trueNana came into my life when I was eleven. My son is eleven now. My head swims a little, when I look at him and think back to when I was his age, an awkward girl who only felt at home when in the company of a nine-hundred pound, four-legged critter. I wonder if his head will swim one day, too, when he has an eleven year old child and remembers where he was – who he was – at that age.

Nana was technically a Quarter Horse, but she never thought much about it. Half a hand away from being classified as a pony, she was stocky and wide, but muscular. She wasn’t a lazy lady; she worked hard for me every day I knew her. She had the worst gait you can imagine – those short legs of hers didn’t lend themselves to a gentle glide – and if you didn’t know what you were doing in a saddle, she’d rattle you to death.

My parents gave her to me as a late birthday present – one I didn’t mind waiting for. Together we toured the local 4-H circuit, competing in the not-so-exciting categories like Western Showmanship and Reining. Barrel racing and poles were off-limits; my mom would have none of that ‘dangerous’ stuff.

We never lasted long in the Halter competitions – Nana’s height was a joke – but neither of us minded that much. Standing around while judges stuck their fingers in her mouth and looked under her tail (a heavy, wavy thing that nearly trailed the ground and was so thick most folks thought it was fake) wasn’t fun for her, and if it wasn’t fun for her, it wasn’t fun for me.

For all the fun we had showing in the summer, those aren’t the most vivid memories I have of my friend. My most vivid memories are of the days when the weather was nice enough after school for me to load up my saddle bags with my books and head out with Nana to the south pasture. I’d sit in a dry-creek bed and do my homework or read while she’d graze nearby. I never bothered to hobble her; she never wandered far, and always came to me when she heard her name. Sometimes we’d wander together aimlessly, her cropping grass as we went, listening patiently as I would unload about the heavy task of surviving junior high. Every now and then she’d nicker at me, or bump my thigh with her nose, just to let me know how she felt about something I’d just said. She always took my side.

I read a book once about a boy who had a horse, and he and the horse would race each other across a pasture. His horse would always let him lead – until they neared the end of the property. Then he’d pull ahead, and take the win for himself. It was a sweet, endearing story, and I thought for sure that Nana and I needed to have our own story like that. I explained the whole thing to her while she listened with solemn, attentive eyes.

“Ready?” I asked, taking my place next to her, wiggling my toes in my boots.

She looked at me.

“Set,” I continued, looking ahead at the fence, a quarter mile away. “Go!” I took off running like my life depended on it, but it didn’t take me long to realize Nana wasn’t running along. I stopped and turned, breathing heavily from my sprint. She was standing there, ears alert, watching me with something like astonishment.

“Nana!” I shouted. “What are you doing?”

She nickered, and trotted my way. I explained the process to her again, counted down, and took off running. And once again she watched, curious about what her little human was doing, but not at all interested in doing it herself. Again, I called for her, and again she trotted my way.

“Don’t you want to race?” I asked her. She answered by wandering away a little, tail swishing as she went.

I have so many memories about Nana – memories of napping on her back, using her rump as a pillow; memories of cleaning stalls and brushing fur and the feel of her velvety lips on my hand as she whisked oats from them. Memories of her fathomless eyes, black and intelligent and caring. Memories of how she felt under me when we’d ride bareback – hot and strong and rhythmic; and I realize that even though I had no idea at the moment, I was a part of something so very special, so very rare. A soul-deep connection with an animal doesn’t happen often, and it doesn’t happen to everybody.

I am so humbled that Nana chose me to share her soul with.


p.s. This post is Part Three of a series titled I’M LYING TO YOU: Four Truths and A Lie. You can check out the other posts in the series (so far) here and here.


[TRUE] My House Was Haunted


The house I grew up in was haunted.

We lived in a two-story farm house that was built in the late 1800’s. When I was really young it was painted a pea-green with white polka dots. The polka dots were actually little plugs where insulation had been put in, but a kid never sees things like that as practical necessity. To me, they were polka dots for the sake of being polka dots and I loved them. I was the only kid I knew who had a polka-dotted house, a fact that I carried around like a badge of childhood honor, thank you very much.

Later, my mom had the house painted a lovely shade of blue. With the old red shed (teeming with cats more often than not) standing watch behind it, and the towering walnut trees around it, it made for a very pretty picture.

My sister and I used to try to scare each other with stories of Old Man Brockway – the builder of said house. He committed suicide in the not-so-beautiful barn that was falling down on the far side of the property. We weren’t especially afraid of Old Man Brockway – we both felt he was a friendly ghost – but he was still a ghost. Even convivial ghosts have that creepy dead-not-dead factor, and many late nights were spent on the pull-out sofa eating popcorn and talking about our latest encounter with Brockway the Friendly Ghost.

Mostly it was little things: window shades that would fly up on their own – especially startling at night. The sound of footsteps on the stairs when there was no one there. Random things just magically tumbling off our shelves. Old Man Brockway was a clumsy soul, even in the afterlife.

One evening my mom joined in the story-telling, and her story made all the little things that could have been written off as childhood fancy (doors opening on their own, disorderly toys put back into order while our backs were turned) seem both insignificant and probable.

When I was an infant, our house caught on fire. We used a wood stove for heat, and the chimney went up through my sister’s closet; the fire started there. It was the middle of the night, and my parents, in a sleepy panic, scooped my sister up and carried her downstairs to safety…but they forgot about me. (If you’re thinking WHAT THE HELL, PARENTS? HOW CAN YOU FORGET YOUR INFANT? GET IT TOGETHER WOULD YA? you’re not alone…)

They were outside, standing in the snow, waiting for the fire trucks to show up when my mom realized their mistake. She bolted back inside and dashed into the smoke. It soon became clear that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the second story where I was – the smoke was too thick. But then a figure emerged on the landing. Hovering in the haze was Old Man Brockway. And in his arms,


He handed me to her, and disappeared.

My mom was an ornery soul, but she was always very serious when she told this story. Even now I get goosebumps when I think about her telling it. My sister and I have re-hashed it over and over again, and we’re both inclined to believe something supernatural happened that night.

And so, Old Man Brockway, with all his window-shade flapping and knocking books off shelves, will always be a happy thought in my head.

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you had any unexplainable experiences with things supernatural? Let’s discuss!


(This post was written in response to my previous I’m Lying to You post. You can check it out here.)



Let’s talk about cupcakes.

There are a thousand other things going on in the world that we could be talking about – wars, invasions, disappearing planes, poverty, pollution to name a few. And while we shouldn’t ignore any of the things that are taking place in our world right now, sometimes,


it’s good to take a break and enjoy something simple. Something good.

Something like cupcakes.


My sister was teasing me the other day (while she was devouring a recently-baked strawberry and cream cheese cupcake) about my cupcake obsession. I can’t blame her, really. This time a year ago I was entirely wheat and sugar-free, and had been for months. Now, here I am, making cupcakes at least on a weekly basis.

Baking has always been a source of comfort for me. It started with my grandma. She loved baking, and hardly let a day go by without producing some sweet concoction from her oven. Some of my most vivid memories are standing on a stool next to her in her yellow kitchen, my sister on the other side of grandma, each of us waiting for her to give us a beater to lick. Cookies, cakes, pies, muffins…I can still smell them all.


Now, as an adult, I crave those smells, but more than that, I crave the method of baking. Dry ingredients, wet ingredients, mixing them just so. Then – and here’s where the magic of the cupcake comes in for me – neatly separating the batter into each little cup. I love thinking about the hands that will pull the paper away from the little cakes. I love how, when they’re all lined up, waiting to be frosted, that they all look the same…and different. And once they’re cooled, and frosted, I love how I know how they’ll be eaten – my youngest ones will lick the frosting off first; my oldest tears the bottom off and eats the cake first, then the frosting.

Just like me.


In the big scheme of thing, in the big picture, cupcakes are meaningless. The world won’t brake for cupcakes, or sweet memories, or the smells of sugar and vanilla in the kitchen. But my world, this family of six, does. Because cupcakes are more than just a sweet treat at the end of the day. They’re an expression of warmth and love and contentment.