My name is Annie Lindgren, author and owner of Sunshine Ink LLC, and here is a condensed version of the road that led me to Sunshine Ink. One of these days this will expand into a book….

I was born in the early 1980’s in rural Missouri and spent the majority of the first 23 years of my life, in Kearney, Missouri. I grew up on a farm that belonged to my grandfather. It was originally a plantation, built in the 1840’s, and was 120 acres full of ponds, creeks, trees, gardens, animals, barns and outbuildings, and a never-ending supply of things to explore and learn about. My grandfather was an avid gardener, and the yards were filled with beautiful flowers, vegetables, orchards of fruit and nut trees, and berries bushes.

My parents were foster parents to other children, so I had several foster siblings, and other kids that visited us on the weekends or in times of emergency. We held neighborhood holiday parties and life was filled with friends, family, and neighbors. Us kids, including my brother of two years younger, spent our days outdoors playing and exploring, coming in for family meals when we heard the dinner bell ring. My family was heavily involved in various horse activities, that led to traveling around the Midwest for shows and trail-rides and participating in parades at home. Life was rich with experience, and adventure was encouraged.

When I was 10, my life turned upside down, when my grandfather passed, and my parents divorced. My mother had met another man, and my brother and I went to live with our father, in town. I still visited mom’s farm and was involved in a lot of horse activities which saved my life during those years. I did competitive trail riding for 6 years, earning first in the nation in 1993, and winning many awards with my Arabian gelding Tibor, who I also showed in 4H at home. Home life at dad’s was one of absence, as dad worked a lot as a single dad, and spent a lot of time in front of the TV in the reclusive life of a spent man. Home life at mom’s quickly filled with trauma that would change my life forever.

When I was 16, life turned upside down again, as the trauma at mom’s house ended in a stepdad sent to jail, and a dad who swooped in to help an out of control teen on a suicidal path. I dropped out of high school. I became pregnant. Mom moved two states away. I became a single mom. My dad supported me the best he could, by turning the downstairs of our home into an apartment, while also cutting me off financially, and teaching me the importance of earning a living and managing money wisely. The father of my child was abusive, and visits ended, along with child support, when my son was 3 years old. Which was the same year that my dad was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma. It took less than 3 years for the cancer to spread throughout his body and take his life, but not after a long road of doctors’ visits, taking care of him on my own, and watching the man who loved me like no other fade away slowly and degradingly. I was 23 when he died, and my son had just turned 6.

I had obtained my GED when I was 18, and started community college, but it took me 5 years to get my associates degree since I was only taking 1 or 2 classes a semester. I had been working 40-60 hours a week in the restaurant business, starting when I was 16, with a goal to save money and move to Colorado, a state that I had been obsessed with since I was 6, and that contained my true happy place, the mountains.

Dad’s death kicked my life in to a gear of determination and focus that it hadn’t quite possessed before. I was officially completely on my own, and if anything happened to me, I don’t know what would happen to my son, so I had to do my very best. I had already been accepted to Park University, for a bachelor’s in psychology, when dad died, and I started classes 3 months later. I worked very hard in school, graduating with departmental honors, a 4.0GPA, a published research article, and ‘teaching assistant and tutor’ on my resume. Right after dad’s death, I got in to a relationship with a man who made a great stepdad and partner in that time in my life.

My husband, son, and I moved to Colorado a week after I graduated, in May of 2007. We bought a farm in Wellington, Colorado, a rural small town that was near enough to universities with graduate programs I was interested in, and with land affordable enough to allow us to purchase 40 acres. I had inherited my dad’s house in Missouri, which I had still been living in, and I used the money from that sale as a down payment on the farm. We brought two dogs, three horses, and a cat from Missouri with us, and soon added donkeys, llamas, and more horses.

I found a job right away working as a counselor at a residential treatment center for teenage girls, located in Fort Collins. This organization helped teens dealing with substance abuse and legal issues, and I quickly became the Case Manager for the girl’s home. I loved this job, enjoyed working with at-risk teens, and learned so much from my clients.

My marriage didn’t last long, and my husband had moved out by February of 2009. I had been emotionally numb for the past decade, and while we both had a role in the demise, I had been in no place to be a good partner. I found a therapist and started working on my past. I also started building an awesome support network of friends.

My son was 8 when we moved to Colorado, but he started struggling behavioral when he was 3. He bullied other kids and had a habit of lying and being destructive. As he got older, his behaviors continued, and led to him being a disruption at school, unsafe when angry, and rarely complying with schoolwork. I sought therapeutic intervention, that led to medication and a variety of services designed to help. I had minimal support in parenting him, outside of his support team at school. By the age of 11, he was starting to get in trouble with the law. My son was very smart and active, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). At home, he stayed busy with riding bikes, 4H, horses, dogs, chickens, constantly inventing things, and adventuring with mom. At school, he showed very little interest in activities, but the teachers saw his intelligence, and enjoyed his personality, and he managed to skate through each school year without being held back.

I loved my job working with at-risk teens but working for a nonprofit didn’t mean a lot of income, and I was taking care of a child and a farm on my nonprofit income. I burnt through my savings and reached a point where I would lose my farm if I didn’t gain a better paying job, so I started applying, and found a job working as an Intake Caseworker for Child Welfare. I was a first responder when calls came in about allegations of abuse and neglect of children. The pay was much better, as were the benefits, but the work was more stressful, and I had a long commute. Two months after starting this job, I started a distance learning master’s degree program at Park University (the school in Missouri I had received my bachelor’s degree from), for a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs with emphasis in Nonprofit and Community Services Management. I wanted to be on the administrative side of a nonprofit, and possibly start my own equine assistant therapy center. I graduated a semester early, with a 4.0GPA.

At age 13, during a therapy session, my son’s therapist suggested he write his dad a letter that he would never send. This got me thinking that it might be time to track down his dad and see if he had gotten his life together. I found a man in a better place, eager to reconnect with his son. He moved to Colorado, and my son’s life would change for the better as a result. He became confident and secure in his worthiness. He stopped needing medications, stopped getting in trouble at school, and stopped getting in trouble with the law. My son and I’s relationship, at home, was still a challenge, but I focused on giving him the tools he would need to be a successful adult, and I appreciated the supportive network of understanding humans that I gained through his paternal family.

I had been going too hard for too long, and in May of 2014, my train completely derailed. I was burnt out after 3 years of being a caseworker, and I had a particularly challenging Child Welfare case that was the straw that broke this camel’s back. I took 5 weeks off work, had 11 sessions with a psychiatrist, and returned in a different position within the agency, that was different enough to allow me to stay on for another 3 years. I hadn’t recovered from my burn out, but was continuing to have a positive impact, and was learning to live life at a more reasonable pace. I missed the nonprofit world and started applying for jobs on the administrative side of things.

Life had some major changes and events, starting in 2017, that set my life on the path it is currently on.  I received a well-timed job offer for a part time position at a nonprofit job in my hometown. I took the job but had to cash in my retirement to pay off some debt in order to afford a part time job income. It was a giant leap, but my quality of life due to my prior career path had not been good, and I felt I had nothing to lose.

Between jobs, I took a 3 1/2-week trip to Nepal, my first trip to another country as an adult, and a trip that would change me, and my understanding of what is truly important in life. While I was in Nepal, my son turned 18, and shortly after I returned, he decided he was ready to move out on his own. I was 35. I hadn’t planned past ‘get the kid raised to adulthood.’

My new job was challenging in ways I hadn’t expected, and I quickly became the Executive Director. I made many new connections in the community, had some amazing experiences that I will never forget, and enjoyed the flexibility of a part time job. Stress at home had not subsided, as I was taking care of a 40-acre farm full of animals by myself (my son had been a big help while he lived there). At the time, I had 3 horses, 2 donkeys, a potbellied pig, a big flock of chickens, 5 goats (that I was breeding), cats and a dog. I worked hard, still had a long to-do list, and found myself escaping to the mountains or to adventure any free time I had. I no longer made time to ride horses. I had friends to backpack, hike, cycle, and travel with, so I did that instead.

After some failed attempts to lease my farm, I decided to re-home all my animals and sell my farm. It was a very hard decision to make, but I was burnt out on taking care of it. I found really good homes for all my animals, was able to keep all the species groups together, and even find a few homes that took multiple groups. I managed to downsize my life and belongings from a 40-acre farm to a one bedroom apartment and pulled it off in 3 month’s time. The property value had gone up considerably since I purchased the farm, and with the extra money I made from the farm sale, I was able to pay off all my debt, and put a hefty chunk in savings for the future. I was lucky to get in to an apartment in the same town, in the top of a big beautiful barn, on a Clydesdale farm, with a perfect view of the front range.

I had much more time on my hands, without the farm, so I began front loading my work month, and taking the last week off work every month, to travel. This was often through road trips with my dog, or trips with friends. By this point, I had fallen in love with hiking, mountain climbing, and backpacking, and was expanding my explorations to states outside of Colorado, spending time in Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming, and eventually Montana, and Washington. I took a two-week trip to Alaska, backpacking Denali with friends. Adventuring was becoming my very favorite thing to do, and plan for, and the more I saw, the more I wanted to see.

I have dated many men since my divorce, but none lasting long or seeming right, with plenty of heartbreaks in the midst. I remain single, and while there is a part of me who wants a partner to do life with, there is another part of me that is not willing to settle until I find the perfect (for me) one. I love the freedom of the single life, and how it encourages me to have a wonderful network of friends who I can spend time with, lean on in times of struggle, and engage with in times of celebration. Life gets lonely and dating sucks, but an independent life is full of opportunities, and some day an opportunity will lead me to my special someone.

My son was successful on his own, learned the value of working hard and being independent, and our relationship became so much better when I no longer had to ‘parent’ him. He has an apartment, a career path, and a girlfriend of over 4 years. We go adventuring together, spend holidays together, and he lets me crash on his couch when I have mountains to climb near his part of Colorado. I am so incredibly proud of the young man he has grown in to and am grateful for the relationship we have.

I was learning who I was, and for the first time in my life, it was all about me, learning to love myself, and figuring out what it would take to feel happy. I had a nagging loss of purpose. My son didn’t need me, I no longer had a farm full of animals to take care of, and my career path had moved away from ‘helping people’. I was still single. Life felt like a blank slate overwhelmingly full of opportunities and lacking in direction. I loved the person I was becoming in adventure and I was feeling increasingly more and more dissatisfied with the person I was becoming at work. I had started writing articles for publication in a local newspaper, and it quickly became my favorite part of my job. I had always enjoyed writing and had taken a two-year writing program in my mid 20’s. I was burnt out on all other aspects of my job, for a variety of reasons, and the burn out was impacting my health. After two and a half years as the Executive Director of Wellington Main Streets Program, I put in my notice, and supported the organization in hiring my replacement.

Then, I had no job, several trips planned, money in savings to live off for a while, and a strong desire to become a freelance writer. There was so much uncertainty, another huge leap of faith, and a wide range of opportunities gradually narrowed down to this very focus. Sunshine Ink. My next life changing adventure, and opportunity to nurture talents that have remained dormant through my years of living a life of serving others. I love to write, take pictures, and create art. I love to teach and inspire. I love adventuring.

Life is a journey, and it is up to us as individuals, to make the very best of it. No one can do that for us. People can try and take it from us, but we have the choice to persevere and stand our ground. My goal is to use my journey to help others along theirs. My plan is to see as much of the world as I can in the time I have left, and to experience life to the fullest. My hope is that others will join me, as I live my best life forward.