This Is 27--Happy Birthday, Tank!

February 18, 2022

Though like all registered American Quarter Horses, Tank turned another year older on Jan. 1, his actual foal date is Feb. 18. For reference, a 27-year-old horse is roughly equivalent to a 78-year-old human. (And to answer the question nearly everyone asks, horses live an average of 25-30 years.) 

Tank is finally starting to show his age, though he’s still in remarkably good shape for an old guy. I’m currently working with his vet and farrier on a non-life-threatening lameness issue that is keeping me from riding him. Even so, we have had to turn him out alone in a smaller enclosure because he was goofing with the younger horses and galloping around like a maniac because of the cooler weather. He still gets plenty of grooming, carrots, and treats, and I’m going to look into alternate activities to do with him while he’s temporarily sidelined, and for when riding is permanently off the table. Maybe I can teach him to paint

At the end of this month, we will have been together for 18 years. I’d wanted a horse since childhood, and when my husband and I were contemplating relocating to Florida (his home state) from California (mine), he sweetened the deal by promising that I could have a horse if we made the move. I don’t think either of us really thought that would be possible, but I filed that promise away for many years until time and finances made it possible to consider. Tank has been one of the best investments of time and money I’ve made in my life.

Tank has been a friend and partner through adventures, he’s taught me lessons in patience, sacrifice, kindness and courage. During our rides, he’s helped me dig deep to conquer fear. I’ve learned to put aside my own comfort to give him what he needs when he’s sick or injured (twice a day visits to the barn to flush wounds or medicate eyes during the height of summer heat and humidity…). I’ve cried into his mane, and allowed the sound of him munching hay soothe the sore spots in my heart. We’ve gone on trail rides, explored different types of terrain and jumps at Fannin Hill Farm, and hit the water together at a lake and the beach. I’ve spent hours just hanging out with him while he grazes. And as a bonus, I’ve met some of my closest friends at the two barns where he has lived. I’ve written about our experiences many times here on Catching Happiness. A few highlights:

I wrote about the process of finding him for the AQHA’s member magazine: “Why, Yes, That Was Me in the December Issue of America’s Horse.”

I’ve “learned to speak horse” and hosted horse birthday parties.

I’ve imagined what it would be like “If My Horse Had an Instagram Account.”

I’ve learned so many life lessons along the way, like this one.

And I’ve shared some of our more mundane experiences in “Look Mom, No Cavities!” and “A Little Off the Top and Sides and…Belly.”

Here are a few photos from our time together. Happy birthday, Tank—thank you for all the simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

Fannin Hill

Our first day together

Beach boy

Experimenting with riding without a bridle

Ho ho horse

In his prime, with a shining summer coat

The two of us just hanging out

Summer 2021

Tank and Paloma, the first of his lady friends at our new barn
Contemplating life

On the trail

Happy New Year 2022


A Tank Update

February 18, 2019

Today is my horse Tank’s 24th birthday! As a registered American Quarter Horse, he “officially” turns a year older on Jan. 1, but I still celebrate his actual birthday—or foal date, as it’s known in the horse world.

As you may remember, back in November I moved him to a new boarding barn. This was wrenching for me, and I was worried about how he’d handle the change. We’d been at our old boarding barn for all of our 15 years together. Happily, he’s done very well overall.

The new barn was still under construction when we moved, but it was completed enough for the horses to move in about a week ago. It’s a big, airy space (and smells like new wood). Tank seems to really like his new stall.

Especially the way it tastes. (Face palm.)

We’ve faced a few challenges since the move—he developed a case of hives, and then a painful hoof abscess—both things have happened before and aren’t related to his new home. I’m also still trying to develop a routine of care and exercise for him. Most recently, though, he spooked one day while I was riding him and threw me. I pulled muscles I didn’t know I had trying to stay on, but I wasn’t seriously hurt. (Apparently there were horse-eating monsters in the woods bordering the field in which we were riding!)

Tank’s new schedule will involve being stalled part of the time and being turned out into various paddocks the rest of the time. He’s still getting used to being turned out in different areas with different horses nearby—he makes it clear he DOES NOT like being the first one turned out or brought in!

All this adjustment to different conditions can be hard on a horse, just like change can be hard for most people, myself included. I try to help him by going to see him as often as possible and not making any other changes in his management.

And while it may feel uncomfortable at first, change can also be beneficial. For horses, it can provide new stimulation and learning opportunities. For humans, change helps us be more flexible and creative. And, really, we’d become bored if nothing ever changed.

I’m trying to make the best of the recent changes in my life, and Tank is, too (I assume. He seems like he’s trying to understand what’s happening, and communicate his feelings about it!) Eventually, these changes will become the new normal…and then any further changes may feel uncomfortable! 

What changes have you experienced recently? How have you been coping?


Baseball, Birthdays, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

September 04, 2015

Some weeks fly by faster than others. Some are more filled with simple pleasures and everyday adventures. I just experienced one of those weeks when my mom came to visit for a week. She lives in California, so we’re lucky to see each other once a year.

We started by anticipating the pleasure for several months leading up to her visit. Anticipation is a great simple pleasure, don’t you think? After we made airline reservations, I started making lists of things I wanted to do while she was here. Mostly what we wanted to do was talk and be together, so we didn’t plan activities for every day. We spontaneously chose to do what we felt like doing, whether that was taking a swim in the pool, shopping, or going out to lunch. I put aside my usual chores and activities so that I could sit and talk. And watch movies in the afternoon—decadence!

Some other highlights:

We had a family gathering so she could reconnect with my husband’s family who live locally. We used this get-together to celebrate two milestone birthdays: my son’s 21st and my father-in-law’s 80th. They share the same birthday!

We headed over to St. Petersburg for a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. My mom loves to go as much as I do, and Nick joined us. The Rays have been having an up and down season, but they won the day we went—go Rays! (Maybe we should go more often?)

Entrance to Tropicana Field

Nathan Karns pitching

We all went to Cinebistro for dinner and a movie on my son’s actual 21st birthday (Cinebistro is a 21-and-older establishment), one of our favorite outings. (We saw The Man From U.N.C.L.E.—a fun movie we all enjoyed.)

Now Mom is safely home, and I will be playing catch up on household chores and writing tasks. I feel refreshed from slowing down and enjoying the moments we spent together. It’s September, so I’ll be thinking about how this year has gone, and what I still would like to accomplish in 2015. (After all, September is the New January.)  And trying not to think about how long it will be before I see my mom again.

Mom getting ready to go home. Isn't she cute?


Husbands and Poems

May 06, 2015

Photo courtesy Todd Quakenbush

Today is my husband’s birthday. He’s very like the husband in this poem by Pauletta Hansel (though my father is not much like the father). When we were dating in college, my husband typed up and gave me a poem he felt applied to our relationship. I still have that poem, and it still applies. Wishing you a happy birthday, LJ!


My mother likes a man who works. She likes
my husband’s muddy knees, grass stains on the cuffs.
She loved my father, though when weekends came
he’d sleep till nine and would not lift
his eyes up from the page to move the feet
she’d vacuum under. On Saturdays my husband
digs the holes for her new roses,
softening the clay with peat and compost.
He changes bulbs she can no longer reach
and understands the inside of her toaster.
My father’s feet would carry him from chair
to bookshelf, back again till Monday came.
My mother likes to tell my husband
sit down in this chair and put your feet up.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Pauletta Hansel from her most recent book of poems, The Lives We Live in Houses, (Wind Publications, 2011). Poem reprinted by permission of Pauletta Hansel and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


The Big One-Eight

August 31, 2012

My baby turns 18 today. I do not know how that is even possible.

Last night I spent some sweet hours looking through our family photos. All those trips to the park and the beach and the zoo, all those family get-togethers and vacations. (All those regrettable wardrobe choices as well as fluctuating weights and hair lengths…) How nice that only the good times live in our photos and I do not have visual reminders of the blown-out diapers, the sleepless nights, the battles over food and chores and homework (though, clearly, I remember them).

I didn’t find being a mother to be particularly easy or “natural.” The first year of our son Nick’s life was pretty hard on me. I went from working full time in our insurance agency with my husband to staying home full time with an infant who did not sleep well and wouldn’t take a bottle even of breast milk. My in-laws, who lived nearby, worked full time. My mom and stepmom in California also worked full time. We hadn’t been in Florida that long so I didn’t have a circle of friends to rely on for support, advice and commiseration. My closest friend had a three-month-old and lived more than an hour away. Nick was delivered by C-section, and just when I began to recover from that, I began having gall bladder attacks and had to have that organ removed when Nick was four months old. My husband, who was now running the agency without me, spent most of his time at the office and even when he was at home, he was emotionally drained. An organization called FEMALE (Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge), now known as Mothers & More, came to my rescue with chapter meetings (without kids) playgroups, outings with kids and mom’s night out activities. I met two of my closest friends through this group and we are still friends, all these years later (one of them is the Mary who took me to the winery a couple of weeks ago).

Despite that rough start, we eventually worked our way into being a family. And I have photographic proof that we’ve had a pretty good life. I’d like to share a few of the photos I found last night. The first was taken shortly after Nick was born:

Poor woman. Doesn't know what she's in for.
This is one of my all-time favorite photos. I was finally through that horrible, hard first year, and Nick and I had forged a close bond.

This photo captures one of my happiest memories. Nick had been given a child’s camera that took photos with 35mm film. One afternoon, we both took our cameras out on our nature trail to take pictures of what interested us. (Note the manly work boots and the walking stick.) I did have his photos developed, and I wonder if he has any of them still?

You’ve seen many photos of Scout on this blog. Here’s the first one I ever took of her. We always tell people that Scout chose Nick. My husband and I had chosen a puppy other than Scout from the litter, but when we came to take our chosen puppy home, this little black and white puppy would not stop following Nick around. He already liked her best from our first visit, so we changed our minds and took the black and white one home instead. Later, when we were going through photos of our first visit to see the puppies, we found this:

Most of the other puppies are doing their own thing, while Scout is licking Nick’s face.

The adage “The days are long but the years are short” most certainly applies to children. Nick’s gone from blocks and Legos, to Xbox and Facebook. He’s 6’1” and I couldn’t rock him in my arms if I wanted to. We’re looking at colleges and talking about professions instead of checking out preschools. But he’s still my baby, and always will be.

Even though he’s turning 18, Nick is still in high school, so I have a little more time to adjust to his newfound “manhood.” I can’t express in words how much, how fiercely I love him and how proud I am of him as he grows up and begins to make his way in the world. I can’t think of a more exciting, scary, rewarding everyday adventure than being his mom.

Happy birthday, Nick!

4th of July

Happy Birthday, USA

July 04, 2012

“The United States is the only country with a known birthday.”—James G. Blaine 

Here are a few quotes in honor of that birthday. Hope you have a festive 4th!

America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact—the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.”—Adlai Stevenson

 “How often we fail to realize our good fortune in living in a country where happiness is more than a lack of tragedy.”—Paul Sweeney

 “Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.”—Louis D. Brandeis