Sunday, June 15, 2008


More Transitions

Transitions. Getting to be a familiar word around here, isn’t it? Transitions. Change. Moving on.

Ole’ Man Cole appeared to be transitioning yesterday morning. Down. Non-responsive. Pale gums. Labored breathing, even for Cole. But he got himself up. Struggling and soon down again, but repeatedly up and persistently moving to keep himself alert and functioning. Determined to overcome what had befallen him.

And by the end of the day, the old coot was eating and back to pushing me around. A seizure had taken his strength in the morning but by sunset, he was back. A transition that resulted in stability once again…. Huh. Another life lesson learned in the barns at Refuge Farms.

As said so well last week, Refuge Farms is at a place it has never been before. We’ve been through transitions in the past, but not like this one! That first transition when Andy pretty much demanded that I open the barns to the public happened over seven years ago. The next transition of Frances Andrew was so very painful but so obviously sent to illustrate the future to me. Then on to a 501(c)3. And before you could blink, here we are!

Transition means change and we have several as we begin our latest cycle of growth.

A tad over three years ago, a young man that I didn’t know and would never meet called me and said, “I’ll build you a website and maintain it for you for one year – one year! Then you’re on your own.” That year moved in to two years and then in to three years. And as a result of his commitment, there is a website to be envied. A bulletin board platform from which I write to you as often as my heart has something to speak. Pictures of our Ministers and The ‘Other’ Herd. Vincent’s attention to detail and demand for perfection shines through on our website. And he has left us a tremendous gift of his devotion to a herd and the missions that he has felt but never actually touched.

Refuge Farms gave to Vincent though, too, I am happy to say! Vincent has learned the parts of a horse hoof and the definition and the symptoms of colic, the thrill of saving a life by advertising and connecting people to save an unwanted horse, and he has gained friends that he most likely would have not otherwise have met.

And so, on this Father’s Day, it seems appropriate for you, Vincent, to realize that you birthed a baby and nurtured it to grow. A gift truly from your heart that has touched many hearts. God Speed and good luck in your future endeavors. Lucky are the new recipients of your many talents! And Vincent, a sincere and genuine “thank you” to you from me. And Miss Bonita. And Big Jim. And Halima. And Richard. And Lady-the-Dog. And Big Guy. And Jerry, the Roan Horse. From them and all those yet to come….

Another transition is our Operations Manager who has decided to pursue some of her other interests and focus her energies here at THE FARM where her heart is truly the happiest – with The ‘Other’ Herd. Our new Volunteer Coordinator came to Refuge Farms on her first visit and told me - point blank! - that, in her retirement, she had no intention of volunteering. Anywhere!

In her three years as Operations Manager, Kathy has seen and assisted us in the move to a Ways of THE FARM, walk-thru’s, and Horse Handling classes. High in energy and always with a smile on her face, it is truly a time of transition for Kathy and we all understand her need for this change. Time is elusive and Kathy desires more of her time for her new hobbies, her new friends, and her new endeavors. But thankfully, she is willing to still be a leader and trainer here at THE FARM and lead us in those chicken dances and songs! Glad to have you, Kathy!

A newbie on the scene is a man whom I tell others “has no boundaries”. I introduce Craig as a man of strong ethics, strong heart, and he sees no horizon for Refuge Farms. When we talk of book signings and television coverage, I look to Craig and his face screams, “Why not?”. Finding us in the bitter cold of last winter, this man brings his heart and his devotion to The Herd as well as his constant understanding of the Human Being and the demands of life. Welcome, Craig, to the task of Publicity for Refuge Farms.

Robin is shy and quiet and “neat as a pin”, as my Mom would say. Sensitive and caring, Robin listens – truly listens! – and hears the issue underneath of what is being said. She sees the heart. Just last week, we were talking and I mentioned Jerry. She looked me right in the eye and said, “You really miss him, don’t you?” Bullseye.

Robin has accepted the role of searching and evaluating grant possibilities for THE FARM. The enormous task of finding those foundations and businesses that have like hearts and see in us the possibilities and a future. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Don’t let it fool you – this is a most difficult task with enormous consequences. Thank you, Robin, for your grace and your heart and the willingness to give by searching.

And just when you’re thinking that’s enough change in one swoop, there is a new Board of Directors, too! Collectively, this group of individuals is strong in ethics and concerns for the Human Being and all living creatures. Add to that their varying business experiences and it all melds together for a remarkable unit to lead and manage this little patch of land with a huge heart up here on this hill in Spring Valley.

Robin (the same Robin) tells us about herself:

“Only by treating all life as sacred can we touch the sacred in ourselves.” (a quote from Best Friends Magazine, 2001). Firmly believing in the sanctity of all life, I made it easy for my dear sister to choose Refuge Farms as the recipient of her Christmas gift donation in my name several years ago. Since that time my admiration and support for Sandy and her rescue mission has grown. I consider it a privilege to work with those who set an example of kindness and decency to all we share the planet with.

Moira is a Chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital and is calm in adversity. Her faith is unwavering and she believes in the Master Plan. When I recently communicated my concern for workloads and demands and unmet needs, Moira’s response was simple, honest, and worthy. She wrote to me to have faith for the answer is in prayer. She affirmed for me that no one is alone and no one will be left unarmed for what is placed in front of them. Kind words that are now printed and taped to my bedroom door.

Michael is a gifted man who happens to be the designer of our logo and the creator of “Miss April”. Quiet, I listen when Mike speaks. His perception is honest but kind. A welcome voice in the room, he tells us about himself by saying:

I am an artist ( from Elk Mound, WI. I originally got involved with Refuge Farms because I was friends with Sandy. Soon, though, I became excited about being a part of “THE FARM” because of its purity of purpose.

Lauren is the Executive Director of the Eau Claire County Humane Association (ECCHA) and a welcome resource on our Board. Her credibility in the industry is unmatched in this region and her heart is pure. She truly comes to us willing to share and lead and contribute. We are gifted this woman’s talents and her heart – how fortunate!

Katherine Schneider is a retired clinical psychologist. Her knowledge of animals comes mainly from having been a Seeing Eye dog user for 35 years. She started a program through ECCHA to provide pet food and supplies to seniors and people with disabilities who are on Meals on Wheels, but it was Lanna (a member of The Herd) who talked her in to serving on the Refuge Farms board.

Marcia is an RN and one of the first people to touch and welcome our Spirit to THE FARM last fall. She is kind and tender and just when you think the issue is completed, Marcia asks a simple question and puts you back in the middle of “it” all over again! A welcomed voice and heart at the table.

So much is changing at Refuge Farms! We will never be the same as we move forward in our life path. We are being challenged with what to do and where to go and how to look. Much like Cole yesterday, we at times are struggling and down, but repeatedly up and persistently moving to keep ourselves alert and functioning. Determined to overcome. We, too, are in a transition that will result in stability and growth and then even more transition once again!

Every morning when I enter the barn I am greeted by happy hearts and that simple blue bucket hanging from the rafters of this too-small barn. A barn packed with the souls and the hearts of the unwanted. A place where people come to pet one of the Ministers and maybe pause for just a moment. A moment of peace and warmth and maybe some calm. Found here only because, simply, it is meant to be. Beyond all of us, the Master Plan has placed all of these pieces together to create this place we call Refuge Farms.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day and hug your Dad!
Sandy and The Herd

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