Michelle Ray Cox

Are you living the life you chose?

One cold December night I hosted a Christmas party at my house in Little Rock.  One of my friends arrived at the door in a sweater over her party dress.  It was bitterly cold.  I asked “it’s freezing outside, where is your coat?”  She smiled and explained that she had three boys and they needed stuff, so she was going without a coat that year.

I was hanging out with a group of women that were into “stuff”.  Not the “stuff” like warm coats and cars to get to work, but expensive “stuff”.  We would have lunch and ooh and aah over the new diamond bracelet, or the new Mercedes.  There was disdain over a fox fur coat, and even mink.   Sable was what was desired.  The love of friends and husbands was shown by gifts, and those gifts had a hefty price tag.

I am ashamed to say I got caught up in that.  I had a Christmas list that year that read like the Neiman Marcus catalog.

My friend standing on my front porch with a genuine, not self pitying smile, while she cheerfully told me she could not afford a winter coat was like a splash of needed cold water.  I had a closet full of coats, yet still I wanted, “needed” more?

She left that night with a warm coat.  She left that night haven given me one of the most important gifts of my life; the understanding that THINGS are not what is important.

I’ve lived in a mobile home.  I’ve lived in a 10,000 sq ft mansion.  I cried tears in both.  I’ve owned a 1964 Volkswagen bug that I had to push to get started on a regular basis.  I’ve also owned a Porsche and numerous BMW’s.   NONE OF THOSE THINGS MADE ME HAPPY.  And none of those things are still in my life now.

I now understand that the valuable gifts are not things.  They are people, love, laughter, experiences.  They are what give me joy that cannot tarnish or breakdown.

I see the sunrise and sunsets reflecting on my Colorado mountains.

I ride my heart horse Bali with friends old and new on a perfect crisp fall day.  I notice the sun sparkling  of the creek we cross, and I see the trout darting through the crystal clear water.  I hear the laughter of my friends as they fight their way through the trees because I accidentally led them off the path.  Hugs and smiles as we part at the end of the ride.

I sit on my deck, bundled in a coat and blanket, drinking coffee with new friends from Germany.  They are riveted by the night sky full of starts, which they havent seen in 20 years because of the light pollution in their city.   Think about that.  We gave them their first ride in a truck and their first ride in a Wrangler.  They were full of joy and awe as we drove Shelf Road through fall leaves as they stood in the back seat taking pictures.  Peter and Magda popped into my life unexpectedly (thank you Helene) and I am so grateful for the gift of time spent with them.

My children are smart, funny, loving human beings.

Not only does my husband love me, but we get to share our love for horses, riding and adventure.  He always, always says “great!” when I tell him more people are coming to stay with us.

Then there is my “Tribe”.  There is something magical about finding those people that just really “get” you.  There is no negativity, no backbiting, no jealousy.   Just love, support, acceptance and lots of laughter.  I had that with my peeps in Little Rock.  It wasn’t so easy to find after our move to Colorado but I sure have it now.

I don’t take these things for granted.  I am so very aware of how short life is.  I’ve lost friends this year to death.  I’ve cried while hearing about the loss of a child or a beloved pet.  There are people hurting because of fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, loss of a job, loss of a relationship.   Sickness, hardship, death, hurt.  All of those have been in my past.  Many will be in my future.

Being aware of my gifts, appreciating them, gives me the strength to get through those tough times.  I CHOOSE to emphasize the good in each day.   I CHOOSE to see the best in my friends, and to move into an outer circle those that want to drag me down.  I CHOOSE to savor the many little things that can bring a smile.

Now don’t think I’m all rainbows and unicorns.  I get frustrated.  I get hurt.  I get angry.  But I’m finding that if I am aware of all that I have to be grateful for, its easier to get over the bumps.  So every single day I breath deep and am grateful.

We went to a Jason Isbell concert at Red Rocks a few weeks ago.  Talk about a gift to really savor; sitting in that venue on a perfect Colorado night is about as good as it gets.  He played one of my favorite songs that includes these words:

Are you living the life you chose? Or are you living the life that chose you?

I smiled through tears.

I’m so lucky to be living the life I choose.







Parades and the Meaning of Life

I have a birthday coming up this week.   The number doesn’t matter, and I’m at a place in my life where I can say that with a straight face.

As I get closer to social security age, I realize that my happiness is my responsibility.

I’ve gone through some difficult periods in my life.   I’ve been alone.  Scared.  Hurt. Angry.

That is life.   Really, if you think you are going to get through this journey without anything negative or challenging happening, you are going to get a big surprise.

I was in a few relationships where the guy met everything that happened   with a “why me?”  It was always someone else’s fault.   Luckily I didn’t stay in those relationships very long.   I really don’t have a lot of patience with that attitude to tell you the truth.  Sometimes you just have to suck it up and get through it.   Which is not to say that I don’t wallow in self pity at times.  But I get over it.

Have you read any of the writings of Timber Hawkeye?

“I was drawn to the simplicity of Buddhism, which isn’t a religion at all but the philosophy that you will not be punished for your anger, you are punished BY your anger.  And if you’ve ever been really angry with someone then you know it’s punishment enough!  It is toxic and it terribly affects you and everyone around you.  Buddhism keeps reminding me that I’m the one responsible for my own mood; whats more liberating (and annoying) than that?  lol…sure it’s easier to blame other people but it’s not their fault!”

I still struggle with this one.

Steve is retired.  We spend virtually 24/7 together.  We both are Type A personalities and we both are used to managing people.   That, my friends, could have been a recipe for disaster.   And I’ll be the first to tell you that we have had some struggles in this past year learning how to boss each other around without offending each other.  Because trust me, neither one of us is going to stop being bossy.  Or a control freak.  And neither one of us likes to be bossed around.

I read recently that we are wired with a negativity bias .   That is why we focus on the prickly parts of relationships, the responsibilities of our job that aren’t fun, the little annoyances of daily life that can set our mood for the entire day.

Many years ago I realized that I gave to much weight to the little things, without creating balance with the positive.   The trick, however, was to be aware of the positive.   That took work to become a habit.  Being negative was easy, being positive…not so much.

But I had one of those aha! moments a few months ago and I started putting more effort into finding the positive than in wallowing in the negative.

I take deep breaths of my horses smell when I walk outside to see them.   I love watching the sunrise with my daughter as we wait for the bus, and she still wants to hug me as she gets out of the car.   I’m so appreciative of the good relationship with my children’s father Charles, we talk frequently and stay in each others home when we visit.  There is so much good in my life.

Steve and I now make it a habit to talk to each other about how happy we are, with each other and with out life.   Those conversations give us balance when we are pissy with each other.  The good times and good things overwhelming balance out our little annoyances.   The reality is neither one of us is going to make any big changes.   I like who I am.   Steve is who he is. Getting angry is a waste of time.

I have found my tribe.   My tribe of strong, intelligent women that I can laugh and cry with.  We have similar stories, similar interests.   But the important thing is that we accept each other as we are.  Let’s face it, we are most of us in our 50’s and 60’s, how much changing are we going to do?

Our Paso Fino club rode in a parade on Saturday.   Since I was a kid watching the Livestock Show Parade in Little Rock I’ve wanted to ride in a parade.  My daughter and her friend Amber were there carrying the banner. They filmed the parade for a Netflix movie with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.   And my tribe was with me as I rode.  It was a gorgeous Colorado day, both of my horses were in the parade, and I cried.  I actually sat on my horse as we lined up, looked around and really soaked in the experience and cried. And then we were off and I grinned and laughed the whole time.   How very lucky and blessed I am.


That afternoon we drove to Denver.   On the way traffic slowed to a stop.  Then a crawl.  We passed a group of people in the middle of I-25 Southbound performing CPR on an individual.   I couldn’t tell age or sex, but it didn’t look good.   A truck was upside down on the side of the freeway.  Ambulances had not arrived yet.

I cried again that day, with the realization of how quickly everything can change.  I don’t know if the person survived, or if they did with what injuries.  There was such a stark contrast to the joy I felt that morning, and the agony his loved ones would be facing.

More from Timber Hawkeye:

“Do you agree that we essentially create our own heaven or hell right here on earth?  If we go through life witha negative attitude, judgmental, opinionated, rude, mean, angry and resentful, then our lives would be miserable (though we’d blame everyone around us instead of taking responsibility for our own attitude).  But there is another way;  we can admit that it’s not other people’s job to maintain our inner peace, it is our own.

I choose to believe that we are all blessed, not cursed, and that everything is a lesson, not a punishment.  People aren’t obstacles in my way, they are all gifts for me to learn from and grow from.   But that’s just me…you can choose whatever attitude you want :)”

Not being in control is hard for me.   This philosophy puts the responsibility on ME to be happy.   I have to find what mantras work for me.  I can choose to get angry, or dissatisfied, or I can choose to be grateful.   Grateful is a lot more pleasant. I can’t control what others do or say, but I sure can choose how I react.  And I can choose my own self talk.

So my friend that has moved across the country and you haven’t found your tribe yet, keep looking.  Hug your horses and enjoy the beautiful green that you see.   And post more pictures of that beautiful grand baby.

My friend that is finding that your friend is not really your friend;  be grateful that you are wise enough to see through her and not be manipulated anymore.  Keep doing all the great work that you are doing, and don’t forget that you have a tribe that loves you.

I’m so very grateful to call you both my friend.  I’m so very grateful to being living this life that I have.


Pioneer Day Parade

My Sister Is A Cop

My little sister Tracey is a cop.  She started with the Little Rock Police Department as a cadet, and is now a Lieutenant.  She chose to spend all of her working career as a police officer, and God willing she will retire in a few years.  There is no way to express how proud I am of her.

I’ve watched her leave our house while we were all having dessert on Christmas because she had to go back on patrol.  I learned to never call her during the day when she was working night shift because she struggled so much with sleeping.  I’ve rearranged lunch dates because she had to testify in court, or got called out on an emergency.

She has worked patrol, undercover, homicide, robbery…the list goes on.  She has seen the very worst of humanity and what they can do to each other.   She tells me the crimes against children are always the worst, it never gets easier.

She has problems sleeping.  Do you wonder why?

How many of us leave our homes everyday with the knowledge we could be killed on the job?

She was married to a cop.  She is dating one now.  Who else would understand the pressure she is under, the hours she works except another cop?

So when I see the video of those police officers in Dallas running TOWARDS the gunfire, I think of my sister.  When I see the video of police officers pulling the bodies of their fallen brothers to safety I think of my sister.  When I see the video of the families of police officers crying at a funeral, I think of my sister.

And I cry.  Hot, wet tears for the pain that those families are going through.  For the realization that every day my sister goes to work could be her last day on earth because of what she does for a living.  I cry because I realize someone could target her because of her job, her chosen career to help others and to keep our society functional.

There is a problem in our country.  I know that there are some cops that make bad decisions, that are prejudiced.  I know for a fact that good police officers like my sister have a deep disdain for bad cops.  But the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers in this country are good people like Tracey.

I cannot begin to understand what it is like to be a person with non-white skin in this country.  I’m not black, or Asian, or Hispanic.  I’m a white middle class female and I know that it is different for me.  I’ve seen the sidelong looks when my “daughter from another mother” Kira is with me.   Kira is black.  I know that Kira, an active duty soldier with several tours in Iraq has experienced racism and prejudice.  But she doesn’t blame all whites.  She doesn’t blame all police officers.

As furious as I am about the hatred and blaming of police officers, I am equally furious that black people in our country are still discriminated against simple because they are clothed in different skin than I am.

Kira, Tracey and I have traveled together.  We have had many meals where we laughed until we cried.  We trust each other.  Because we know, really know, each other.

We aren’t unique.  Many people believe in racial equality and also support our police.

What does it take to put a real face on that person in uniform or the black man or woman walking down the street?

There is a video circulating on Facebook right now.   Watch it.  Please.

Then read what my sister Tracey said.

Wow. I don’t talk about my job very often on FB, but this video makes me want to say this….

I have been a proud member of law enforcement for 28 years. I am someone that loves my job, through all the ups and downs, this is what I was meant to do. I wanted to help people, I have done that. And I am proud of the work that I do. Yes, there are officers that abused their authority, there are officers that have made the wrong decisions. I have supervised officers and have recommended everything from oral reprimands, everything in between, and terminations. 95% of the officers I have worked with in the past, and work with now, have been professional, caring, and diligent officers. Numerous holidays/birthdays/family events have been missed because of shifts, emergencies, call outs-off duty jobs because kids needs braces/medical work/college, etc. these officers would do everything again for this job. Most of all, we have felt the loss and devastation when we have had an officer killed in the line of duty. A member of our family has been killed, so do not tell me I (or any officer) don’t know what you are going through. We do. On every officers mind-everyday when we put on the uniform (or in some cases, plain clothes), and we kiss our loved ones goodbye when we leave for our shift….will this be the last day I have with them? And yes, I would do it all again because this is what I was meant to do. I am of the belief-“All Lives Matter, Including Blue Lives”


Michelle and Tracey

I wish I had a solution.  I don’t.  But I do know that love and friendship between races and between cops and non-cops is possible because I see it in my family.  Maybe if we started looking beyond the surface we could see our family isn’t just black, or blue, or white.  It’s all colors.

And Tracey?  I love you and I am proud of you.  Stay safe.


Bucket List Item-Bryce Canyon on Horseback


We traveled with Bali and Clipper for about eleven hours to get to Panguitch, Utah.  They stayed at the Triple C Arena in covered stalls while we stayed for the first few nights at the Adobe Sands Motel and the last night at the Marianna.   I have to tell you, Adobe Sands was awful.  Dirty, small outdated rooms, and the pillows were the smallest, hardest piece of material I have ever tried to sleep on.   My backpack made a better pillow.  We moved to the Marianna when we decided to stay an extra night and the Sands was already books.   Although a hassle, it was well worth the additional $5.00 per night.

Our friends camped at the equestrian camp site in Red Canyon.   Next time we will camp also.  Four sites in a private area with water for the horses.  We made great new friends that we hope to ride with for many years.  Judi and Brad Bradbury, Shannon Whetsell and Jerry and Patti Boone were all camping so we spent several evenings at the campsite, and several at various places in town.  What a great experience it was!

I’ll be posting another video of the first two days riding, this video is of our Bryce Canyon ride.   Jerry and Patti had to head for home and were not able to make this ride, so it was just Judi, Shannon, Steve and I.   Arrangements had been made by Judi, our ride had to be scheduled with the park.  We met with a Park Ranger two hours before our start time.  He checked our paperwork and weed free hay, then sent us on our way.

So here is the video of one of my bucket list items.   Bryce Canyon, Utah while riding my boy Bali.   It doesn’t get much better than this.


FINISHED RENOVATION: Part 1. Repurposed Sideboard/Kitchen Island

I told a lot of people that I would post pictures and information on the blog about the renovation we did last year. I pretty much failed miserably at that.

Instead of doing a long blog about the whole thing, I decided to divide it up into little pieces. Much more manageable for me and certainly less overwhelming.

I guess it would be logical to start with walls coming down, or the new floor being put down. I’ll get to those. I decided to start with the repurposed kitchen island first because it has become of one the major items of discussion when people come over.

This was one of those cases where necessity was the mother of invention. I had bids from four different cabinet suppliers and all of the bids were way over budget. I didn’t want to drop the quality, because this is our forever house and I wanted what we did to last. I went with Tuscan Hills Cabinetry, which is a Costco supplier. I worked directly with Tuscan Hills, via telephone, photos, video, and computer. It was not an easy or fast process. But we got a discount, plus easy close drawers and doors, and plywood box construction. So in the end it was certainly worth it.

So I had this piece that I picked up in Florence, Colorado for $150.00. It is a sideboard, complete with velvet lined drawers for silverware. I liked it because it had clean lines without a lot of froufrou. I originally thought about using it for the master bathroom sink, but the more I looked at it the more it seemed to be a great piece for the kitchen island.

So I discussed the vision with Mike Baier, My Awesome Contractor. We measured. We taped the floor in the kitchen. We decided it could work.

Here is the piece before I started working on it.

Sideboard before

Sideboard before

Here it is during. Note the new construction in the background. We built another side to double the size of the island.

Sideboard During

I used Sherwin Williams primer on the old wood construction sideboard as well as the new oak new construction add on. Then I sanded some of it off. The new construction got some whacks with a heavy wrench so that it didn’t look so new.

Then I applied one coat of an aqua paint. Sanded some of that off. Then I applied the polyurethane. Guess what? The two pieces looked COMPLETELY different. The old stain and varnish from the sideboard caused a really cool green/aqua coloration. The new wood stayed aqua.

Well that was not going to work.

So I got out wood stain pens. You know, the kind you use to fix scratches on furniture? I applied stain, rubbed it in. Repeat. Mixed a few drops of brown paint into the Poly and applied. Rubbed some of that off. Applied some more. More rubbing off. Puddled some in the corners. When I finally got the look I wanted I went over all of it with one more coat of Poly.

island door

Then we brought both pieces upstairs and put them together.



In the new wood addition I have a keyhole for my stool so that I can sit while I prep vegetables. There is a small prep sink on one side, and an in the countertop compost bucket on the other side. I love this and am so glad I did it. In the space on either side are paper towels, and cutting boards on the other side.



Deep space for Food Saver storage etc..

finish buIMG_6677


The cost of the oak for the new construction was less than $100.00.  The cost of the paint was negligable.  Granted, I spent a lot of hours working on the finish, but that was a labor of love.  In the end, we got a very functional, custom island for a fraction of the cost of new cabinet construction.

January 8, 2015, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Relationships | Tags: , , , ,

“If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him/her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.”
C. JoyBell C

I’d like to say that I have never experienced the emotion of hate.  But I have, as I am sure many of you have.

Keely gets upset and is quick to say “I HATE (insert name, activity etc…).   At age 12, HATE is easy to conjure up because it is pure emotion.  She may hate Noodles the pig because she peed on her rug, but in fifteen minutes she is snuggling with her.   Emotions between friends are volcanic at that age, I just listen to her and know that the person she never wants to see again will probably be at our house next weekend.

I did the same thing.  When I was younger.

As I got older, circumstances and actions had to be pretty severe for me to even get close to that emotion of hate. Once I got there, it was really hard to get over it.

But over the years I learned some things:

I learned that I really don’t like the dark and negative emotion of hate.

I don’t like the fact that hate puts me in someone else’s control.

I don’t like that giving in to hate takes away the light and happy that is my life.

There have been a few people in adulthood that I have truly hated.   Except for the most recent, I felt a righteous and justified anger at their actions.  I was the victim!  They were evil!    Since I don’t have any contact with them it has been relatively easy to let go of that hate.  As I write this, I can honestly say that I don’t wish the plague on them anymore, and hope they are doing well.

I have struggled over the last few years with my feelings about someone.   I have to be honest and say that she is the injured party.  I was sorry that she had been hurt.   There are all kinds of whys and wherefores for what I did, but her anger was justified.  The thing is she never stopped being angry.  For years.

She attacked.  She crafted comments to my blogs, which I never posted.  She either made up names or used someone else’s emails to continue blasting me when it became inadvisable for her to comment under her own name.   This went on for years.    I got tired of being attacked.  I got pissed.  I got angry.  It became very easy to feel justified for what had happened, and I certainly didn’t feel sorry for her anymore.  I never emailed her, I never responded.   But boy did I have some conversations in my head!  It was easy to hate her.  But it wasn’t an active hate.   The only time it reared its head was in response to one of her attacks.

Last year it happened again, but this time I responded and I confronted her, we had a flurry of emails back and forth and then it was done.   I blocked her email and went on with life.  Getting the chance to respond directly to her was cathartic.

I’ve seen a side of her that I imagine very few of her friends or family have seen.   What I saw was the angry and vengeful side of her.  And that is all I saw.  I didn’t see funny.   I didn’t see helpful.  I didn’t see loving or loyal or all the other things I’m sure she is.

A few days ago I got a friend request from her on FB.   Well that was a shocker.   Was this a mistake?     I thought about it for a bit, and yes curiosity got the best of me.   I accepted the request, but I also sent her a message asking if it was a mistake.    I took the opportunity to look at her FB page.

She is in a relationship.  She loves her kids and grandkids.   She has friends.  She does a lot of outdoor activities.  She cares about the environment, she likes beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  She felt pain when she lost her dog.

She responded to my message pretty quickly, yes it had been a friend request made by mistake.

But I’m glad it happened, and I’m glad a took some time to see her as perhaps closer to who she really is, rather than the person I made her into in response to the hate and anger in her emails.

Now I know FB is not a real picture of our lives.  But I took ten minutes to get a glimpse of her world, and you know what?   I was really glad to see that she is happy and doing well.  I hope that she is able to fill her life with good and healthy emotions now.  Sometimes doors have to be closed in order for others to open.   I would venture to say that all of the parties involved are happier now.

So what is my point?

Hurtful things can be done and said.  I’ve got a couple of friends that are going through this right now.  It’s very human to react, and then it escalates.   There is a strong need in us to have the last word, to tie all of the hurt and anger into a neat package, deliver it, and to walk away.

But it NEVER happens that way.   The recipient ties up their own vicious package and pretty soon it is game on.   Even if the direct communication stops, there are conversations in your head.   Admit it.   How much time are you investing in that failed relationship? How much time discussing with friends?  How much time have you spent looking them up on the internet or Facebook?   And what could you be doing with that time?  You will never get it back.  Think about that.   Think about all that time spent on something negative.

I’ve said this many times.   No one is all bad.   Or all good.   Take an honest look at the other person and realize that God put them on this earth for a reason and He loves them.  They are not all bad.  They hurt, and fear, and love.  Maybe they don’t share your core values.   Maybe they lashed out at you and said or did deeply hurtful things.   You don’t have to love them or even like them.   But don’t hate them.

Perhaps they were put in your life to teach you some lessons and allow you to grow.  So absorb that lesson learned and move on.  And yes, I know this is much easier said than done.   Sometimes it takes years.

The Other Shoulder Surgery Looms
December 16, 2014, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , , ,

The other shoulder replacement surgery got moved up a week.

At first, I wasn’t really happy when I got the call that the surgery had been moved to December 23, and now it just happens to be two days before Christmas.

However, after thinking about it a little bit I realized this date works out better.

I’ll be ready to resume riding and other activities one week earlier.

Steve will be off work a lot for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Keely will be out of school.

My first call was to Steve, we talked about the pros and cons of the date change, but in reality I didn’t have much choice.
I hung up the phone and read my email. There was a message from Charles saying that if the weather cooperated he would drive up to spend Christmas with us and do all the cooking. Well that could not have come at a better time, because I was about to call my friend Tina and tell her she would be doing ALL of the cooking at Christmas.

So I called Charles, told him the date had been changed and that it was great he was going to be coming.

“Well, it sounds to me like you would not want me to be there. You won’t feel well, and you won’t want to do anything for Christmas”

“Charles, I’ll be fine on Christmas day if I don’t have to cook.”

“But you will only get home the day before, you won’t feel like doing anything”

“Charles, when I had the other surgery we left the hospital, drove to Canon City, dropped off the pain med prescription and then went to lunch. I got home four hours after being released from the hospital. Kira and Rita came to stay for a week, arriving two days after my surgery. We went to Breckenridge and came home on a very bumpy Shelf Road four days after my surgery. I will be fine. If I don’t feel like socializing all day, I can go to bed and you won’t get your feelings hurt. But the one thing that you really have to understand is that Steve. Does. Not. Cook.”

There was silence for a minute.

“OK. I get your point. We can plan out the menu later, but I’m coming”

And it works out really well because he can fly in and use my truck for the time that he is here, because I don’t think I’ll want to drive that first week or two.

Today was my last day at PT until December 29. I’ve had eleven physical therapy sessions and I could not be happier with my progress. I can raise my arm to 120 degrees in the front, 110 on the side. There is no pain. It’s fairly functional. I’m doing some really ugly yoga at home to get more flexibility and strength in my arm and shoulder. And I have another week for it to get better before I lose the use of my right arm.

So yes, it will suck to be me for a few weeks. And then every day I will see range of motion and strength returning. That is what I am focusing on, the relatively quick return to full function that I will have in the next few months.

I’ve been practicing driving with the operated shoulder arm. It works.