Tuesday, September 28, 2010

a lovely day

Now that I am surrounded by all these fellow horse girls and country girls, I've been exposed to something I swore I'd never like: "young country". So, I've been researching it a little and I have to say, if it doesn't sound like country (ie: banjos, fiddles and twang) I still don't like, but there are some newer country singers (other than just Allison Krauss and Gillian Welch) who are actually ok. Still, the stuff that doesn't have any country music in it at all and is called country because the musician is wearing a cowboy hat still bugs me. But I just listened to a nice song by Tim McGraw "Live like you were dyin" and it was actually very nice. Yes, I know my hipster friends - what tiny bit of my "cool factor" I may have had left just crashed and died. Oh well.

Speaking of cowboy hats, my neighbor who won't let her child play at our house because "our dog bites" (which is so untrue - she is the sweetest, gentlest dog ever, she just happens to be a pitbull) and who is horrified by the idea of her children being around horses - was wearing a cowboy hat yesterday. And that really irked me. If she's phobic of animals larger than a chipmunk than it seems weird to be wearing clothes that give off the impression you are into being in the country, getting muddy and wrangling large animals. I know that's probably silly but it still made me want to use the old teenage word "poser".

Speaking of horses, since I was getting over being sick the last couple weeks I didn't get to ride my horse at all and by Saturday I was going through a bit of horse withdrawal. When I got to the stable another lesson with some girls who were a bit more beginner than me was just starting and my instructor said I could join the lesson if I wanted. One thing that I've been doing the last couple years - and I don't know where I picked up this habit - is not holding the reins tightly enough in my right hand. And sure enough when Girl got irritated with me and yanked her head down when I wanted her to trot instead of canter I lost that rein. So, I'm now practicing holding the pitbulls leash tightly and like a rein in my right hand to get the muscle memory in my head ASAP to hold onto the reins.

I had another wonderful moment where our instructor announced to the class, "One of my favorite moments of being a teacher is watching a student have a lot of problems with a horse and overcome those problems. J. could barely handle her horse two years ago. And now seeing J. get on her horse after not being ridden for two weeks and have her horse be quiet and calm on a loose rein is one of those moments! That's a huge improvement for both rider and horse and it shows the hard work and dedication on J.'s part." I was just about ready to explode with happiness over that compliment!

Sunday our whole family went out and looked at another house in Woodinville up for short sale and like the fools we are decided to make an offer on it. This time we have a lot more time to wait on the bank so we aren't risking that. But now the question is, the bank has already sent a letter to the previous owners of notification of foreclosure, so will they halt the foreclosure process in order to look at our offer? It's totally a crapshoot. My parents think we're nuts. But then they just put their house on the market to move to Mercer Island so they are already super stressed about that. Still, it is a beautiful house and we will be really lucky if we do end up getting it.

After looking at the house we took our daughter to a birthday party in Bothell and my husband and I went to Cafe Ladro and hung out and he drew stuff with the new drawing program on his computer and I painted with watercolors. I tried a little bit to paint with watercolors on Saturday too down at Greenlake while my husband and the girl rode around on their bikes. It's been really fun trying to draw and paint again after meeting one of the art professors from the UW a month or so ago and having him give me some great tips on how to draw. I guess all I needed were those few little tips and I'm starting to enjoy art again like I did when I was a little kid. It's very cool. And now that I shut down my non-profit I have more time to do it!

Monday, September 20, 2010

molting

The last week or so Janey (our Welsummer chicken) stopped laying eggs and started losing feathers. It has gotten so bad that now there are chicken feathers in our house where people have tracked them in, or when I open the back door they blow in off the back porch. Our back yard is starting to not only be covered by poop but also covered by chicken feathers. So, it turns out that Janey is molting. I'd heard that term before but it never occurred to me that chickens actually molt. At least not to the point where the backyard is covered in feathers.

It is almost as annoying as when Spring comes along and Girlfriend starts losing her winter coat and every time I brush her I'm barraged by horse hair and I spend the whole season covered with prickly horse hair that sticks in my clothes and never actually comes completely off of my stuff. Believe it or not, despite my love of animals, stuff like this really bugs me. Remember, I do accounting as my job so I am by nature very nitpicky.

I've been recovering from some random illness for the last five days and today I (knock on wood) seem to finally be feeling close to myself again. I spent half the day at work which helped my mood immensely (weird, huh? I actually really like where I work and really like my co-workers - it's rare and I know I'm very lucky).

The other part of the day was at the ENT (ear nose and throat) doctor having my daughter's tonsils looked it. It turns out she'll be having her tonsils out in two weeks, which means two weeks of keeping her home and quiet. Well, she doesn't have to stay home per say, but she does have to stay quiet. I'm thinking of quiet things we can do so we don't go stir-crazy. I think I will take her to a matinee a few days after the surgery when she's feeling a little better. And maybe we'll go stay for a day or two at my parent's house for a change of scenery and a some grandparents to dote on her. She said the other day she doesn't get to see them enough even though she sees them almost once a week. I'm glad she loves her family so much!

My MRI results came back with nothing unusual showing (YAY!!!) My doctor knew how worried I was and actually left a message on my voice mail saying, "Everything looks normal and you do *not* have M.S." The next thing I am apparently supposed to do is get something called a vertigo test where they wave stuff in front of my eyes and puff hot and cold air into my ear until they get me all good and dizzy, in hopes of figuring out what is causing the off and on vertigo and balance issues. Then once they figure that out I'll see the ENT (same one as EJ) and we'll go from there. I have a feeling they're going to want to take out my adnoids or do something about my chronic sinus problems. Which would be nice. It's just a relief to actually be having some movement in this area. Two years ago when I was trying to find answers the last ENT said "Stay away from dust and use Flonase," and that was it. Obviously, that has not helped.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Because I do things like this ...

I have been practicing what it is like to be in an MRI machine by laying on the couch with pillows around my upper body and pillows only six inches above my face. Although I looked up the specs on the type of MRI they have at Polyclinic and it's "bore" is two feet, so I'll have at least a foot above my face, which is quite a bit actually.

My husband just left with our daughter to go ride bikes around Greenlake and said he's hoping I'll come back with super powers. Alas, there are no gamma rays involved. Last night when I said I just needed to remember I was not going to get stuck and the machine would not collapse in on me he said, "Yes, but if it sucked you in and you became a giant, super-magnet robot I would still love you - in fact I might love you even more!" To which I reminded him, "This is why my mother is going with me and not you."

So, the first MRI was done in 1977, which seems like a long time ago to a lot of people but is not that long ago to me because I was actually alive and a whopping ten years old in 1977, which makes it not seem so long ago. Obviously magnets are the main component (thus the name) and an example of how powerful and MRI magnet is would be to compare it to the magnetic force of the Earth. The Earth has a .5 gauss magenetic field. It takes 10,000 gauss to create 1 tesla and the MRI I'm getting today is 1.5 tesla (or 15,000 gauss). Wasn't there a video game called Tesla? Or am I thinking of Tetra?

So my big question is - how do magnets create an image of the inside of the body? The answer is that of all the many different types of atoms in the body, the hydrogen atom has a single proton in its nuclei and has a large magnetic moment - meaning it has a tendency to line up with a magnetic field. Inside the MRI machine, when all the hydrogen atoms are all lined up the MRI machine sends out a radio frequency pulse specific only to hydrogen. The pulse causes the protons to absorb the energy and spin in a different direction - thus the "resonance" part of "magenetic resonance imaging". When the radio frequency pulse is turned off, the protons release an energy which is picked up by the coils of the machine and and sent to the computer in the pattern it was received in order to create the image on the computer. Well, that least sentence is kind of an "in short". Actually it receives mathmatical data that is then converted through a Fourier transform into a picture of what's inside my head (or whatever is getting the MRI). I'm not quite ready to try and explain what Fourier transformation is - something about translating the frequency representation of the original form. Ok, keep in mind I've had a stomach ache for days and haven't really eaten much of anything and I'm nervous about this actual MRI experience so I'm not at my peak intellectual functioning right now.

EDIT: Well, laying down and having a cage put over my head and being backed into a small tube was much scarier than I thought it would be. Initially when the guy got me hooked in and had the bed slide back into the tube I felt really panicked and tried calming myself down but I felt so incredibly helpless and trapped that I couldn't get my body to calm down. So, I pressed the "emergency button" and told the tech. I didn't think I could do it. He said to sit and breathe for a moment because he knew that my doctor wanted the MRI for my diagnosis and he believed I could do it. So, I asked if my mom could come in and sit next to me and that helped more than valium probably would have. She sat next to the machine with her hand on my lower leg and that was all I needed to remind me that I wasn't totally helpless and alone and then I was fine. I even relaxed a little. After I figured out what my "happy place" was. And of course, it was riding horses - riding Girlfriend, riding Clyde at Mt St Helens and I tried to remember what it felt like to jump and how it would feel again to jump. I also remembered how good it felt to climb up to the top of the wall at Stone Gardens and how I had to stop part way up and take a deep breath and remind myself I was safe and fine and that helped too.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Big technology

I have to go get an MRI tomorrow and looking into what that entails just seems to be making me more anxious than before I started looking into it. I've heard MRI's are hard for people who are claustrophobic, which I have always thought I am. But then I always thought I had a big fear of heights, but what I actually have a big fear of is being really high up without a belay rope and harness on. I'm fine way up high if I know that when I fall I'll just swing in the harness. So, I guess that's more of a fear of falling and getting horribly injured which is too reasonable to be considered a phobia. And I'm not afraid of getting trapped in elevators (of course I also haven't seen the movie Devil yet) but I am afraid of a huge earthquake and being trapped under rubble for days on end. I guess that's too reasonable of a fear to be considered a phobia too.

Anyway, I'm pondering if I should make myself a 20 minute music cd to listen to or if I should listen to my John Grisham book on cd I've been listening to in the car. Yes, I know, it's odd that I'm listening to a John Grisham book because that is totally not my style of novel. But my dad had a bunch of books on tape he said I could have for listening in the car and I needed a new one after finishing this god awful brutal novel that I got from sister-in-law. It was interesting, it was just brutal. So, Grisham has very two-dimensional characters that are at best old, tired cliches, but at the same time his writing is really good and his descriptions are very entertaining. It's good light reading (or in this case light listening). It's good for driving. And maybe for getting en MRI?

I am very interested in seeing what my brain looks like though. I'm assuming they're going to let me see the film. I'm a little nervous because what the doctor is looking for is an answer to the ongoing bouts of vertigo. The two biggest suspects are problems with my adnoids and sinuses that is causing pressure on my inner ear or - which I had no idea could happen - migraines. Apparently, if you have migraines as a child then a period of no migraines, it is possible to develop non-headache migraines that cause vertigo, vision disturbance and generally feeling ill. The scary-ass things they are looking for are M.S. (I don't feel like I could handle that diagnosis on top of every other physical problem I have) and a series of mini-strokes (better than M.S.? Maybe? But probably not!) I'm hoping for sinus/adnoid problems. I've heard getting your tonsils and adnoids out as an adult is pretty awful but not as awful as a diagnosis of M.S. At least my mom has calmed me down that vertigo is not a sign of a brain tumor. I've been a hypochondriac about that ever since my close friend, Terrell died of a brain tumor last year leaving behind a husband and young child (who for the record are doing great even if they are sad).

I do find the whole MRI technology very interesting. Who comes up with this stuff? Really, learning about physics is fascinating, but then going further to realize that people have actually come up with these discoveries is mind-boggling. Imagine being the person who came up with magnetic resonance imaging. Oh, what did you today? I came up with a way to see clearly into the neural pathways of the brain and be able to diagnose complex neuorlogical disorders.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

first coffee of the day

I am sick today with what I do not know. Woke up and had vertigo again and almost fainted when I got up to go to the bathroom. I slept most of the morning (after canceling everything for today and tomorrow - which took many phone calls and emails) and then my lovely husband came home early from work to take me to the doctor. This is the second time in three months I've had vertigo and balance problems so I'm getting an MRI on Saturday. That should be interesting. I use the word "interesting" loosely.

After some diazapam for the vertigo and anti-nausea medication I'm feeling better enough to drink a little coffee and sit on the couch which is nice. I had kind of an epiphany this morning while dozing in bed not feeling like doing anything - I am tired. I have too much going on and I'm - if you'll excuse the cliche - burning the candle at both ends. I got an email this morning that one of the board members (of my four whole board members on my non-profit I started last year) is quitting because his life is just too busy. And the other three have been very apologetic that they haven't been able to help at all with our upcoming fundraisers - and I know they really want to they are just very busy too. So, I've been so busy trying to set up these fundraisers I haven't had any energy to work on what I wanted to do to begin with - which is our mission statement and purpose. All my energy with this non-profit goes into trying to keep the business end going and that was not my goal. Add that to being a parent and having a paying job and having health problems.

After a lot of soul-searching (which hopefully wasn't driven by diazepam) I'm going to propose to the board that we disband the non-profit. And I will volunteer for an existing non-profit and I'm going to write a book on the subject. I'm not sure what the board will say - maybe it's not the right thing to do? But it would be nice to get back on track with what I really want to do which is take down the consumerist culture! Bwah ha ha! =ahem=

My six year old is in a gifted-child class at school. The other day they were talking about double helixes and she explained it as "They are your genes, but not the jeans you are wearing. They are what make you who you are and why you have the color hair and eyes you have and if you're tall or short." Now she's talking about Ditto the Pokemon who can "transform herself by rearranging her cells to clone herself to be the same as other Pokemon." She says when she grows up she's going to learn about the genetic structure of a Pokemon so she can create her own. Good lord. I did not talk about this stuff when I was 6 years old. I may be smarter than my parents but I think our daughter is going to transcend us by a few generations.

I was supposed to go out and see my horse tomorrow and I'm not going to be well enough. I miss my horse. I haven't seen her since Saturday and I didn't ride her Saturday because I wanted to take a lesson on one of my instructor's horses. Oh, horse withdrawal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

the last harvest

Ok, we didn't have very much of a harvest this year. The snap peas grew pretty well. Our tomatoes are finally ripe and very dense and tasty. We have some freakishly large jalepeno peppers which my husband hasn't eaten yet so I don't know how they are. I don't like jalepenos and will only eat them when I have no other choice. The carrots and pumpkins never sprouted which was disappointing. I guess NPR garden guy was wrong and it can be too late to plant carrots! On the other hand, the red potato that I forgot about in the cupboard and then stuck in the ground back in June did really well and I got a whole bunch of little red potatoes from it. That was actually really cool. My cucumbers started to flower and a couple flowers even started to turn into cucumbers but then they stopped growing after turning into little straw sized attempts at cucumbers. I think I'm going to need to look up some information on gardening to find out why that happened. My best crop was the strawberries but they managed to get eatin by the chickens before I could pick all of them.

Now I need to remember to plant a cover crop before it gets too late. I think I'm supposed to plant it by mid-October. I dropped the ball on doing that last year but I am definitely going to try to do it this year because at the rate we're going we're still going to be living here in spring and I'd like to have my soil in better condition next spring to try again.

My attempt at eating spicy foods continues and is actually making meals more interesting. Breakfast and lunch are pretty non-inspired meals for me because one is eaten while trying to wrangle the girl and get ready for work, and the other is often actually eaten at work while working, so I've been doing salads. And I think I'm getting addicted to Mama Lils Kick Butt peppers because a salad is just not a salad now without them. I also ordered some hot red pepper jelly from cajungrocer.com to make some hot red pepper jelly vinaigrette like I had when we were in N'awlins last Thanksgiving. I may have to try something with a hot curry tomorrow night. I really do feel like I'm getting addicted to spicy foods because I'm finding myself craving it now that I've been eating it for a week or so. On the flipside I'm eating less sugar and that is making me cranky. I am no longer craving that, I'm just cranky. But that also might be because I'm tired and way too busy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

blowin' off my responsibilities

I got up this morning and felt compelled to go out to ride my horse after dropping my daughter off at school. I actually had a wave of guilt while driving up to the stable about how I *should* be doing all this other stuff to chip away at my never-ending to-do list. But then thinking about that made me feel like crying (why yes, yes I am in the midst of PMS ...) so I tried to get my mind of things by listening to NPR. But they were talking about the execution in our state this morning of a death row prisoner and what was the most ethical way for the government to kill someone? That made my head feel like exploding.

I felt better when I got to the stable. Girlfriend on the other hand was a bit riled up. She kept calling to one of the other horses out in the pasture and was very ancy on the cross ties and kept doing little jigs even when I firmly told her to stop. She was a big calmer once I was riding her and we did a lot of trotting and a little cantering and she didn't stumble once. In fact, she seemed to be feeling really good because she tried to break a gallop more than once during her canter.

I tried trotting with no stirrups but didn't do very well and decided I should only do that in our lessons with constant instruction. But I can tell it already has really helped me find better balance. While I was posting today I had this sense that something had changed because it was effortless for me to stand up on the post, and then I realized that I was using Girl's energy from the trot to stand up on the post and as her body bounced up, I was standing up in perfect rhythm, and it felt like we had this perfect flowing dance move going. That was really cool!

Another cool thing was that as I was practicing my riding, there was another woman taking a lesson. I was only half listening to what our instructor was saying to her but then I did hear my instructor say, "Watch J. - J. show her how to do a free walk on long rein," so I did. But I realized it is the first time that I've been asked to show someone how to do something which means I'm actually improving! After two years of trying to re-learn how to ride on my hot little Western horse, I'm finally getting it and knowing a little bit what I'm doing. My instructor then said, "And that's a feather in J.'s cap that she can do that on that horse. It shows what working hard will get you." Yay!

In other good news, I asked if I could start taking jump lessons now and my instructor did not say no. I'm not sure if she said yes. I asked if I could start jumping, but not on Girlfriend, maybe on the beginner horse, Doc. And she said, "I wouldn't teach you on Girlfriend because she's too hot. No reason to scare you half to death and make you not want to jump at all," then she said, "I'll start you on Doc just like any other beginner at something new." I'm not completely convinced that now that I'm old and mildly crippled with rheumatoid arthritis that I *can* even jump again (any more than really low poles) but we'll see. I guess if I can rock climb and I can probably jump again. Then I can take up this. Oh yeah. Guns and horses. Doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First day of first grade

Today was the first day of school and my daughter started in her new gifted-kids program. Luckily, her "boyfriend" and a few of her friends are in her class so it wasn't too weird that most of her friends from last year aren't in her class. I'm not sure what I think about this whole "gifted program" thing. I'm glad she will be challenged and although I think she's very smart and creative I don't actually think she's so above and beyond her peers that she should be in a different type of educational setting than them. I heard two teachers talking about the kids in this program and one of the newer ones said, "Yes, but you know these are not normal kids. You're dealing with a very special group of kids who are in this program." That made me cringe. I don't want my child elevated from her peers for intellectual capacity any more than if she were exceptionally athletic or artistically talented. She just learns in a different way - it is not a value judgment.

Still, her teacher seems very nice and good with kids and I was happy to overhear her talking to the kids and thinking she relates to them a lot like I do which is always nice. She talks to them like people - she doesn't talk down to them or like they're "children".

Meanwhile, back at the urban ranch, I actually had a few hours to "get stuff done". Meaning, I was able to start the big de-clutter of our house and get some stuff done for my non-profit. I also started out on a good note because I am once again going to try to lose twenty pounds. I have finally gotten to the point where I am happy with the way I look (amazing since twenty years ago I was still struggling quite heavily with anorexia) but I also know that it would be better for my joints not to have any extra weight on them with the rheumatoid arthritis.

Also, with fall and winter looming, I am facing the possibility of a repeat of last year health-wise. I did pretty well until December then it all fell apart and I was pretty much sick the whole time until the end of June. I think I had three consecutive weeks in May where I wasn't sick but that was it in that seven month period. I actually hit a couple times in that period where I started to feel a little hopeless.

So, I'm going into the year with the aspiration to try new things to take care of myself so that maybe I will not get sick quite so much. At least I was only antibiotics twice last year. The year before (when I was taking both Enbrel and methotrexate) I was on antibiotics four times. This year I'm only taking Enbrel and my vitamin D levels are not so depleted so I'm hoping that helps. And I will actually be more proactive about getting the flu shot. I let that slide last year and ended up getting both the swine flu and the seasonal flu (not to mention the ear infections and sinus infections and cold and two stomach viruses and a horrible bronchitis). Sigh.

I can't take echinacea or any of those herbal remedies that some people claim boost the immune system because that kind of stuff can actually be deadly with autoimmune disorders. So this year I'm going for antioxidants. I'm going to take lots of vitamin C and eat lots of spicy foods. Also, in my attempt to lose weight without actually dieting I've switched our carb-type foods to high fiber (ie: whole grain pastas and breads instead of the white flour variety). We'll see if that helps at all. I did really well today with the whole huge salad for lunch and veggies for snacks thing, but I did lose that momentum when I bought donuts after school as a "first day of school treat". Oh well. I also have a bit of heartburn because for lunch I added Mama Lils Kick Butt Peppers to my salad and at dinner I made a spaghetti sauce that was so spicy from the chili peppers and cayenne pepper I had to put yogurt in it so it wouldn't burn my mouth too much to eat it. Needless to say my Louisiana-born hubby loved it.

I had an uncharacteristic experience this afternoon while I was out running errands. I'm pretty bitter about bums who panhandle and try to con money out of people because I spent too many years around people like that as a teen and I know all the sob stories and cons to get money for drugs and booze and to get folks to take care of them so they can just fuck around and be leeches. That's why I've spent so much time and energy working with non-profits that actually help the homeless, so as to actually help people who are struggling and want a hand-up, not a hand-out. Anyway, I was going to buy some vitamins from the health food store and this older guy strikes up a conversation with me. He was good looking (for an old guy) and clean and carrying some old but well-kept luggage. I thought maybe he was a fisherman on leave. But after a few minutes he went into his "I hate to ask but ..." schpeel. I don't give out money under any circumstances no matter how straight the person looks because I don't want to be the dollar that ends up killing the person when they overdose on something on accident.

But for some reason I said, "I don't have any cash, but I'll buy you lunch." He seemed taken aback and I said, "Come on, there's a Mexican place around the corner that's really good. Do you like Mexican?" So, I bought him a big lunch and stayed and talked for a few minutes. At one point he said, "I don't suppose I could have some bus money ...?" and I said, "No. Don't push your luck," then quickly changed the subject. He didn't tell me whatever story it was for the day why he was down and out. In fact, I'm not sure he even has a made-up story. But my experience is that those guys always have a few stories up their sleeves.

He did tell me some of his plans though. One was to move to Victoria and try to get work there because he saw on the internet there are a lot of jobs in the work he does, unlike here. But he said he was kind of scared too because it's a smaller town and smaller towns can be really insular and not want outsiders. But I said maybe he needed the insular nature of small town? I also gave him some suggestions of actual decent programs he should check out that might help him get back on his feet. Something more productive than an emergency overnight shelter where you sleep curled up around your stuff hoping it won't get stolen and get kicked out on the street at 6am with the doors locked behind you. So, who knows. He said that I had no idea how nice it was to have a hot meal and I hope he wasn't just snowing me, that it really was something nice for him. I wish I had a crystal ball so I could see if he really does follow through and check out some of the services I told him about or if he tries to go to Victoria and how that goes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Since when do I cook ... and volcanoes

It's strange how certain things change in our lives that we never thought would change. Ok, that's not very original, but it is still true. I was just thinking about that while making a quiche for the staff breakfast tomorrow (the day before the first day of school). I noticed on the sign-up sheet for us PTA officers that I am not the only one bringing quiche and I went into some freaky competitive mindset of "well my quiche will be better". OMG! Who am I???

The competitive thing really isn't strange. I am so incredibly competitive in my head that I consciously make an effort to not be competitive - at all if I can help it. Otherwise I just get really obsessive about being the best at everything and failing miserably at doing that and being an insecure, unhappy wreck.

So cooking - up until about five years I did not cook. And I was vehement in that fact that I don't I lived on salads and pre-packaged foods and occasionally liked to try to bake stuff. Then when I was a stay at home mom I started learning about cooking by reading recipes and asking people how they cooked stuff (mostly in restaurants with African or Southeast Asian food). Now I cook stuff without using recipes, I just throw stuff together with the knowledge I've obtained and usually it turns out well. So, I guess now I'm one of those people who cooks.

On a completely different note we went to a campsite by Mt St Helens last week for a few days and it was glorious. My favorite parts were going on a trail ride on a wild Mustang named Clyde and listening to the elk at night. The first time I heard the elk on the first night, I couldn't figure out what it was. At first I thought it was a coyote, then I heard it again and it was not a coyote. A weird bird? A weird demon bird? A windigo? I finally figured out it was the elk.

We went with my boss and his family because their friends had to cancel at the last minute and they needed someone to take the last yurt because it was too late to cancel the reservation. So the first morning I managed to convince him and his wife to go on a trail ride with me. I kept telling them tourist trail rides always have zombie horses and they had nothing to worry about. And then silently telling myself that it would be a nice way to see the forest and Toutle River, even if zombie horses are very boring to ride. But then when we got to the barn the owner asked about our horse experience and my boss said they had almost none and I had a lot and the owner said, "Then you get Clyde. He's a wild Mustang off the BLM lands, just about four years old, I've had him for three years and he's been on the trails now for less than a year." Yipppee! Clyde was awesome! I thought Megan's Mustang Atlas just had an amazing personality, but Clyde had a very similar personality. He was really big and snuggly and wanted to do things exactly right and be the perfect horse, but he also had a lot of spunk.

During the trail rides we rode past the section of the Toutle River where there is still sediment flowing from Mt St Helens so the Army Corp of Engineers have been installing islands/dams and geotubes to stop the flooding and get the river back on its track. We also went up to Johnson Observatory and saw Mt St Helens up close (I haven't seen it since it erupted when I was 13 years old and my neighborhood was covered in ash). It was a really interesting and also entertaining trip. I was actually homesick the first night we were home and wished I was back there lying in my bunk in our yurt listening to the elk.