it’s telling someone no. Maybe it’s canceling plans. Maybe it’s eating a piece of chocolate cake.

Whatever it is, as long as it’s not physically or mentally harmful to you, do it.

Remember, you are a worthwhile investment.

Source: https://www.chicagohispanichealthcoalition.org/tipstodealwithdepression/

And while I can’t find an infographic on medication, please know that antidepressants help millions of people around the world. If it is an option for you, contact a mental health professional or your doctor to better discuss what is available.

Remember, you are a worthwhile investment.

~

In the same fashion that I didn’t know how to start this, now I don’t know how to end it.

I titled Part One to this “Rise” after this song. I was surprised by how much I loved it, given I’m not a fan of the artist’s usual work (sorry, Katy!). But the song holds a great deal of personal meaning to me as I heard it for the first time in August of 2016 when my anxiety worsened for the first time in years.

I listened to it all through those hard months. I hummed it while I powered through the last semester of my master’s degree. I sang it to my mare in her dying days. I think it to myself now as I struggle to found her legacy.

I listen to it again now – with a new challenge in front of me – and find such power in the chorus. Maybe you will, too.

When the fire’s at my feet again

And the vultures all start circling

They’re whispering, you’re out of time

But, still I rise.

This is no mistake, no accident

When you think the final nail is in, think again

Don’t be surprised

I will still rise

If you’re been reading this, and have thought to yourself you relate to something I’ve written, please know you are not alone. Please know that someone is here for you to stand in your corner while you fight. Whether we’ve met in person or only know each other via the Internet, whether we are good friends or acquaintances, I care about you.

Rise. Keep going.

One of my favorite books has a quote by which I live:

“The weakest step toward the top of the hill, toward sunrise, toward hope, is stronger than the fiercest storm.” ~ Joseph Marshall III.

Sometimes it’s easy to consider one step in the right direction a measly, useless little effort. That’s what the Nothing wants you to think.

But the truth is, you don’t have to be looking at the top of the hill. You don’t have to make a heroic charge towards sunrise. You don’t even have to have an abundance of hope. Only a scrap will do.

Just take one more step. Just a little one.

That step is stronger than you know. You are stronger than you know.

Rise. Keep going.

Remember, you are a worthwhile investment.

You are enough.

You are always enough.

Rise.

And keep going.

Source: https://www.etsy.com/es/listing/573770275/inspirational-print-inspirational-quotes

Don’t be surprised

I will still rise

~

SOURCES

HERE are facts and statistics (used in part for this blogpost) from The Anxiety and Depression Association in America.

The American Psychiatric Association breaks down what mental illness is HERE.

For those looking for easier reads, my personal favorite post about depression is from Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half. Her comics are so articulate and acurate, with a little humor attached, and it is very informative. Here is both PART ONE and PART TWO.

THIS ARTICLE shares some ways you can help a loved one with depression. Similarly, here are 15 SIGNS SOMEONE IS SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION what NOT to say to someone with depression and what to SAY INSTEAD.

THIS ARTICLE discusses the important distinction between depression and sadness.

Finally, HERE is the website for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

CITED WORKS

Morin, A. (2018, March). How Many People Are Actually Affected by Depression Every Year? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/depression-statistics-everyone-should-know-4159056

World Health Organization. (2018, March). Depression. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression


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At the Horse Sanctuary · Day in the Life

One Year and An Announcement

One year ago today was one of the worst days of my life.
On May 4, 2017, I lost one of my dearest friends in the world.
Having been in the horse rescue world for almost a decade, I love each and every horse I care for with everything I have. They are my brothers and sisters, closer to my heart than anything. When they leave this earth they take a part of me with them.
But I only connect with a few on an otherworldly, soul level.
Sonora was one of the few.
Upon seeing her for the first time, I knew we had broken out of the same mold many lifetimes ago. After knowing her for an hour, I was the only one who could convince her to get in the trailer that would bring her to a safe place, and despite the fact that she didn’t know me and certainly had no reason to trust me, home to Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary she came.
She was the first horse I could ever call my own. She was given to me that very day we rescued her by Jim, who took one look at the way she followed me and said, “You saved her. That little girl is yours.”
So technically Sonora – or Nora, as I called her – became ‘my’ horse… but she wasn’t, really. She wasn’t really mine. In the end, it was always the other way around. From the moment we met to the moment she left me, I belonged to a horse that was somehow a living, breathing extension of myself.
She died on May 4, 2017, after a rapid decline due to laminitis, one week after she turned fourteen.
I have never been the same.
I never will be the same.
But this post is not about what happened one year ago. This is about today, and tomorrow, and every day yet to come.
This is about the future of horse rescue, or so I hope.
This is about telling a story. Our story.
During the weeks that followed Nora’s death, I simultaneously did two things: I Google searched other jobs that would remove me from the horse rescue world forever and ever, amen, and I read everything about laminitis that I could get my hands on. Eventually I did that second thing more than the first.
For those of you who may not know what laminitis is, let me tell you:
It is a killer.
Behind colic, laminitis (lam-in-EYE-tis) is the number one killer of horses. It is a hoof disease that affects the laminae, which are interdigitated, incredibly strong tissues that hold the coffin bone (the bottom-most bone in a horse’s foot) in place. In laminitis, those laminae break apart and the bone separates from the hoof capsule, rotating downward. It is excruciatingly painful and can be caused by a number of factors including a diet high in starch and sugar, insulin resistance, equine metabolic syndrome, steroid use, gastrointestinal distress – even bad trims play a factor.
I’d known about laminitis for some time. I had a pretty good idea of what it was. But after it claimed the life of one of my best friends, suddenly it became imperative to know more.
So, I became obsessed. Everything having to do with laminitis and founder and farriery and contributing factors to the disease and general hoof anatomy, I was there. I’m still there. I’m still frantically reading and learning.
And as I read and read and read academia about laminitis and tried to find scientific articles I didn’t have to pay for and looked up hard, complicated words I didn’t understand, I realized over time I was searching for resources for horse owners that were vet-backed, comprehendible, and geared toward prevention.
I found none.
I found lots of seminars that only vets and vet techs would understand. I found websites with a couple basic paragraphs about the disease.
But easily accessible resources? Tips for recognizing signs? Pinpointed causes? A breakdown of available treatment plans? Knowledge about choosing the correct vet/farrier team? Tips about necessary therapeutic farrier work that was not furthering some sort of hidden agenda about shoes vs. barefoot trims?
Nothing.
Over several months, I spoke at great length about this to our therapeutic farrier at Tierra Madre, who worked on Sonora in her final days and who trims laminitic horses in partnership with equine veterinarians – including Tierra Madre’s vet – on a weekly basis. In January this year he became our primary farrier, and during his weekly visits I pestered him for answers about what was available for horse owners about laminitis.
And through speaking to him, other farrier friends of his who would accompany him on occasion, and conducting my own research over the course of many months, I came to a startling conclusion:
We as a horse community are lacking in laminitis education and awareness as a whole. Just as I had been unable to see what the true problems were with Nora’s feet in the early weeks following her arrival, many horse owners are unable to correctly recognize signs and causes of laminitis. Just as I had been, many are unaware of just how many treatment options are available and how aggressive it needs to be. Nora had had laminitis for years prior to coming to Tierra Madre, and she was treated with absolutely everything that was available at the time, with all the knowledge that could be found.
She is proof that we need more. Owners and advocates everywhere need more than what is currently, widely available.
Furthermore, as evidenced within our own network of individuals who have surrendered laminitic horses to us in the past and stories we hear of laminitic horses in our rescue community, an emphasis on the importance of a unified vet and farrier partnership is lacking. Standards for therapeutic farrier care for laminitic horses are nonexistent, meaning that sometimes, what a vet intends and what a farrier delivers as far as a treatment plan goes can be two totally different things.
Most importantly of all, although Google searches exist, I have yet to find for horse owners readily available, easily understandable literature, videos, webinars, and seminars about each and every detail surrounding laminitis in horses. I have yet to find anything that attempts to piece together the massive, complicated puzzle that is laminitis.
ACTH levels. Insulin resistance. Hoof anatomy. Trims and choosing farriers. Abscesses. Diet. Equine metabolic syndrome. Gastrointestinal distress. Mechanical laminitis. Steroids. Commons signs. What to do if. How to act when. What to do first. What to correct immediately. Why this way. Why that way. There is so much to cover. So much to understand.
There is no cure for laminitis. Prevention is the only cure, and without education there is no prevention.
While continued laminitis research must play an enormous part of this battle, until we know how to prevent and protect, horses will continue to die despite them being in the most loving of hands.
I wondered why someone didn’t just start something that would accomplish this goal of gathering a team of people together who could help the horse community at large. And then, alongside many other realizations as I navigated life without Nora in it, I realized… I am somebody.
And so, I present the beginnings of an organization that will be dedicated to offering education about laminitis to both horse owners and rescues who too frequently treat laminitic horses saved from severe neglect and abuse.
We will focus on each miniscule detail that envelops the complex disease including basic anatomy, signs, causes, treatment, and prevention.
We will break down scientific, vet-backed evidence and research to create online content including articles and videos. Additionally, we will begin teaching workshops in January 2019 that will be open to the public.
We will target riding barns, tack stores, farrier shops, horse shows, and rescues to spread awareness. We will do outreach and network and offer help to any horse owner who wishes to challenge themselves to learn more about laminitis.
We will fundraise for what I foresee to be minimal costs of writing and producing educational content in order to provide free education to the public. Within five to ten years, I sincerely hope we will be able to award small grants to owners struggling with the financials of bringing a horse back from the disease.
I am currently going through the process of legalizing my organization through the Arizona Corporation Commission. The next step afterward will be to obtain my legal 501(c)(3) public charity status through the IRS, after which it will become an official nonprofit entity.
And while it is certainly a work in progress and I expect to see it grow within this year as I identify members of my team, I would like to introduce my board of directors that has been with me from the very start, and thank them for their support:
– Jim Gath, my partner at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary – out of which we will be operating until the day comes I get my own facility – whose guidance will help us target different sections of the horse community here in the Valley. As someone who founded a nonprofit horse sanctuary over a decade ago and who has dealt with laminitis back in the days where very little education was available, Jim will bring a needed perspective to our future articles, videos, seminars, and workshops.
– John Samsill, APF, Tierra Madre’s therapeutic farrier who has personally seen the effects of laminitis in horses over many years and not only understands the importance of education for owners, is committed to ensuring that correct guidance is given. With his help (and patience for my thousands of questions) I have begun to map the outline of the educational content our organization will offer, and he will be instrumental in guiding our workshops we will someday offer.
And finally,
– my husband, Alex Ferri, my chief technology officer, has spent the past several months building our website, which will be launched towards the end of this year. He will also assist me with some of the technical aspects of running a nonprofit such as web upkeep, email software, etc.
My next target is to get a certified equine veterinarian on my board, who will serve as an advisor for all content that we release to the public. I will continue to define roles that need to be filled and seek out hoof specialists, equine welfare organizations, nonprofit professionals, and certified veterinarians all over the globe who would have valuable insight as to what horse owners need to hear.
After that?
Well, there’s a lot to do. A lot will happen over the next six months. In January 2019, I hope to be ready to launch.
If you are interested in joining our future newsletter to hear the latest news and updates about this organization and its mission, you can email me at my newest email address which I will post below. Stay tuned for the launching of our website, volunteering opportunities, ways to give, and ways to commemorate a horse you love who was lost to laminitis. Best of all, stay tuned for the downloadable content about all things laminitis as well as future dates for our first few workshops in Cave Creek.
And one year from now, I hope to look back on today and think, one year ago was the beginning of an organization that will bring about change in the horse community.
An organization that will help people and horses alike.
An organization that will decrease the number of equine who die every year from laminitis.
An organization that embodies the will to fight my Sonora carried with her till the end.
And perhaps most importantly of all, an organization that tells a story: the story of a beautiful red mare with an unbreakable spirit, who died far too young, too full of the will to live.
Laminitis takes so much from the creatures that built this country, from those who literally carried us into gunfire, from those who pulled our plows and dragged us across the untamed West to build what is now the United States of America.
Laminitis takes what we always take for granted in any living being. It takes health and energy. It takes weight and strength and the spark out of horses’ eyes. It diminishes the reckless, breathless freedom that horses embody and instead inflicts pain and suffering. It begets hopelessness and despair.
It takes life.
It takes just about everything. But there is one thing we can’t let it touch.
It cannot take away the will to keep fighting.
Whether you win or lose, you fight. When you are up against all odds, you fight.
Grief can stop you – oh, how I know it can stop you. Or it can fuel you.
One year ago today my little girl left me. I still can’t believe it’s been that long. Some days, it feels like yesterday. Others, it feels like it was eons ago.
One thing is certain.
Nora, my wild one,
I miss you. I will always miss you.
This is for you.
~
Sonora’s Cure is an upcoming 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Cave Creek, Arizona that will offer easily accessible and credible education about the causes, signs, treatment plans, and prevention of the fatal hoof disease laminitis.
To join the future newsletter list to receive our most current updates, please email the founder and president of Sonora’s Cure at alexis@sonorascure.org.
Snail mail and inquiries can be sent to:
Sonora’s Cure
Attn: Alexis Roeckner Ferri
27115 N. 45th Street
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
Alexis can additionally be reached at (480) 208 – 6896 or alexisrferri@gmail.com.
My Travels

London Take Two: Day 9 – May 31, 2017 And Beyond

Last May, I traveled to London solo. Each day I wrote about my adventures in my London Take Two series… and never quite finished it! I still had one last post, about my final day, which sat in my blog folder for these past seven months until I finally brushed it off, polished it up, and decided it was time to publish it. I think it’s taken me that long due to me really needing to soak in my trip. After all, I jumped right back into chaos once I returned from across the pond!

And so without further ado: Day 9 – May 31, 2017 And Beyond.

~

On the day I woke up knowing my only outing would be to walk down to the Tube and head to the airport, I felt an awful sense of loss.

I was ready to come home and yet I wasn’t.

I wanted to see my family and friends again and yet I wanted one day more.

One more look at Buckingham Palace. One more meal at Pret a Manger. One more walk through the square between Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. One more day of hearing different languages and seeing different people with different faces and different purposes.

The day before, I’d broken records in squeezing into my backpack and suitcase souvenirs I’d bought for friends and heavy books from the British Museum. After I put my final belongings away that morning and made my bed I just stood in my room and looked out my window one last time. I walked out into the kitchen, the living area, gazing out at the London skyline that I knew I wouldn’t see again for a long time.

The first time I left London, I’d written how I knew all good things must come to an end, but that I didn’t know it would be so soon. I think this is the case with all of life, really, which is why – looking back – I’m glad I soaked in every moment and didn’t miss a single thing.

My suitcase was much heavier as I pulled it down the pavement towards the Tube station. I wore my new Stonehenge hat and carried Paddington Bear since he wouldn’t fit into the suitcase or my backpack, which felt like it did when I was in high school and carried textbooks around every day. As I walked I drank in my surroundings of Shoreditch for the last time. The London cars parked on the streets. The narrow roads and old, beautiful buildings towering over them. The grass by the sidewalks. The small cafes on the corners.

I had known all along that this time would come, that eventually my days of wandering the streets of London would be numbered. I had known all along that I only had so much time.

I turned onto Old Street and met the roar of the traffic, the red buses and the gaggle of people carrying on with their lives. Eventually, down the stairs I walked to the Tube, passing the little shops in the station for the last time. Turned the corner to get to the ticket machines for the last time. Pulled out my Oyster card – which I had seen as a rite of passage – to place onto the scanner that would get me into the station for the last time.

For the last time… for the last time…

Every detail was so precious to me. Walking across the station to get to the escalators. Watching the poster advertisements go by on the way down below, many of which were so familiar to me now as I’d spent eight days looking at them at Tube stations.

I boarded the Northern line, got off at King’s Cross to transfer to the Piccadilly line as I had done nearly every day to get everywhere in London… for the last time. 

I sat on the train, holding Paddington Bear in my lap, as my first experience in London the week before reversed itself as the Tube brought me closer and closer to the airport. It occurred to me that my very first time in London, a bus had taken me and my fellow students to our dorms; all I’d had to do was show up and I was pointed in the right direction and delivered safely to my destination. This time, I’d navigated everything by myself with no problems.

It’s a 40-minute Tube ride to Heathrow from Kings Cross Station and I savored every minute of it as we ticked off the stations one by one until finally, finally the automated voice announced our arrival at the terminals.

I got off the Tube with my backpack and suitcase and Paddington Bear and stopped to gather myself a bit.

And I paused before moving on to the escalator that would take me up, tears filling my eyes as I heard the roar of my train fade away. It hit me with awful finality that this was it, leaving this underground station at Heathrow was my final break before I entered the world of airports and traveling and going home and ending everything.

I drew up to the side as the platform emptied as my fellow passengers either made their way up to the airport or got on other trains. For a while, I just stood by myself as the trains passed by, Paddington Bear in one hand and my Oyster card in the other, ready for its final use.

I felt like such a little girl. I wanted someone to point me in the right direction then.

And as I stood there on the platform in a foreign country that felt like home, my belongings by my side, I realized with great magnitude that the world is a great, vast, confusing, exhilarating, uplifting, provoking, mysterious place and holds the answers to questions I never knew dwelled inside me. That the answers to those questions could be found in the most unlikely of circumstances.

That nothing can replace being able to walk the same steps of monarchs from centuries past or reach out and touch the stones onto which people had carved messages hundreds of years before, that doing so harkens back to those who came before us and did things that scared them and pushed through their doubts to do the impossible.

That each phase of life will always be met with mixed emotions, that it may be with uncertainty we keep putting one foot in front of the other. But when we move forward, each step of doubt is matched by one of faith.

It was with this knowledge I took a deep breath, gathered my things, and finally walked towards the escalator to let it carry me up to the airport, where the final ticket scanner awaited, where I took my Oyster card and scanned it for the last time.

And the booth doors opened, and I walked through them, towards the terminal and the plane that would take me home.

~

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” ― Asian Proverb

Ferritale

Honeymoon 2017: Part Two – Philadelphia

Thursday: November 9, 2017

If a heart attack were ever to visit me during my 20s, this would have been that day.

I woke up in our Washington D.C. Airbnb somewhere around 8am (6am Arizona time). Alex was exhausted and feeling a little under the weather after walking seven miles around in the cold the day before, so I let him sleep in while I packed up, tidied up our Airbnb, and took the Metro to the airport to pick up our rental car that I had reserved several weeks before. It was at Reagan National Airport, which meant an easy ride on the Metro, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip that cold morning.

Call me crazy, but there is something so peaceful and liberating about navigating a huge city by myself. I absolutely love it. I love getting lost in the crowds of people (so long as I’m not claustrophobically close), the landscapes, the sweep of constant movement and noise. Working with horses has trained me to be constantly aware of my surroundings so I’ve come to rely on my own intuition to keep myself safe.

And so I got myself to the airport, found the right rental parking lot, figured out the correct office, and picked ourselves out a nice little Toyota Yaris for the journey up to New York City. Once I’d signed my life away and got out of that airport, I was every driving instructor’s dream as I zipped through our nation’s capitol a few miles under the speed limit, driving through 47 construction zones, a hundred merging lanes, eighteen roadblocks, and enough pedestrians to overtake a small country.

I parked outside our Airbnb (parallel parked – yas!) then we packed up the last of our luggage, left the keys in the mailbox, and headed out of D.C. I was so sad to leave, but really looking forward to the drive (oh, if I’d only known then…). We’d routed a course up to New York City that would take us through Philadelphia so we could see Independence Hall.

As we drove up to Baltimore, I actually remember thinking that it wasn’t going to be so bad. The trees were beautiful shades of reds and yellows and oranges, we were comfortable and warm in the car, our spirits were high, and we happily listened to songs we’d danced to at the wedding.

Here’s the thing, though. The east coast likes to lull you into a false sense of security.

We drove through Baltimore and I got a small taste of the brutality of East coast drivers while trying to turn into a shopping center where we’d found a Panara. (God forbid you wait for a gap in between cars to make a left turn.) We ate lunch, then decided we didn’t want to be icicles in NYC and ran into a nearby Walmart for some warm clothes and gloves.

Then, we began the drive up to Philadelphia. The freeways were starting to get more complicated with lots of exits on both sides, not just the righthand side, and I was noticing more traffic and screeching stops and swerves and honks. But, Alex navigated us to the exit that would take us to Independence Hall, and I forgot about bad drivers as we approached the iconic structure.

I’d convinced Alex to make a pit stop in Philadelphia, and I was absolutely ecstatic to be there. I’m a history fanatic and have always been drawn to the American Revolution, and, you know, Independence Hall kinda played a big part in it.

Excited, we parked a few minutes before 3pm and walked into the visitor center. As we entered, we read on the signs that tours to the Hall were free, but they required tickets which could be picked up at the front desk. So, we got up to the front desk around 3:10 and asked for tickets for the next tour.

“The last tour of the day starts at 3:20,” the attendee said, “and the last tickets are already gone.” Then, before we could register what she’d said, she studied us for a beat and asked, “How fast can you walk?”

Alex and I looked at each other. “Uh, pretty fast, I guess.”

The attendee reached into a drawer and pulled out two passes. “These guys didn’t pick up their reserved tickets. They’re the last two. If you hurry, you can get to Independence Hall [a block and a half away] by the time the last tour starts.”

It’d been meant to be! Thrilled, we thanked her then busted a move out of the visitor center into the cold and power walked to our destination. Into sight came what we’d come so far to see: Independence Hall!

I remember thinking it was a bit smaller than what I’d expected. But – so, so cool.

We got in line with a small crowd of older folks and people our age with small children and only waited a moment or two before we were ushered inside an adjacent room.

I got the biggest kick out of our tour guide, who took history fanatic to the next level as he sat us all down prior to setting foot into the Hall and quizzed us on our knowledge of the Articles of Confederation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Before we left he made mention of the several hundred-year-old wood of which the building was constructed and urged us not to put drinks on surfaces or lean on structures.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

You can see as many pictures as you’d like of different structures that embody so much of history, and it is simply not the same as standing on the same ground, taking in the same surroundings.

After about hour, we peeked into a building across the street that held the cracked, original Liberty Bell.

Then, because we were short on time, we grabbed some last shots of Independence Hall and booked it out of Philadelphia. As we continued on our journey north, it occurred to us we hadn’t gotten Paddington Bear in a shot with the Hall! Next time.

It was cloudy and gray and all kinds of traffic closed in as the trees melted away and made way for industrial grossness. As the clouds above started to darken slightly – indicating that the sun was setting – we crossed onto the Jersey Turnpike.

Stupidly, around that time I insisted we listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘America’ for the line “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike”. If you haven’t heard the song, it’s a slow, soothing, calm tune that is probably more appropriate for a quiet and relaxing drive in the countryside.

No, instead I should have been listening to some thing like this. It was on the New Jersey Turnpike where all hell broke loose.

I can’t even remember specifics. The traffic was just complete madness.

For an hour I slammed on breaks, swerved, hit brakes again, honked, and fielded completely batshit crazy people driving like it was the apocalypse and zombies were after them on mopeds. Because it was my name on the rental lease, Alex couldn’t drive. So he mapped out our route and yelled out directions – though these frequently turned into warnings as he saw cars and trucks flying towards us from the right while I’d be focused on the pandemonium going on to the left.

We crossed into New York (I think?) and while traffic slowed a bit, it was just as bad.

Finally, finally, we were ten minutes out from the airport, where we were to drop off the rental car.

Cars flew around us in all directions. Turns, twists, lane changes, necessary exits materializing four lanes across from us with ¼ mile to go, lanes that ended suddenly… navigating the insanity while battling New York traffic is something I won’t soon forget. There were no laws, just chaos. Everyone turning and swerving and honking and screeching and weaving all at once. I was scared shitless. And I am an Arizona driver and I handle 1,000 animals for a living.

At one point Alex and I were both yelling, him directions, me questions (“Do I turn here!?” “No, next one!” “Which next one?!? There’s like five exits!” “Hold on I’ll ch—watch out!!” Cue me screaming as the person in front of me slammed on their breaks.)

One time I tried to merge over into a lane since mine vanished into thin air and the guy somewhat behind me in the lane over saw my blinker and sped up to close the gap so I couldn’t get in. Pissed, I swerved at the last second so he had to break to let me in or else crash into my car. I honked, he honked, I honked again, he honked back, and I honked more until Alex told me to stop.

Then, finally, we got to the stretch of highway along which lay the car rentals. All 2 billion of them, all with different directions and signs and exits nanoseconds apart.

I lost it.

“I can’t do this!” I shrieked as I narrowly missed a swerving car to our right and braked to avoid hitting a second.

“Yes you can! Turn here!”

“Where??”

“That one! Go, go, GO!!”

We were both yelling as we flew into the correct parking lot, triumphant, me determined to get the hell out of the car as fast as I could. We screeched to a halt and I nearly cried with relief.

The attendant came out to greet us.

“Hi, there, welcome to Thrifty,” he said, chipper. “Let’s see how many miles you…. Oh – didn’t you fill up the tank?”

I banged my head on the steering wheel.

Finally, we got out of the car, got our things, paid plus an extra fee for not filling up the tank (worth it), and got on the SkyTrain towards the subway station that would get us closest to our Airbnb. I honestly felt dazed. That entire SkyTrain ride – and the following subway trip – was a blur as my racing heart finally begin to calm down.

We finally got to the Airbnb, dropped all our stuff, and went back out for some food. Our Airbnb host had recommended a restaurant, but when we got there it was small, loud, and dark, and my anxiety spiked just standing waiting for a table. I asked Alex if we could get food to go and he was all for it.

So, our first night in New York was spent at our spacious kitchen table in our Airbnb, stuffing ourselves with food and being thankful for the warmth, for not being hungry, and for the fact that we’d survived a 225 mile trip on some of the most dangerous roads in the country.

“Next trip,” I told Alex as we fell asleep that night, “we’re laying on a beach, and doing nothing.” And that’s exactly what we plan to do.

Next up: our final three days in New York City!

Ferritale · Uncategorized

Honeymoon 2017: Part One – Washington, D.C.

At some point during this trip, I thought vaguely about taking my laptop out to blog about each day of our honeymoon. I’d done that every day in London, after all.

Then I laughed and thought, “Nah.”

I decided to live out each moment of our honeymoon instead of worrying about writing each day. Besides, as you’ll read here soon, we were super busy the whole week! Not quite as busy as we were the week or two leading up to the wedding, but running around making memories nonetheless.

Before I forget, stay tuned for a series of vignettes that I am dubbing the Ferritale Wedding Stories. I’ll be using our official wedding photos to highlight moments and details from both the day of the wedding and the planning process – special moments that I always want to remember.

In the meantime, please enjoy a very long recap and lots of pictures from the Ferritale honeymoon! First up is part one: Washington D.C.! [Read about Philadelphia and and New York City next!]

Monday: November 6, 2017

I don’t like to sugarcoat things. The trip started off badly. The excitement, nerves, anticipation, stress, and exhaustion from the wedding and all the days leading up to it were still in retreat – in my head, anyway – and so my first several hours were spent in anxiety. I felt awful: sick to my stomach over having to fly, guilty over feeling sick, tired, and – of course – just excited to finally be married, all of which is a mess to feel at once.

My new husband could not have been more amazing. As we walked through the airport to our gate, me fighting through an anxiety attack, he took my hand and asked me questions. I’d told him long ago that when my anxiety peaks, one of the things that gets me through it is to ground myself by seeking out all five senses. “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? Taste? Smell?” Pause. “What are you most excited about seeing in D.C.?”

Seriously though. I married the right guy.

Once we were finally on the plane and in the air, I felt better. I always get scared to fly and then once the plane takes off, I realize that everything is going to be fine. Naturally, we had to take a selfie with Paddington Bear, who accompanies me on all my trips.

By the time we landed in Chicago, I was feeling better and actually looking forward to the week. I also like airports – for some weird reason – and it was fun wandering around hand in hand. We got some food then walked to our gate while we waited for our next flight. And as we ate, we talked about our wedding, laughing together and reliving every single moment and just giggling over how we were actually finally married. We ended up doing this a lot over the next week!

When it was time to get on the plane and we entered the jetway, the icy Chicago air hit us and we realized our jackets were in the carry-ons we’d checked at the gate in Arizona. Oops. We were freezing, and I was actually glad to get on the plane!

We landed in D.C. two hours later. As we waited for our bags in Reagan National Airport, I guess we were a little too heavy on the PDA because at one point, a lady came up to us and – beaming – said, “I just have to say, you guys are the sweetest couple I have ever seen.”

“We’re on our honeymoon,” we said, and she beamed and congratulated us. So kind and unexpected! Honestly, we were in a daze and weren’t aware of anybody around us.

We got our bags, got on the D.C. Metro, and one rickety ride and two blocks of walking later we found our Airbnb. It was an entire, remastered first floor (which on the East coast are often partly underground, as was the case with ours) complete with a private entrance and patio, a kitchen, living room, bedroom, closets, a washer and dyer, bathroom… everything! I wish I had thought to take pictures, because our host was an amazing decorator.

On the Metro

Ever on the quest for food, we grabbed some groceries from Safeway down the street so we’d have food for breakfast the next few mornings, then my husband introduced me to the beauty of Uber Eats. It was cold and we were exhausted, so pigging out at the table on hot food was literally the best thing of the entire day. Well, that and sleep that came later!

Tuesday: November 7, 2017

The next day, the 7th, we bundled up and braved some seriously cold wind and rain to go see the National Mall. After navigating the entire city of London by myself for eight days, the map of D.C. was almost too easy to follow. One glance and we knew exactly where to go. And so, wearing all our sweaters and coats, we set out on our short 1.3 mile journey from our Airbnb to the Mall, stopping into CVS first to get an umbrella, then rejoining the D.C. pedestrian traffic on the streets of one of the busiest cities in the U.S.


And let me just pause here briefly to tell you that East coast traffic is seriously insane (more on that later). At one point as we were crossing a street, some guy in a Jeep nearly hit us and slammed on his breaks literally two feet from me. Instead of being apologetic, he started yelling, which only triggered my temper and I shouted out some beautifully placed swear words before he drove away. Ah, well. Karma’s a bitch.

It was drizzling as we walked . Alex insisted on holding the umbrella so I could keep my fingers warm in my sweatshirt. Chivalry exists, people.

We passed the White House, which – given its current occupant – wasn’t all that exciting to see.

Eventually, we made it to the Mall, which is one of my favorite places in the world.

I’d only seen it in the summertime before, so experiencing it in the cloudy, cold was certainly different, but beautiful nonetheless. Seeing it all with my husband was even better, even if we were huddling together to keep warm.



My favorite spot in D.C. is standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, with the reflecting pool and Washington Monument laid out in front of us.

And naturally we had seek refuge in the Lincoln Memorial as well, partly because it was cold, and mostly because it’s perhaps the most incredible monument in the area.

Naturally, Paddington Bear had his moments.

Next we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is always otherworldly but even more so on that day.

It was raining, gray skies overhead. Because of the weather, it was eerily quiet. The only sound as we stood there in the memorial was the sound of volunteers reading name after name after name of each soldier who had fallen during the Vietnam War. Without knowing it, we’d visited the memorial during the 35th annual reading of the names.

I’ll never forget that experience. We were silent in the memorial out of respect, but when we were far enough away we talked about the significance of seeing your reflection in the names of those who were killed in the war. If you’ve never been to that particular memorial, I can’t stress enough how meaningful it is if you make the journey in your lifetime.

Our next stop was a visit to a unique-to-D.C., once-in-a-lifetime authentic experience – a Starbucks. We got some hot drinks and as we shivered in the shop, Alex said point-blank he was not walking a mile back in the rain, to which I heartily agreed. So, we Uber-ed it back to the Airbib where we got into our warm pajamas, made dinner out of leftovers and another Uber-eats delivery, snuggled up on the couch, and watched Mad Max on T.V. It was so cozy, eating hot food in the warm Airbnb while the rain came down outside!

Wednesday: November 8, 2017

On Wednesday the 8th, we had plans to go to the Smithsonian – well, turns out there are a bunch of them! We decided to go to the Museum of Natural History, and I am so glad we did. It’s truly an amazing experience.

We bundled up again and headed out to discover it wasn’t nearly as cold as the day before and there was no rain. Win! And better yet, on the way to the museum, we came across something I’d been dying to see – Ford’s Theatre!

For those of you who don’t know its significance, it was at this theatre John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln in 1865. I’m always amazed when I see these sort of staples of history with my own eyes and stand on the same ground upon which those in the history books stood with my own two feet. Alex and I gazed at the theatre for a few moments and talked about what it must have been like, to be standing right where we were one dark night over 150 years ago, and to hear the gunshot that eventually took the life of the president.

Eventually, we moved on and made it to the Museum of Natural History.

Paddington Bear naturally tagged along.

The museum is so cool. There’s the human origins exhibit, the Ocean Hall, rooms and rooms dedicated to mammals, an exhibit on dinosaurs, and the Hope Diamond among other things.

I didn’t take too many picture – I was too interested in what I was seeing! I did take a few of the narwhal exhibit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89tIZA2B23A

and the dinosaur display:

and I loved the famous elephant on the first floor (plus its exhibit on the second)!

We quickly went in to see the Hope Diamond, which was stunning!

And before we left, we saw something totally cool (to us, anyway) – a piece of the meteorite that fell to Arizona which carried my favorite stone – moissanite!

Some background: when we were looking at engagement rings, I knew I wanted a clear stone but wasn’t crazy about a diamond since – unless they are ethically sourced – you never know if you’ve purchased a blood diamond. Alex found a stone called moissanite which I fell head over heels in love with. It was discovered in 1863 in a crater in Arizona (of all places!) which was caused by a meteorite that landed something like 50,000 years ago. Because moissanite came from the meteorite, the stone is literal stardust. And it’s stunningly beautiful. I should have held up my engagement ring to this rock – its original source – for a picture!

Our plan was to go to National Archives next but upon getting to the building, we saw a line that went literally around the block, full of what looked like an entire middle school on a field trip. It was easily an hour wait into the building, maybe two. So, we cut our losses and decided to pass and headed back down to the Mall instead.

We walked to the Mall on the same path I’d walked over four years ago, on my study abroad trip to D.C.

The same crosswalk I’d used countless times at the end of my school days to get to the Mall

I’d been to Washington D.C. twice prior to this trip. And walking hand in hand with my husband, thinking back to both of those times, I just felt amazed at how fast and crazy life can be. The first visit in 2008, I was a high school student. The second in 2013, I was in college. And this time, in 2017, I came back as a married woman. Who would have guessed??

We walked just south of the Mall to explore the Martin Luther King Memorial then, shivering, decided to opt out of the long walk around to the Jefferson Memorial. We waved to it, and I told Alex about the time I’d been in it at nighttime. Someday, we’ll go back to D.C. in warmer months, because going to the memorials at nighttime is an experience that is truly out of this world.

We did hit up one of the most underrated but definitely one of my favorite memorials in D.C.: the District of Columbia War Memorial.

To end the night, we’d made reservations at Founding Farmers, which our friend Google highly recommended. Plus, we figured we’d be grown ups and actually go to a restaurant at some point during our honeymoon and not just do Uber Eats each night!

As night fell around us (it gets dark early on the East coast in the fall!), we walked to the restaurant and ended up getting there something like 30 minutes early just to warm up. We both got chicken pot pies, because we’re 12, and also because seriously they’re amazing.

Shameless ring shot during dinner

After dinner, we tried to catch an Uber home, but some event was taking place downtown and we got stuck in traffic for 15 minutes before we called it and got out to walk the rest of the mile home. We were so glad to be back in the warmth!

It was at this point during our trip we started to seriously laugh at ourselves for choosing a honeymoon that involved a lot of walking and cold weather. But what can I say – we like to keep things interesting. And besides, cold weather means more excuses to hold hands and snuggle as we’re walking around! 😉

Next up – Part Two: Philadelphia and Independence Hall!

 

Ferritale · Uncategorized

The Final Countdown

Single digits.

After nearly fifteen months of wedding planning… we’re down to single digits before the big day.

Screaming The Muppets GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

http://gph.is/2rXB951

We’re nine days away from The Wedding (note the capitals), and – while simultaneously answering emails, confirming vendors, sending out final deposits, preparing our honeymoon, finalizing signs, going over the final seating chart, sending off notes to our photographer and D.J., finishing my vows, cleaning our apartment, helping my mom with favors, and trying to breathe –  I’m sitting over here trying to figure out where the hell the time went.

Seven years and seven months of knowing each other.

Six years of dating.

One year, two months, and eight days of being engaged.

And now, before we know it, we’ll finally be entering the biggest transition of our lives.

One of my favorite shots from our engagement pictures – taken ten months ago!

It’s a good thing we didn’t know the true magnitude of wedding planning going into this, because if we had, we might have just eloped. Between the actual venue plus catering, the cake, my dress, the wedding party’s dresses and tuxes, hair and makeup, flowers, decorations, save the dates and invitations, photographer, D.J., videographer, honeymoon planning, and a million other details that fall into the cracks, managing this celebration has truly been a wild ride.

Actual footage of wedding planning:

I never thought I would be one to go the whole nine on something like this. The most important part of any wedding is – after all – that one small part where the couple says, “I do.”

But honestly? Seeing the rising excitement from all our family and friends who will be there to celebrate with us – many of whom are flying from all over the country – and knowing that we’ll never have another chance to gather every single person we love so much together on the same day… I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

Our wedding will be a party that celebrates not just us, but everyone who gives our lives meaning. And for that, I simply cannot wait.

And dammit, I’mma have everything look pretty too.

After all, we only get to do this once.

Now, admittedly, I’d like to see some of the stress go away. Lots of the stress.

What has truly been incredible, though, has been my transition from What is happening to Oh, that is why I feel so scared to Dude, I’m so ready for this.

After getting engaged, my anxiety returned with a vengeance and it took me months to fight through it. I’m still fighting through it, to some degree, but I understand more clearly why it is completely normal for brides-to-be to feel a sense of loss, growing panic, fear, or depression about their wedding day in addition to the joy and excitement and happiness:

It’s because marriage is a transition in life that has been de-ritualized in Western society.

Everything is about the dress and cake and flowers and centerpieces while very little prep is done for the couple as they prepare for such a sacred bond. Moving forward, the old person has to fall away to make way for the new. It’s a scary, thrilling, uncertain, and beautiful process.

But as my mom has always told me for as long as I can remember, “Sometimes we have to let go of the good to make way for the great.”

Cinderella GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Cinderella: my favorite princess and my first hero.

After we get back from our honeymoon, I’ll probably write out some of the stories this planning process has brought. Memories and special moments that I will cherish forever: The story of my ‘miracle’ dress. The sudden change in management at our venue and how lots of mishaps sorted out my priorities. How finding our invitations gave me a message from above. How my vows came to be after months of struggling to write them. How my wedding shoes came to me out of nowhere.

I think what has truly been my favorite part in all of this is spending so much time with my mom.

Every Thursday for months now, we’ve met at her house to talk about everything wedding. We’ve talked on the phone almost every day. And over the months, she has not only helped me with corresponding with vendors and keeping track of our weekly to-do list and doing about a billion things all at once (shower planning, out-of-town bag making, favor making, keeping in touch with my dressmaker and our designer, etc. etc. etc.), she’s kept me sane and focused on the only thing that truly matters throughout all this: my upcoming marriage.

Over the weeks and months, we’ve laughed and cried together and she’s shared so many words of wisdom and motherly advice that I never knew I needed to hear, passed onto me with so much love. Looking back at it all, part of me doesn’t want this process to end, just so I can keep going to her house every week to listen to what she has to say. I think I’ll always have questions for her and always need answers.

Honestly, the love that has been poured into this event by my family (and Alex’s!) and dearest friends in the world absolutely blows me away.

It’s the final countdown to a day that will change our lives and gather our loved ones together, and a year ago, just the thought of the wedding made my stomach tie itself into a knot. Today, the thought of it brings a smile to my face.

Nine more days.

Single digits now.

And then we have the rest of our lives.

 

[This song though.]

My Travels · Uncategorized

Monument Valley + Hovenweep National Monument + Southern Utah 2017

“The Earth is my sister; I love her daily grace, her silent daring, and how loved I am how we admire this strength in each other, all that we have lost, all that we have suffered, all that we know: we are stunned by this beauty, and I do not forget what she is to me, what I am to her.” ~ Susan Griffin

Last week I made it my personal mission to get out of the Valley for a few days after surviving an extremely busy month.

My destination of choice? Monument Valley again.

I’ll never soak in the beautiful land enough, from its sweeping canyons to the stillness of the rocks that tower to the heavens yet free the observer.

I drove to Monument Valley for the first time last May, and it absolutely blew me away. This time, I wanted to go back to experience the irreplaceable awe of the Canyonlands and also to do a little more exploring than I had the last time I drove north.

So I booked a hotel for two nights, packed up my RAV4, and started my journey on Wednesday around noon after I was done with work.

Paddington Bear accompanied me.

The destination of a road trip – or any trip, really – is never the most important. It’s the journey that really counts. And the five hour drive between Phoenix and Monument Valley is an incredible one. I am forever astonished at the differences in terrain that exist in Arizona. Our state literally has everything from the iconic Sonoran Desert to red, painted canyons, from dipping valleys to grasslands that span to the horizon, from towering mountains to tall, thick forests.

Every time. Exploring this state amazes me every time.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30TH.

The MapQuest, Google Maps, tourist-approved way of getting to Monument Valley is to take the I17 north until it ends at Flagstaff, then the 89 north up to the 160 which veers northeast through Tuba City and a few other smaller towns. Then, around Kayenta, you take the famous Monument Valley road – the 163 – due north.

The Sonoran Desert fades away on the first leg of the trip as you rise in elevation on the way to Sedona and even more on the way to Flagstaff. Once I was past Flagstaff and onto the 89, the forest thinned and the changes in scenery were more drastic.

Entering Flagstaff
Past Flagstaff
Entering canyon lands

Before I knew it, I was turning onto the 160. And here’s something weird, but noteworthy:

I’ve traveled a decent amount. A few months ago I went to London solo. I’ve done a lot of driving all over Arizona: to Sedona, to Flagstaff, Tucson, Tombstone, Williams, Kingsman, literally every suburb of Phoenix… but never have I felt as genuinely scared in any area – no matter how remote or new or unfamiliar – than I have in this ten or fifteen mile stretch of land leading into Tuba City where you turn onto the 160 off the 89.

It is unwelcoming, bright red, stark, and – to me – terrifying.

That stretch of land gives me a precarious, bone-chilling, unsettled feeling that I can’t describe or justify. I felt it last year on my way up to Monument Valley for the first time and Wednesday was no different. The moment I turned on that freeway, for ten miles or so onward… I didn’t like it one bit.

It sounds crazy, I know. All I knew is that I couldn’t drive past that stretch of land fast enough. At one point I drove past a sign that read, “Home of the WWII Navajo Code talkers.” I still plan to Google that, and read about it.

I was glad to see grass again.

More driving. At one point my car asked me if I wanted to take a rest. Rest I did not, because by the time I was on the 160 it was late afternoon, and I wanted to reach my hotel before dark.

I passed Kayenta and merged onto the 163 that would take me due north. And finally, as the golden hour began to settle over the plains of grass and high buttes and rocks, I saw the blissfully familiar landscape.

At one point in this area I stopped in the visitor center just outside the official entrance to the park to pee and get a sandwich out of my cooler. I had to laugh because when I pulled in, I was one of maybe two or three cars, one of which could have passed for a legit kidnapper van. I got out of the car, but took my knife – blade out – with me. Far better to be paranoid than sorry! Girls, if you travel alone, carry a weapon at all times.

The 163 is the well known Monument Valley road, and the famous view of Monument Valley is looking south on the 163, from the Utah border looking in. Luckily my destination of Mexican Hat (20 miles north of Monument Valley, population 34) meant I got to drive way out past the monument to take some killer pictures. There were a couple of other tourists parked in the scenic pullouts taking pictures too.

Derp face

Then, as the sun officially began to set, I headed even further north into Utah to my hotel, the Hat Rock Inn located in the tiny town of Mexican Hat. When I said population 34, I meant it. The town has one gas station, something like four restaurants, two motels and a hotel. And a handful of small houses for the Navajo residents that run the town.

I checked in, unloaded my car, then sat on my bed looking at the Utah brochure on my bedside, wondering if there were any other cool things I’d be able to fit in the next day. I came across Gooseneck, the Rainbow Bridge, then one park called Hovenweep National Monument I’d never heard of before but sparked my interest.

Eventually I slept. I never sleep well away from home, but sleep is overrated anyway.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 31ST.

Monument Valley

I started my morning with English breakfast tea, courtesy of my room’s Keurig, which made me think of my many mornings in London while I got ready to drive into the Valley. I have to be at work so early that I am always in a rush to get out the door, so while I had the option of taking my time I was wired to just get outside!

Pro tip: Get a cooler for your road trips! You’ll save a ton of money on food and drinks.

I filled up Adelaide’s (my RAV4) tank at the only gas station in the town before leaving Mexican Hat in the early morning.

My hotel
The majority of Mexican Hat captured in one picture!

And then, that view.

Paddington Bear naturally partook in some of the picture taking.

Later, when I was driving away from Monument Valley in the early afternoon, I pulled over, opened up the hatchback of my car, sat in the back, and just gazed at this view for a long time.

It’s such an iconic American area and I think despite who gazes upon it we all feel the same thing. We feel a sense of adventure; a curiosity to explore what is within the rocks and beyond; the spirit of the American west that was won but not completely tamed. This Navajo tribal park draws people from all over the world – as evidenced by the many languages I heard while out in about within the park’s visitor center – and yet we are all the same in exploration.

Finally, I made it to inside the park. After a quick stop in the gift shop, I turned my car onto the red, dusty road and ventured into the wilderness. And just like last time, I was transformed.

There are little tourist “stations” that follow a map they give you at the toll booth. The Mittens. The Three Sisters. Artist Point Overlook. It’s almost insulting. To cast labels upon such magnificence, such sacredness, seemed otherworldly to me out there.

At the famous John Ford Point, I saw a sign that said for $5 you could get your picture taken on a horse. Uh, sign me up.

Taken before my heels were fully down – argh
Does the black and white offset my equestrian tan?

His name was Spirit – such a lovely boy.

It was exhilarating to be on a horse in the middle on Monument Valley and it took a great deal of self control to not just squeeze my heels into Spirit’s sides and gallop off – not that he would have, as the poor boy looked totally bored. Because they had brought Spirit out specifically for me (I had to ask as he was in his nice little stall), a crowd of tourists gathered around us, seemingly interested in getting their pictures taken after me. When I dismounted, one woman clapped her hands and called out in Italian, “Bellissimo!”

What few amazing moments in time.

Before long I came to my absolute favorite part of Monument Valley: the Totem Poles.

Last year, a Navajo man and his wife were selling jewelry at this particular stopping point on the map (Navajo sales are very common up there) and he told me about the Yei-Bi-Chei, a sacred dance performed at the foot of these incredible spires to heal the sick.

On Thursday, I stood out on the edge of the risen rock that overlooked the valley leading to the Totem Poles, just gazing at them and imagining such a dance. Such wildness, such undauntedness.

As my thoughts intertwined and roamed freely I thought of my Sonora, who I lost four months ago and for whom my heart aches each and every day. I thought of her galloping through that land – red mane flying, legs kicking out against the ground, tossing her head in eagerness to run free of pain – and smiled.

The Totem Poles

I made my way through the rest of the loop, drinking in every moment.

At one point I was so acutely taken by the dry, thirsty cracks within the ground.

Finally I found myself making the final stretch and leaving the stillness of the Valley behind me as I joined other tourists on the road.

Love the red dust!

Then, after a few last looks, it was time to journey onward. As I left, I found myself so grateful for the chance to see such an incredible place again.

And as I turned my car north again towards the open road – full of possibility – I was determined to see even more.

Hovenweep National Monument 

I’d decided after Monument Valley, I’d make my way northeast towards the Colorado border to see a monument called Hovenweep.

Honestly, I could have never reached Hovenweep National Monument and I would have still had an amazing time on the road. Just like Arizona’s scenery seems to change with each turn of the road, so did southern Utah’s.

A great deal of the time I was the only one on the road. For all I knew, I was the only one in the world.

About an hour and a half into the journey I came across what is perhaps the best thing I’ve ever seen so close to my car: a herd of wild horses.

They took my breath away. The far left bay stared me down while the rest of the herd kept grazing, looking up to glance at me every so often.

There was a little black yearling I wanted to look at forever.

Finally, I continued onward, only to promptly discover a herd of cattle on the side of the road, too!

It couldn’t have been a more incredible drive. I almost never wanted to reach my destination. I wanted to stay on those roads, under that huge sky, roaming forever until there was no horizon left for me to chase.

Eventually, though, I did get to Hovenweep.

Hovenweep was a prehistoric village of Ancient Puebloans – a Native American civilization also called the Anasazi – who lived somewhere less than 1,000 years ago: between 1,200 AD and 1,300 AD. In the brochure I’d read the night before, I’d been so fascinated by the still-standing structures and couldn’t believe I was about to see them with my own eyes.

Hovenweep is a pretty remote location so it doesn’t see a lot of traffic as evidenced by the fact I was the only one there!

I checked out the visitor center first, which was a good thing as I got to it ten minutes to 5 and it closed at 5. After picking up a book and some postcards, I set off on the trail, which was open until the sun went down.

There were a few different trail options, but as eager as I was to see everything, I opted for the fifteen minute walk, the shortest one.

Colorado mountains in the background

Laid out in front of me were the remains of a people who survived almost 1,000 years ago.

I was so deep into the wilderness that the silence was overpowering. It was different from the profound stillness of Monument Valley. There was simply no sound, as though the land itself was remembering those who had once thrived upon it and was waiting forlornly for them to return.

At one point, I thought I heard a woman talking somewhere in the distance. Turned out, it was a bee.

At another, I thought I heard the wind rustling all around me.

It was my breathing.

I was so moved, seeing the little cracks in the stone sealed with clay. Whose hands had built those walls? What people lived within them?

Eventually, after gazing out at what remained of a settlement for what seemed like hours (but was perhaps only ten minutes), I turned to leave.

What greatness it was, to stand on the grounds once walked upon by the Anasazi.

Then, snacking on food from my cooler, I slowly made the two hour drive back to my hotel.

I was tired, but so, so happy I’d gone. Earlier, as I was deciding whether or not I wanted to make the drive to Hovenweep, I wondered if I’d simply be exhausted trying to cram in too much in one day. In the end, I thought of the famous saying:

“It’s better do regret the things you’ve done rather than the things you didn’t do.”

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1ST.

Going home is always the hardest part of traveling, but I was determined to make it fun nonetheless.

So on Friday morning, I woke up early, loaded up my car, dropped my hotel keys off at the office, and headed north into Utah up the 163, which curved towards the 191 south that would bring me down into Arizona a different way than how I entered it.

My journey home through Apache county and Navajo country

At point point on the 163, the elevation is high enough that you can look behind you and see Monument Valley in the far distance. I kept trying to look, knowing it’d be a long time before I could see it again.

And as I strained to catch every final glimpse I could, I had a realization wash over me.

I’m always going to want to look behind at the amazing experiences I’ve had in life. Why shouldn’t I? I’m lucky to have lived them.

But what I ultimately have to remember is that I’m in a car driving down a windy road and if I’m going to make it to the final destination in one piece, I have to keep my eyes on the path.

What’s ahead – unknown though it may be – must be met.

And it might be better than what I’ve left behind, or I might find myself wishing for what I had before. Both are okay, because they are different. And different experiences mean different opportunities to grow.

So I took one last look at Monument Valley and turned my eyes to the road ahead of me, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what I’d see, but knowing one thing: it was time to keep driving.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove through the Utah/Arizona border into my home state down the 191, but looking back, I should have known I’d be going through Navajo country and that I’d be seeing some very eye-opening things.

There’s no way I would have ever known what the small villages I passed through were called unless they’d shown up on my phone as I took pictures. But each of these little towns – some a handful of small shacks, farms, and abandoned cars and a few boasting a population of 1,000 or more – is populated by the Navajo people.

I found myself wondering a great deal about the communities in each of these little places.

Was everyone friendly with one another? Do the residents help out at one another’s farms? Did the kids all visit each other’s houses after school?

Did the townsfolk see white tourists every often, and if they did, what do they think of us?

Did they want for anything? Envy the world beyond their borders? Or were they grateful that they could keep to themselves?

Burger Kings and McDonald’s’ are very scattered up north so the nearest one is made a big deal

Further south I drove, eventually leaving Apache county, watching the trees become visible then grow.

As I neared Payson, I got the briefest of looks at the greatness of the Mogollon Rim (though I didn’t get that great of a picture!).

Simply incredible.

Finally, I made it back to the Sonoran Desert. As I entered familiar territory, I knew my trip was over.

After I finally made it home, I sat in memories of sweeping canyons, grasslands that stretched to the horizon, different kinds of trees and ancient ruins and towering red rocks and an enormous sky up above. It’s easy to look back on where you’ve traveled and long to experience it again. I’m certainly guilty of that.

But nothing is ever experienced the same way twice. Nothing remains the same, which is neither good nor bad. It is simply the way of life. And we are never meant to spend our lives traveling the same road.

Around the bend, across the valley, beyond the horizon… there’s always the next one.

Beauty before me, with it I wander

Beauty behind me, with it I wander

Beauty before me, with it I wander

Beauty below me, with it I wander

Beauty above me, with it I wander

Beauty all around me, with it I wander

In old age traveling, with it I wander

On the beautiful trail I am, with it I wander

~ First Song of Dawn Boy, a Navajo prayer