Monday Thoughts: Ahh! Anxiety!

I have a lot on my plate. Do ever get that feeling that you just have so much to do? Or even worse, when you’re trying to relax, you feel bogged down about everything you should be doing and then you get anxious, but your brain is also telling you to relax and enjoy some self-care time?

If you got anxious just reading that sentence, you are not alone. This past weekend, I felt like this at least 3 times a day. All I wanted to do was shop online, read, watch netflix, ride, and other relaxing activities. I could only think about what I should be working on, like doing research on where to live next, what job to have next, posting on this blog, doing a workout, and the list could go on.

Right now, I am in a full-time job, I post on this blog as much as I can, I have a little consulting business on the side, I ride my horse 5 times a week, I workout 5 times a week, and I try to have some downtime. Ok, I’m out of breath writing that sentence. But the point I’m trying to make is that I feel like I ALWAYS have a lot on my plate. I also know I am not alone! I’m sure everyone and their mother has a lot on their plate, and feels constantly overwhelmed by it.

Because I know I’m not alone, I wanted to share a big tip I have to put my anxieties aside. Not that I’m procrastinating (because that it totally something I do and I’m ashamed of it), but this tip helps me focus on one thing at a time. Okay, ready for it?

Write it down. Write everything down.

I know this seems overly simple, but writing down everything you have to get done (or want to do) significantly helps the situation. Often, I create an overwhelming sensation in my head just because I’m thinking about everything that needs to be done. Then, I list everything out, and I always feel better. I can visually see all that I have to do, and I realize its completely possible.

So, next time you’re feeling anxious, I challenge you to write it down. Create a to-do list. Open the notes on your phone and go to town. I think our brains enjoy seeing a visual representation of all that we have to do. My anxiety melts away; hopefully yours will to.

 

And as always, after you write everything down, remember to take things one stride at a time 🙂

 

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Nutrition for Horses: Forage

Most horse diets are primarily composed of hay. There are different types of hay that serve different purposes, but before we dive into forage, I think it’s important to go over why we feed hay in the first place.

Horses are hind-gut fermenters. This means that horses get their energy from Volatile Fatty Acids (VFAs); something that is a byproduct of them digesting structural carbohydrates. What is a structural carbohydrate? They are exactly what they sound like. Plants need structure in order to do their thing…like we need bones. Therefore, the “bones” of plants are the structural carbohydrates. Some examples of these are cellulose, pectins, and hemicellulose.

Whats more important is the following question. What are the structural carbohydrates we can feed? Forage. Now, hay isn’t the only type of structural carbohydrate you can give a horse, but it is the most common. Let’s go over that first.

Hay is separated into legumes and grasses. Alfalfa is the most popular legume fed to horses. Here is a picture of good quality alfalfa:

You can tell it’s good hay because you can see plentiful flower, it’s green, and leafy. Alfalfa is a good source or protein, calcium, and generally just high in energy. This hay is generally fed to a horse in heavy work, or uses a lot of energy (example: lactating mares). It is important to buy horse-quality alfalfa hay.

Grass hay is probably what you think of when you think of hay. This is a really common forage to feed your horse, but the quality can vary greatly. Grass hay is generally less energy dense, so you don’t have to worry about your horse getting “hot” off of grass hay. Good quality grass hay is also determine on the flower and the length of stem. There’s a lot of variability in grass hay, but if the hay has color to it, smells fresh, and has some flower to it, you’re good. Below is a good example:

There are also other kinds of forages you can feed your horse. There is combination hay, which combines alfalfa and grass in each flake. This feed regimen could make it easier on your horses gut, since the energy of each hay type “balances” out. Fodder is also another popular forage. This is actually a grown bed of grass that you feed to your horse. Fodder mimics a natural environment, since it’s literally grass and not hay. With that said, it could also lack the nutrients of land-grown grass.

There are pros and cons of every forage out there. If you are hesitant on what you should buy, ask a horse nutritionist or your vet! They are trained to look at your horse, their energy requirement, and the types of feeds out there.

 

Nutrition for Horses: Base Diet

I was talking to one of my barn mates yesterday about feed regimens and trying to solve minor issues based on supplements. Which got me thinking….everyone probably has this same problem! Why not talk about it?

So I want to start a series on this blog about feeding your horse. Now, before I get into what I know, what I’ve studied, and what I’ve learned, I am in no way a professional. I’m just a fellow equestrian that has a degree in Equine Science, but I do not have a DVM or a PhD in nutrition. I don’t know as much as feed companies, or anyone that studies nutrition for a living. But what I do know is what I’ve done for my horse, what I’ve learned along the way, and what I do now. I can offer as much advice as I can, but please remember that this is in no way a professional opinion.

To get the ball rolling, let’s start about what horses would eat in without human interruption: grass. Wild horses eat about 65% grasses and about 35% shrubs. This is great to know, but our horses don’t live in the wild. They are kept in stalls, paddocks, and pastures. They also need more energy than wild horses, especially if they’re performance horses. Which means things get tricky.

Now the horse has a small stomach (15L), but a large digestive system. This translates to a horse being a natural continuous eater (or a grazer). Which is why horses tend to do better with free-feeders or at least 3 meals a day. These meals can vary from grass, hay, forage, or grain.

While brands will say your horse only needs complete feed, as in only grain that is fortified with nutrients, your horse’s digestive system is made for forage. If you feed your horse a complete feed and it works great..that’s perfect! The only caution with a complete feed stems mainly from the fact that it is not a grass or shrub; meaning your horse’s gut will not process it the same and it is more susceptible to colic, ulcers, or other digestion issues.

So now that we know horses are made for forage, and that grazing is good for them, now let’s get to more of the specifics. A horse should be eating 2% of their body weight. If you are unsure of how much your horse eats, weigh their food out! A mature horse’s food demand depends on energy consumption, living conditions, water availability, and quality of food.

For instance, a horse that is ridden heavily 6 times a week, lives in beautiful living conditions with clean water that is readily available, and eats top-notch grass hay 4x times a day will have completely different dietary needs than a horse ridden maybe 2x a month that lives in a pasture with water available and gets their hay in the evening. Both options are perfectly fine, but their diet will differ. (This is where your vet will come in handy to give recommendations on diet.)

Ok, so to recap: horses are grazers, meaning they naturally want to continuously eat. They consume about 2% of their bodyweight daily, mostly on forage. Every horse is different, and demands vary, but 2% is a good starting point. Finally, dietary needs depend on living conditions and quality of water and food.

I hope these basics help you understand the bare minimum that your horse needs. I plan on getting into specifics later, but I want to take things one stride at a time.

 

Happy grazing!

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Pt. Reyes

 

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The perks of living in California? You can start backpacking in January. I mean it was late January, but still! The fact that I can survive outside for a weekend and not freeze my butt off makes it ok to deal with the crazy traffic.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was able to visit Pt. Reyes to start the season. It was a bit damp, and a bit cold, but it was also fun.

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We camped at the Glen site, about 4 miles away from the visitor center. I think that this was the perfect distance to camp. After 4 miles or so, I start to get tired! After we dropped our stuff off at the site, we hiked the 4 miles to the waterfall that feeds into the ocean.

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This waterfall is 1 of 2 that flows directly to the ocean. Pretty cool! We did a mile or so on the beach. Not only was it drop-dead gorgeous, but it was a workout. After hiking so long with a pack, our calves were feeling it at the beach.

After seeing the waterfall, we ended up taking the long route (you could also say we wondered off our trail…) and saw the most beautiful scene of trees.

I think a lot of people think of Pt. Reyes as this gorgeous coast with picturesque scenes of the ocean, but it should also be known for its forest and green landscape. It has many places of beauty!

We ended up hiking 6 more miles after seeing the waterfall. You could say that we were tired and hungry after that adventure! It was good we got back when we did because the sun was starting to set.

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Pt. Reyes’ campsites are almost like ‘glamping.’ Not only do they have bathrooms for you, but there are also bear canisters and drinkable water! We kept joking the whole weekend that we were glamping because of the luxuries the site had for us. I wish I knew sooner, because then I wouldn’t have packed my bear bin or my water filter.

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Overall, it was a lovely weekend trip. We did a good amount of hiking, had our fill of adventure and nature, and ended it with a trip to Lagunitas! If you haven’t been to the brewery, go! It is so cool!

 

The Easiest Horse Treat Recipe

A little known secret about me…I LOVE BAKING. When I was younger, my mom and I would spend hours making Christmas cookies, baking pies, and generally finding cool recipes to create. Fast forward almost 2 decades, and literally nothing has changed. One of my favorite past times is looking at Pinterest for fun new baking recipes.

So, I figured I should combine my hobbies and make horse treats! I found a recipe online for horse cookies, but I changed it a bit, mostly because I didn’t have certain ingredients.

This recipe is SO EASY! You only need 4 ingredients, and you should have most in your pantry already. (If most people have applesauce and molasses in their pantries?)

The infographic below is all you need to get started. Let me know how they turn out, if you decide to bake these! I hope to keep trying cookie recipes, and posting the ones that turn out well.

 

THe easiest horse treat recipe

 

7 Ways of Combatting Helmet Head

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Dude, this is such a real problem. I know it seems trivial, but helmet head always leaves me feeling ugly. I have naturally fine hair, so when it loses volume because it’s stuffed into a helmet for the better part of a day, I lose all hope. Especially when you’re riding before work or you have someplace important to be after the barn. But never fear! I’ve figured out how to get rid of (or hide!) helmet hair while still being safe and wearing a helmet.

  1. As soon as you get off, take your helmet off and let your hair air dry. If you run your fingers through your hair, even better! It adds volume and returns to its normal glory.
  2. When you spray your horse down, spray your hairline too. Yes, it’s odd to give your head a spritz when you’re at the barn, but are equestrians known for being ‘cool’? Right, so don’t worry about it! Same as #1, run your fingers through your hair to fluff up your roots. I like this method better because then you don’t have sweaty, disgusting hair until the next time you wash it. And if you want to wait until your in the safe space of your house, follow tip number 3.
  3. When you take a shower, but don’t want to wash your hair, just wet down your roots when your hair is in a ponytail. This instantly revives your hair and it won’t smell like sweat and horse! This is also a good method for post-gym workouts, too.
  4. Wear a freaking cute headband. Just embrace that your hair is going to lose its volume and wear a cute headband to distract everyone. Or wear a hat! Hats squish down your hair anyways, so just plop on a cute ball cap and call it a day.
  5. If you are good with braiding, try putting your hair in a cute side braid or french braid. Braids 100% conceal helmet hair and 100% distract others from the lack of volume.
  6. Another good idea is to carry dry shampoo or a volumizing product around. It will fluff up your hair while getting rid of the dried sweat that can irritate your scalp. Dry shampoo will also give you more texture if you want to try braiding your hair.
  7. Literally own it. Flat hair, don’t care! If you’re comfortable wearing breeches out in public, then it’s time to be comfortable wearing flat hair out in public. To me, helmet hair means you’re staying safe while competing in one of the most dangerous sports! Own it! Just throw your hair into a ponytail, a half up-half down style, and forget about it.

So those methods are what I use to go from the barn to the outside world and look like a normal human being. Let me know in the comments of what you do to combat helmet head!

 

Hello, 2018!

I hope everyone is crushing their New Year’s goals so far! It seems that I’m asking a lot of myself this year, so planning my goals is a must right now.  My desk has been cluttered with planners, lists, and coffee basically everyday since the New Year.2018 plannin.jpg

And while I would love this post to be solely about planning (because boy, do I LOVE planning!), I wanted to give y’all an update on Raven. A while ago, I wrote about the hard decision to retire Raven. If you want to know the details, see this post. Turns out, she was sound a mere 3 weeks after the trip to the vet. Weird, right? One moment I hear that she needs to be retired and the next is filled with all of these hopeful thoughts about potentially riding her.

Over the summer, I started working her slowly, and she was sound…up until I moved her to Northern California. Then she got really lame. I spent a lot of time and money in order to have her back to normal, and finally, it’s paid off. She’s sound! What am I going to do with that? Not sure yet…

Why am I telling you this? Because frankly, there’s a lot to take from this experience. First and foremost, sometimes people tell you what you don’t want to hear. When that happens, you need to make the decision if you want to accept defeat and become passive, or if you want to take matters into your own hands and fight. Naturally, I decided to do whatever I could to make sure Raven will be forever happy and healthy. Raven will never be the same, and I might not ever jump her again, but at least I know she will have a good, sound life.

Another important thing I gained from this experience is perspective. Back in April, when I first found this out, I was devastated. I could barely make it to class without puffy eyes from crying so hard. My world seemed to cave in around me, and I couldn’t focus on anything other than Raven. But then time went on, and I felt better. She could be lame; she could be sound; but either way, we’ll get through it.

Finally, it’s also important to accept change. I always think that will be easy, but after some self reflecting, I realize that I’m horrible at change. So yeah, Raven and I might never compete again. I took this about as hard as anyone would. I don’t want to give up my girl! I don’t want to be that crazy lady with 6 horses because I could never part with them. But at the same time, I feel like Raven is part of who I am. How could I give her up? Obviously, this is a huge change for me! But, to look at the bright side, this gives me an opportunity to find another competition mount! So whatever happens, change is always going to be there, and it’s (for the most part), good.

And about 9 months later, she’s sound. Doctor’s orders have us on another 60 day lay-up, but I’m not letting this get me down. At the end of the day, she’s healthy, she’s sound, and we’ll get through this.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s important to have perspective in your life. Listen to others, but also listen to yourself. You are the one that is living your life, so you should have say in how you live it.

But it’s always remember it’s good to take things one stride at a time!

 

Alsooo here’s a picture of Raven from today because she’s just so darn cute 🙂

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Holiday Gift Guide for the Equestrian in Your Life

To be honest, it’s quite simple to shop for any horse-lover. If you stay along the lines of anything equine-related, you will usually be in a good place. But to get the creative juices flowing, here are a couple of ideas to get the equestrian in your life during this holiday season.

If your budget is $25 or less…

It’s not that you’re SOL, but the horse world is expensive. A smaller budget means less you can work with. With that said, there are still a ton of gifts that will still benefit your horse-lover.

  1. Socks. I know, this is silly, but socks are incredibly important for any equestrian. Socks come in all shapes and uses, so the possibilities are endless. Check out all these choices here
  2. If socks aren’t your thing, try looking into horse treats or other horse toys. These are incredibly useful tools for any horse owner, therefore your gift will go a long way.Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 8.02.59 PM.png
  3. For someone that doesn’t own or ride a horse, but is still an equine fanatic, I would recommend anything from a book about horses to a stuffed animal. There are so many choices of books and find a plush toy is as easy as walking into a toy store. Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 8.04.29 PM.png

If your budget is under $50…

  1. Polo wraps are a piece of tack that nearly every rider needs. You can never have enough polo wraps! Polos also come in fun colors, so they add extra flare to your gift.
  2. Speaking of horse wear, a nice nylon halter or a saddle pad is definitely in budget and can easily coordinate with new polo wraps!
  3. Although breeches might be too expensive in this price bracket, riding attire is never out of the question. Plenty of stores have stylish shirts, riding accessories, and jackets that are under $50. An equestrian can never have enough belts or UV riding shirts!

If you have all the money in the world to spend…

  1. This is where it gets fun! If I could ask for anything this holiday season, it would definitely be a tailspin (or horsehair) bracelet/keychain. These items are made from your horse’s tail hair and are hand made. I think these bracelets are stylish and are very sentimental. Honestly, any personalized jewelry for them and their horse will make their holiday season even better.
  2. Home decor. If I had money to spend, I would get each one of my horse friends a giant canvas of their horse to hang in their house. Just think, wouldn’t that be a dream come true? You could also get unique items like a horse shoe boot rack or some fun bookends.
  3. A photoshoot for them and their horse. Have you seen those gorgeous black backdrop photos? Or those beautiful photo shoots where the girl is kissing the horse’s nose? Well I have, and I know right now that I would DIE if someone bought me a photoshoot with my heart horse. Having pictures to cherish for the rest of my life about one of my favorite things would mean the world to me! 
  4. Depending on their discipline, breeches or riding jeans are always a good go-to. Since these can get expensive, buying a pair of riding pants will go a long way in an equestrian’s life. For that matter, buying higher priced items like a helmet, boots, bridles, and other necessary (but pricey) items will be the perfect gift!
  5. And how can I not add this? The best gift of all is a pony. 🙂 

In all seriousness, an equestrian will love whatever you give them. I wasn’t kidding when I talked about socks! I go through these things like nobody’s business, so a nice pair of riding socks are a lifesaver! And if you can’t afford a tailspin bracelet, a key chain with a horse figurine on it will do no wrong. Just remember, giving something from the heart will make it the perfect gift.

And don’t forget to take holiday shopping one stride at a time!

 

*I do not own any of these pictures

Exercises to Improve Your Riding (Without Riding)

It’s no-stirrup November! But if you’re like me, and have a horse that can’t do more than 5 minutes of trot, you might need more to strengthen your legs. Cue my expertise with crossing training! Utilizing multiple sports to create an exercise regimen honestly helps your riding and you will only benefit.

It all started 10 years ago. When I was in high school, I wasn’t exactly in the best shape. I wasn’t overweight, but I had a nice layer of fat in all of the places where I didn’t want it. Riding made me feel fit, but not when it counted. Whenever my trainer would make me do a no-stirrups lesson, I would always be exhausted after. After the lesson, I would always ask her how to improve my riding and get stronger. Her response, as almost any trainer says, was to keep riding and it will get better.

This didn’t sit well with me. I know where she was coming from. As a trainer, you easily have 4 horses to ride each day. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t have multiple horses to practice with and I cannot get excited about doing no-stirrups for 30 minutes once a week. I need something more. So, in college, I decided to make myself a nice fitness regimen. Cross-training, or using multiple disciplines to obtain fitness, was (and still is) heavily featured in that regimen.

Once I started working out regularly, while riding as often as I can, and sometimes dropping my stirrups because I know how important that is, I noticed a huge difference. And because I want everyone to be the best rider they can be, I thought I would share some exercises I do to improve my riding.

  • Plank. I know, literally everyone shares this exercise as a must for horse people. But there is a reason! Doing plank strengthens your whole core and works your back muscles. This exercise works all of the muscles that you use while riding…and helps you tone! To do this exercise, simply start on your hands and knees, then move to either your forearms and toes, or your palms and toes. There are also multiple variations of plank that you can do it you want to challenge yourself, or if you just get really bored while doing the plank. Try rocking your waist side to side, or moving your hips up and down to work your core. If you want to work your arms more, go from your forearms to your palms, then back to your forearms. If you want to tone your legs, try balancing on only one foot and use the other leg to pulse in the air, or simply hold it up. There are many variations of plank, and they all work wonders for your riding.
This is the typical stance of the plank position.
  • Yoga. While this isn’t exactly a workout exercise, doing some form of yoga works wonders. A couple of years ago, I HATED the thought of doing yoga. I found it completely useless and boring. Since then, I’ve converted and would proudly consider myself a yogi. I love that yoga not only works your body, but is also good for your mental health. On top of that, it stretches your body in ways that you never knew you needed to do, strengthens your balance, and creates muscles that will only help you while riding. If you want to learn more about yoga, or even try it, I recommend finding a yoga studio close to you or using an app for guided practice. I personally use Gaiam Yoga Studio for yoga and I love it! This app has tons of options for all levels, as well as targeting areas like relieving back pain (which we know all riders have). Before you totally hate on yoga, honestly try one of the many different styles of it. You might end up loving it!
  • Squats and lunges. We all know to never skip leg day. While our legs will forever be strong due to the fact that we hold onto the horse with our legs, its also important to keep that strength by toning other areas of muscle that us riders don’t use all of the time. Walking lunges, squats, sumo squats, jumping lunges, or any exercise working your legs will only help you in the saddle.

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  • Hiking. Now onto my second favorite sport! While finishing a course is my one true love, summiting a peak also gives you the most badass feeling. Hiking is great cardio, but also works your legs like nobody’s business. Plus hiking will give you great views of nature! So log on to all trails or another hiking app to see what hikes you can do in your area.Processed with VSCO with m5 preset
  • Running. This is another exercise that is good, but is probably one that almost no one wants to do. First, let me explain that there are two types of cardio: weight bearing, and non-weight bearing. Riding is non-weight bearing, since we are not “bearing the weight” of gravity while we’re working out. This is good cardio, but in order for you to properly work your heart in a healthy way, weight bearing cardio should be considered. I took up running because I wanted to stay heart-healthy, but I didn’t have the time to walk 3 miles a day. Running works for me because I can knock out a couple of miles, while working up a sweat, and staying fit.
  • Arms and Back. This area of the body is crucial for riding. While I usually knock out some arm exercises by lifting hay bales, exercises in the weight room can also do the trick. I’ve found that focusing on triceps, lats, forearms, delts, and pecs help with riding. They all strengthen your arms, while keeping your back strong so that you can maintain a good posture.

I know these exercises basically target all the muscles in your body, but if you want more specific workouts, I am happy to share what I do at the gym and for other workouts. What do you do to stay fit for riding (besides riding)?

And if this is the start of your journey towards a more active lifestyle, remember to just take it one stride at a time 🙂

The Golden Rules of Rehab

 

Remember when Raven was so lame that I took her to a specialty veterinarian, and he told me that she needed to be retired? Well, after 3 weeks after that moment, she was sound. So thank you, Raven, for always keeping me on my toes and never knowing what my life will give me.

…And that’s the first lesson of horses. And the first lesson of rehabilitation. Horses will never let you off easy. If they keep things interesting for us, might as well make it so we can keep it interesting for them…during their “off” season.

As a continuation of a post I wrote about combatting stall rest, I am continuing the conversation about rehab. Since that’s apparently something I am well-versed in (thank you, darling horse).

Before this year, Raven’s injuries were mainly hard tissue. This year, though, she hurt her lateral collateral ligament in her left front hoof (aka soft tissue) and something I’ve hardly dealt with. So cue my frustration because my horse literally never gives me a break.

To continue the story about rehab, lets start at the end of summer. So after she had about 6 months off, I moved her up to my new town, then we went lame again (yay love you Rae). Basically, my life is a bunch of I-dont-know-whats-going-on moments. But I think this is the second lesson of rehab. You honestly never know what is going on with them. We make these giant, beautiful creatures jump things and put their head in weird places, and guess what? Sometimes that makes them lame. So sometimes they’re sound; then they’re not. It could have been my fault, but it also could have been Raven…

When you have a horse, chances are you will spend a great deal of time hand walking them and praying to the soundness gods that your horse is magically sound. But, trust me, there are some golden rules of rehab.

The first is to make a plan…and stick to it! You know your horse, but your vet knows their physiology. LISTEN TO THEM.

The second is to make sure you don’t go crazy with all of this time off. I’m weird and go to the barn everyday, even if my horse is off, because if I don’t get to at least touch one horse a day, I go crazy. So do whatever floats your boat. Lease another horse, take lessons on the school horse, create silly obstacle courses for your horse to do, make them learn a trick. Honestly there is so much to do! Little activities you can do with your horse will keep you sane while also keeping their life interesting.

The third is to create a plan going forward. When Raven comes back from this injury, I know that she will no longer be able to do what I want. Knowing that I won’t be able to compete her kills me, but c’est la vie, right? Know your actions going forward with your horse, because that can also determine your rehab plan. If your horse hurt their suspensory for the 7th time, then maybe don’t let them continue hurting themselves and give them another job.

The fourth, and hardest rule, is to know when to stop. Sometimes horses have a funny way of telling you that they’re done. For Raven, it might be right now. For others, it might be throwing their rider over fence after fence. Being able to listen to your horse, and not your head, is the hardest part about rule number four.

Horses can be hard on us, but they’re cute, so its worth it. I will always treasure my competition horse-turned companion. I hope that one day I can have an easy ride on her, and I hope one day I can have another competition horse that won’t be so structurally flawed as she is so that I can actually compete. Maybe Raven will return to normal; maybe she’ll have a baby. There are so many opportunities when one door closes!

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But for now, I am going to take it one stride at a time and pray for a miracle!