'm not exaggerating when I say that I spent more time at the barn than at home when I was growing up. Some days it felt like the barn was my home.
My mom was in and out of the hospital when I was a kid. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after I was born, then with schizophrenia when I was a teenager. She was a different person each time she was released from the hospital: There were some aspects of the Mom I remembered, but it was like getting to know an entirely new person.
I love my mom, and over the years we have been able to develop a close relationship - but when I was growing up, the woman who taught me about life wasn't my mom, it was Cindy.
This letter is for her.
You taught me how to ride a horse, but over the years you've taught me so much more than that.
You taught me to put others first.
You taught me that having fun is more important than bringing home ribbons.
You taught me that words of encouragement go a long way.
You taught me that kids come first.
You taught me that sometimes distraction is the best way to get through hard times - and that's okay.
You taught me that what's in the past is in the past; to cheer for others and be happy for them even when they're hurt you.
You taught me responsibility.
You taught me that details matter.
You taught me to stand up for myself.
You taught me to treat others with kindness and respect.
You taught me to be positive.
You taught me to work hard for what I want, that dreams may take time but they're worth it.
You taught me to let a horse be a horse.
You taught me to be myself.
I don't know if you realize what an impact you've had on my life. My mom was in and out of the hospital when I was young, so you became my role model.
It may have been a long time ago, and I may live thousands of miles away, with a family of my own - but I'm the woman I am today - the mother I am today - because of you.
Happy Mother's Day!