Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wrapped in my Memory like Chains

When my friend Terrill died last July I found it really soothing to listen to a song titled "Wrapped in My Memory" by Shawn Smith. He wrote it when a mutual friend died in 1990 so it's nice that I know the story behind it. But it also makes me think of Terrill, especially the line "before you started to fade, you gave me something to believe in." One of the biggest lessons I learned from Terrill was to enjoy life. She also had an autoimmune disease (Chron's) and that didn't slow her down or hurt her attitude. Even brain cancer didn't hurt her positive attitude. I feel like I learned so much by her example. You'd have to meet her to really understand how happy and friendly she was and it wasn't in a fake-cheerleader way, she really was that happy and caring and friendly. Not saying she didn't have terrible days but she didn't dwell on it.

After the first day of school my daughter and another little girl insisted I meet the other little girl's parents because they were "going to best friends". It turns out the little girl's mother, Susan has that same happy, caring spark that Terrill had. She just loves life and is very caring without all the walls and pretensions that are so normal these days. I wonder if it is because Susan is from Ireland and Terrill was from a tiny town in South Dakota called Miller. A town so small you had to drive an hour just to get to a movie theater. It makes me wonder a lot about American culture and "city culture" and how we really are compared to how we think of ourselves.

On my long drives out to see Girlfriend I've been listening to books on tape to make the drives less drudgery. I got half way through Scandalmongers and then had to return it to the library. But I hadn't thought about the founding fathers of our nation in a long time and how there were lots of fights about "immigrants" and battles over how the government should be run. And lots of backbiting and name calling and everything that still happens today. It makes me wonder if we are a country based and run solely on rhetoric and propaganda. What if our country is a house of cards created by slogans and ideologies that run no deeper than a lobbyist's pocket book.

Anyway, I had to take that book on tape back because it was overdue and had some holds on it. Now I'm listening to Chosen By a Horse which is a memoir of a woman who fosters a rescue horse. It's told in that "talking with a friend over coffee" way that is really easy to read or in this case listen to. And anything horse-like I really enjoy. It surprises me at the same time how much the writer doesn't understand how horses think, but then I've noticed lots of people who grew up with horses don't seem to understand horse mentality. I think it's because they don't ever need to learn it. The only reason I've been learning it is because when I asked my instructor if there was any way I could one day be a trainer she said, "Yes - but you need to ride as many horses as you can and read every book on horses you can get your hands on."

In other news, chickens really like pumpkin guts. I discovered that first hand yesterday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Something I'll have to get used to

So, here's something I'm going to need to learn to get used to when we move to the country: driving down long, dark, foggy, abandoned highways in the foothills. I had a meeting with one of the horse rescues last night up in Monroe. I've only driven back to Seattle from Monroe at night once and it was really foggy and creepy driving that 20 miles of Hwy 522 from Monroe to the north part of Bothell where there are no streetlights and it's pitch black. Except for the fog. Last night it was really foggy too which was creepy. I think I would've really disliked driving that stretch of highway except that I have driven it so many times in the day time that I know exactly where I'm going.

It reminded me of driving to Sacramento, CA in 1993. We were driving through the mountains in central Oregon and my traveling companion, Ben, had fallen asleep. We'd been listening to Dead Can Dance "Toward the Within" and it was around 1am and very foggy. All of the sudden I started imaging that any minute "Bob" from Twin Peaks was going to suddenly jump down from the cliffs onto the hood of my car. My imagination can really go wild in the dark in the woods. An old friend did a non-scientific survey in the early 1990's, of what women from the Pacific NW are afraid of if they're alone in the woods. Most women from other parts of the country would say "Bears, cougars, etc." but women who grew up in the Pacific NW in the 70's and 80's (including myself) are afraid of serial killers in the woods far more than wild animals.

The drive from Monroe to Bothell on 522 is really beautiful during the day. The highway is mostly lined with huge trees, although there is one spot a few miles before the first Monroe exit to Main Street, where you come to a clearing as you cross a bridge over the Skykomish River. JP did comment that he wouldn't mind living under that bridge although I think he may have meant more in the troll sense than in the farm sense.

Meanwhile, back in civilization (or so some would call it) I was told today by Jeremy while at coffee hour at church, that my chickens are probably not laying eggs because they are nervous. At first, with his twangy Oklahoma accent, I thought I should listen to him. Then I realized I don't know where he's from in Oklahoma and if he's from Oklahoma City he may not know anything more about chickens than I do. I said this to JP and Emma June piped up, "No Mama, it's because they're young," with such certainty that I figure I may as well believe her in her 5 year old wisdom. Also, lots of farms (including Sheryl's where I got my chickens) have dogs. Sheryl has three dogs that wander around her farm. So, they aren't nervous because of the pitbull. And the raccoons don't seem to come around because of the pitbull.

On a side note, "pitbull" is a term that came from bull dogs bred to fight in the pits. My dog was obviously bred to sleep on the couch. So from here on out she will be referred to as "the couchbull".

I'm doing the finances for the horse rescue that my vet started and last night I got all the books of receipts and incorporation documents and IRS correspondence to bring home and go through. I'm the only one on the board who doesn't live in the Monroe/Sultan/Gold Bar area and I muttered, "If I could find a job up here I'd move here and be much more available," and Hannah (my vet - the board president) said, "What kind of job???" in that hopeful tone like it would be easy for me to find a job that would support our family and thus convince my husband we should move there. So, if anyone living in Monroe/Sultan/Arlington/Stanwood knows of a job that comes with medical benefits for a bookkeeper/accountant, or wrangling horses or working with animals in any capacity do let me know. Sigh. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But I've been scouring craigslist for months and have not found a good job for myself in that area.


Friday, October 23, 2009

English riding has kicked my ass

I had a riding lesson today in completely English tack: English saddle, English snaffle bit, the works. I was actually very afraid to get on Girlfriend for fear she'd freak out and rebel against the snaffle. But my instructor told me to get over so I got on her and things went ok. Ok, as in I didn't fall off. The saddle I was using is a dressage saddle so apparently not the easiest English saddle. A couple times I lost my balance and pitched forward a little and my instructor said that in an all-purpose English saddle I'd be less likely to do that. I'm curious how the shape of two types of English saddle would be so different that my balance would be better. Since an English saddle is this little slippery piece of leather with tiny little metal bars that claim to be stirrups as opposed to a big suede seat with huge thick leather stirrups like my barrel racing saddle. But hey, I learned English as a kid so it should come back to me despite these teeny little wisps of saddles.

So, my lesson kind of kicked my ass especially after my run day before yesterday. I do fine except when Girlfriend starts freaking out and trying to run when I want her to do a nice slow posting trot. Mostly it takes its toll on my back from me trying to balance. I don't realize how much I'm using my back muscles until after I get off and feel very ... "ooof". There was one point where I lost my stirrup and Girlfriend was really fighting me - throwing her head up and down and snorting and breaking her trot to canter over and over, so I stopped her to a walk. My instructor got frustrated and said, "Every time something gets hard you get scared and stop! I'm sorry but it's true! How are you ever going to improve if you don't try to push past your comfort zone?" I know that's true riding but I also see how that is a struggle in all of my life. I do push myself past my comfort zone quite frequently, but there are some things I stubbornly hold onto my status of being afraid of them. One thing that is really encouraging is that every time my instructor tells me to push myself to try things in riding that are scary for me, I know she really believes I can do it because she's so blunt and will not say something "to be nice". And she has no problem saying, "You're not ready to do that," about something. Like jumping. I am definitely not ready to jump again yet. That wasn't actually an issue last year when I swore I was never going to jump again. It was one thing to fall into a jump when I was 11 years old, but it sounds very painful now that I'm 42 and have rheumatoid arthritis. But I've decided to work back up to doing that again. Not on my horse though. The crazed little Western girl that she is. The other thing that rocks is that after my lesson she said, "You did a really good job!" which means she actually thought that. I could not see how I did a good job so of course I think she meant "You did a really good job not falling off."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My mom is having more fun than me

I was driving to work in Pioneer Square this morning and decided to call my mom and see how she's doing (with my hands free headset so back off!). She answered on her cell and kept breaking up and saying, "We're just outside of -something something- Utah. We're heading to a -something crackly- animal rescue. We've been wanting to visit for quite awhile now ..." Then she completely broke up and said she'd call from the motel tonight. It sounded a lot more fun than going to work.

In 1988 I lived in Pioneer Square briefly. Yes, me who wants to live out in the woods lived in a loft in Pioneer Square. I lived with a girl named Lisa - spelled Leesa - who wanted to be a model. We didn't have a refrigerator but since it was winter we just put everything perishable on the fire escape outside. Every morning we would go across the street to the Grand Central Bakery for our coffee and bagels. Well, I had a bagel but "Leesa" didn't eat because she wanted to be a model. We'd also hug the trees in the cobblestone square outside the bakery. I was mortified deep down inside when I first heard the expression "tree hugger" a few years later.

I brought my dog to work with me because my clients are at a conference in Santa Fe so I figured I could use some company. She is kind of a sensitive little pitbull girl and was very nervous with all the people and traffic and noise from the viaduct right above us. I was trying to find a grassy place for her to "go potty" and I couldn't find one. It's so odd to me that the ground is all concrete down there. It's just really really weird and disconcerting. It is also really dirty in a gross sort of way - not in a cool, muddy sort of way. When I've gone up to Monroe to help muck stalls for the 20 or so horses at the rescue farm, I feel like washing my hands before I eat something, but in Pioneer Square I feel like washing my hands every time I touch something. Earlier in the week when I went to work down there there was blood on the parking meter.

On a happier note I went jogging yesterday for the second time in over six years. I used to really like running even though I've never been very good at it. Now I'm horrible at it because I've been laid up so much in the last five years from the rheumatoid arthritis. Yesterday was the perfect conditions for running though. It was raining but not really cold so it was actually refreshing that it was raining. After about three blocks (ok - stop laughing! Keep in mind that two years ago pre-arthritis-medicine I couldn't even walk a block because I was in so much pain!) "Rearview Mirror" by Pearl Jam came up on my iPod and it was the perfect running song. Besides that it is my "emancipation from assholes" song, it also has a rhythm that goes quite well with my slow jogging pace. I seriously had a moment of feeling all gleeful and endorphin-y where I could've easily started singing at the top of my lungs ... except I would like to not have my neighbors be afraid of me and I'm not a good singer.

Next week is Halloween. I'm not sure, but I think I missed my window (again!) this year to plant my cover crop in the vegetable garden.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

chicken appetites, white line disease and spider dreams

I used to have reoccurring nightmares about spiders. The scariest was about twenty years ago when I had a dream that giant spiders were flying at me and my brother in our parent's old living room and we kept holding up encyclopedias to repel them. I told my brother that dream and he said it made him feel sick. There have been many other dreams since then but they have gotten less and less disturbing over the years. Last night I had a dream that I looked down behind my bed and saw two bird-eating spiders sleeping in their nest. Instead of feeling horrified I thought, "They're kind of cute. Like fuzzy stuffed animals. But I think I will remove them anyway." It reminded me of something I'd forgotten from about ten years ago: for years I had nightmares that I was trying to escape my parent's house and I was trying to get to the front door but couldn't move and danger was impending. Eventually, I made it out the door in those dreams, and eventually, I had a dream I was running down the street, and that was the last time I ever had that particular re-occurring dream. I guess my brain is pretty literal.

I saw my old best friend from middle school days on Sunday and she told this really funny story about when her oldest daughter's pet tarantula, Dr. Phil, escaped once and was lost in their house for 16 hours. I just think it's so cool that her 17 year old daughter has a tarantula named Dr. Phil.

It's been very hard figuring out what my chickens will and will not eat (besides chicken mash). I was told they love lettuce but apparently mine do not. They do like spinach. And only Alina seems to like slugs although both she and Janey like earwigs. I keep pulling up weeds and tossing them into their run but they're not interested in very many of them. They like fennel. I've been trying to figure out what kind of small plants to plant in their run but so far all the lists on the internet tell me what they won't eat but not what they will eat. They are also not laying eggs. They're getting bigger every day either because they are still growing or because they are bloating up from all those unlaid eggs.

There is a horse I'm thinking of adopting and I need to talk to my farrier about whether or not she does hot shoeing because he is recovering from a disease in his hoof called white line disease. I need to figure out what the difference between hot shoeing and cold shoeing is. When my farrier comes out they heat up the metal then pound it into shape to fit the horses hoof but I'm not sure if that's "hot shoeing". If it is - then how do they shape the shoe to fit the horses hoof if the metal is cold? I imagine I could google all this to find out. One thing I can say is that I do not have dreams of being a farrier. Cleaning my horses hooves is not my favorite chore and I don't feel like I need a job where getting stepped on by a half ton creature is a regular on-the-job hazard. Or where I can guarantee that at one point or another I'm going to get kicked.

Speaking of horses, I went out to see Girlfriend and rode her with the English saddle again. I'm thinking that is what I'm going to use from now on because I feel so comfortable in it now and I do think I ride better. When I started riding again in summer 2008 after 20-some years off, the first time I got on one of Sheryl's lesson horses in an English saddle I felt really far up off the ground and really unstable. But today I got on Girlfriend and she was feeling really ancy, so as soon as my butt was in the saddle she tried to take off. I didn't even have my right foot in the stirrup yet but was still balanced enough to keep her at a trot, then get her to slow to a walk. And I still felt secure and balanced. It's so huge what a difference there is in how I feel even though the saddle is the same and I'm on a much more difficult horse to ride. I wish I could convey to everyone who's never ridden a horse how great it feels to master a sense of balance on a horse. It kind of makes one feel very powerful and very accomplished. Even if one - like me - still has a long way to go to be a particularly good rider.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My first time on stilts

Tonight was family game night at my daughter's grade school. The PE teacher puts it together with all the stuff they do in PE out plus tables with games and puzzles. Is it a rule that all PE teacher's have to be hot? Anyway, the most exciting game we played in gym when I was a kid was dodge ball or this crab game where you scooted around on your butt on these square skate-boardy kinda things that hurt like hell if you ran over your fingers. At my daughter's school they ride unicycles, walk on stilts, play with poi sticks, and learn to juggle.

I was in the obligatory cluster of moms while our daughter dragged her dad around showing him stuff, so I decided I needed to try out the stilts. Thankfully, the other moms decided they also needed to. It was actually really fun and by the time we left I'd gotten the hang of it. I kind of got the hang of the poi sticks too after much obsessing. There was also a big rubber bell-looking thing you balanced on a string between two sticks but I stayed away from it after my neighbor said, "Look! I can throw it up in the air and catch it again!" then next thing I heard was, "Aaaack! Julia!" and the thing came crashing down on my head. There will be some neighborly revenge for that one! (I'm still plotting ... I'll get back to you when I come up with something ...)

Met a couple kids from Emma June's class who she'd liked to have playdates with. One of their moms started in on a huge diatribe about how awful our kindergarten teacher is. I tried to shrug it off with "It's just kindergarten ..." and she said, "That's what I thought but listen ..." then I tuned out, but it was basically why our children will never excel in an ivy league schools because there are no goldfish in the classroom or something like that. I started to get stressed about it and almost blurted out, "So, what's the plan? Do you want to start a revolution?" then thought better of it because my daughter really likes her daughter. Then I decided I'm just not going to get involved. In retrospect I should've said, "Wow, that sounds very frustrating for you. Here! Try the stilts! They're really fun!" For the record I really ilke my daughter's kindergarten teacher and what's more important my daughter really likes her.

People kind of drive me crazy. I think my lesson in life is to not let them get to me. I don't know if people drive others so crazy or if I'm just really cranky and pissy by nature? Even when I was a kid I preferred the company of animals over many people. I still do. A couple days ago I decided that I am going to take seriously my wish to one day make my living working with animals - whatever capacity that turns out to be. I'd like it to be training horses or dogs but I have yet to find out how I could afford to work as an apprentice for years to do that. I'm just keeping my eyes and ears open to whatever opportunities I can find and hoping it will work out.

When I talk to Sheryl - my riding instructor - it validates that I'm on the right path though. I've been listening (probably more than she realizes) to what she tells me and have been reading a lot of books about how horses think and what the mentality of a prey/herd animal is compared to say me - who is basically a solitary predator. Not a pack animal. Far too cranky to be a pack animal. But what is weird is I do like to meet people and always naively look at all new people as potential new friends. Wow. I just totally diverged from the initial theme of this paragraph in one fell swoop. My old Honors English teacher Mrs. Hawthorne is probably cringing somewhere as we speak.

On a happy note, I'm going to go look at a used kayak for sale tomorrow. Yay! Kayaking is one of my favorite new hobbies even though I've only done it a handful of times now. And I would must rather be kayaking in the San Juan islands than say in the Puget Sound off Alki or Shilshole or in Lake Union. But I'll take kayaking there over not kayaking at all. Here is a picture to remind of me a moment when I was very very happy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Little Heathens

I've been listening to a book on tape called Little Heathens while I'm driving. It is very interesting and kind of fucking with mind in regard to consumerism and materialism. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by how much "stuff" we have. It makes me think of the song "Society" by Jerry Hannan that Eddie Vedder sings in the soundtrack of Into the Wild. By the way, I don't think the kid in Into the Wild was a hero. I think he was foolish and arrogant and probably disturbed and he made a lot of foolish decisions without any real preparation.

So, I have been thinking a lot about consumer culture lately. Especially because I want to help Emma June grow up not being brainwashed by it. JP is definitely a lot more frugal than I am and always has been and I don't think I've listened to that as much as I could have over the last 14 years we've been together. Although, I'm still not going to eat some of the food that is old enough to be scary that he will. But that's a different family argument. Still, I've been having flashes lately of just how consumer driven our culture is. Even our economy is supposed to improve with "consumer confidence" which means we're supposed to buy more stuff, create more garbage, create more clutter and unnecssary piles of "stuff".

I'm not sure if I'm expressing this well or not, just how much of my lifetime has been focused on the right clothes, the best car, the latest technology. I don't have a problem with technology (ie: not quite a luddite) it's the having to replace that technology every couple years. I feel like it's part of my mission in life to learn how to not live by consumer culture and see if I can convince some around me to not live by consumer culture. How is the Earth going to survive if the Western version of life - meaning buying and upgrading stuff all the time - continues to be the norm? I wonder if it is possible to have a non-consumer based economy? What would that look like? We do need to buy food and have shelter and warm clothes and entertainment. But do we need so much advertising and commercials everywhere and do we need new cars every few years and new clothes every year as the "fashions change"? I think we'd need a massive societal revolution to change that. Recycling is all well and good but I think stopping the need for "stuff" - especially stuff with so much excessive packaging would be a lot more beneficial.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

So dorky you've never even heard of it.

I told my very hip friend, Sybil today that I have a dorky new hobby - needlepoint. She said, "What is that?" and I said, "Oh my god, it is so dorky you have never even heard of it!" Anyway, yeah, I learned about needlepoint yesterday. Well, relearned because I used to do that when I was about 8 years old. It's very zen. The only problem is I need to find some decent patterns. I did not like any at the craft store. I think I may start making my own. Nothing against Precious Moments and stuff like that, but it is not my style. You can take the girl out of the city but you can't take the goth out of the girl. Or something like that.

The chicken run is almost finished after what now? Two months? My poor husband is having dreams about chicken wire and hearing ghostly chicken clucking in his head when he is no where near them. But they are going to have a fabulous raccon-proof run when we are finished. And earlier today I stopped by the RE Store with my daughter and found a couple really cute antique leaded glass windows we're going to put in the coop so they get some light in the main area (the nesting box is a little dark but I hear they like that). Not that they are laying eggs yet. I am trying really hard not to say things to them about how they need to earn their keep "after everything we've done for them!"

The last week or so I've been feeling pretty stomped physically. I'm not sure if I have mentioned in this blog yet or not that I have an autoimmune disorder called Rheumatoid Arthritis. That means that my immune system attacks my joints, thinking that they are foreign invaders. For the last couple years I've taken two immunosuppressant medications so that I can function. Without those medications I can't bend my knees, my feet hurt too much to walk more than a few feet at a time and my hands hurt so badly I can't even pick up a pencil or make a fist. But I also had three sinus infections and a couple ear infections last year and felt like I was sick the whole winter so my doctor agreed I could quit one of the medications. Unfortunately, my hands are getting achy and by 5pm every evening the last week my feet hurt so badly I don't want to stand up for the rest of the evening. I'm debating in my head how to handle this.

One thing I heard about yesterday is worm therapy. My husband heard about it on NPR and my initial thought was that it sounded about as plausible as bleeding someone with leeches. But I've been reading more about it and I might actually be kind of slightly interested in it. It's super expensive so I doubt I'll try it - but one company is offering discounts to people with Lupus and RA because it has not been tried much on those disorders. Still, I can't quite imagine purposely infecting myself with parasites although I've been in varying degrees of pain constantly for about five years now so I'm starting to feel like I'll try just about anything that has some scientific validity behind it.

A big trigger for RA flare-ups apparently is pollution. So, in spring of 2011 when we move out of the city I'm hoping that being in clean air all the time will help me a little bit. Meanwhile, I need to just keep thinking optimistically that I will feel better eventually for more than just a week or two here or there. My biggest fear is that being crippled is right around the corner. My doctor says as long as I keep exercising and taking the medication to slow the progression of the disease I should be fine, but the fact that there even IS a progression of the disease is always in the back of my mind. What if by the time we move to the country I can't ride horses any more or walk or use my hands?

That is kind of tied to "what if I die before I can live the life I want to live?" But that's not just about living out of the city - I think a lot of people feel that way. That they are living a life that is not their choice. I had a very wonderful, close friend whose husband took a job in Baltimore so she and her family moved there a couple years ago. She didn't like it at all, but there was nothing she could do about it and it was "just for a few years". Then they'd move back here or maybe move to Ashville, NC or move to her home town in South Dakota. We'd talk about moving somewhere together when our husbands could and we finally had the chance. Then out of the blue she was diagnosed with brain cancer and died this last July. And now I have this nawing feeling, "What if I die living in the city, feeling like I never lived the life I wanted - out on a farm, living off the land, surrounded by dogs and horses." "What if my daughter grows up and goes to college having never had the life I wanted to give her - learning about nature and spending her days outside in the fresh air all year long in real wilderness - not manicured and landscaped parks." But that isn't my life now so I guess I will just keep doing what I'm doing and be happy with the life I have.