Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My new cause

I am staying home to rest today in hopes of getting over this cold faster. And other than transplanting my starts, which needs to be done soon I'm going to actually try and rest and not push myself to do anything else because I feel crappy. It's very hard for me to justify just resting when I'm surrounded by people who never seem to get to rest, but I feel bad enough today it's winning out over guilt.

But, I have a new cause! I have been reading news about Jenny McCarthy's and anti-vaxxers, and homebirthers who eschew medical care for pregnancy and childbirth (at the risk of their babies) and people who want Intelligent Design taught in schools and vegans whose babies are malnourished because mom is not getting enough nutrients and our country seems to be filled with psuedo science. And it is hard to find actual science on the internet. My new doctor suggested as I get older to take Estrovan to help pre-menopause symptoms but I take an SSRI for anxiety and Estrovan has a little kava in it which I heard is dangerous to combine. But if you search for answers on the internet all you get is either "why antidepressants are evil" or "why herbal supplements will kill you". There's no link to studies or statistics (and if there is I didn't wade through the propaganda long enough to find it). I asked my doctor and she said it's not an issue, but of course, I don't believe her and want to find out myself. But how can I find out without any actual non-hysterical, propaganda information available? I guess I need to get other opinions from a few doctors or pharmacists, but it did get me thinking about how so many people in our country are "educated" on subjects by what they can google information on.

Which brings me to my new cause - our country is woefully lacking in scientific thought. Many people are more likely to follow an ex-Playboy model's advice on health care for their children than a pediatrician who went to med. school and has extensive education and experience on the subject. Why is that?

I would say it is distrust of the government and large corporations, but those of you who know me well know that I, of all people, am Ms. Large-corporations-are-pure-evil-the-government-is-in-their-pockets-and-it-would-take-nothing-short-of-a-revolution-to-overthrow-the-massive-corruption-that-is-our-country. I'm the only one in our office who seems convinced (or is naive enough to say it out loud) that our office being bugged by a large, evil corporation who will remain unnamed in this public blog. When Obama was elected I said that I liked him but I didn't think things would change because the position of "president" means nothing. He's a figurehead. He has no power. The real power is in the hands of CEO's of major global corporations who use governments officials as puppets to what they want in order to get richer - those are the people who "lead our country" through manipulation of the media (read: Fox News) and propaganda. A good book to read to see where I'm coming from is What's the Matter With Kansas.

So, I'm definitely not of the "blindly trust pharmaceutical companies or the government" and even I know vaccines are safer than no vaccines. But then the blindly following Fox News seems like the political flipside of the psuedo-science crowd that follows Jenny McCarthy and the like. People in our country like to follow. And there isn't enough education out there for them to have the background knowledge to know when they're following quacks.

How can that be changed??? That is my big question right now. But I think if we change our country's idea of what "science" is early on in a child's life, there may be more hope. Science is often viewed as "what nerds do" or "I can't do that because it's too hard" or it's "something for the liberal elite". If science became an easily accessible fun subject to children, maybe they would grow up thinking of science as fun, the way many children think reading is fun. There are already things in the works promoting that - wonderful PBS shows like Fetch with Ruff Ruffman and Syd the Science Kid. And there are fun school programs like Mad Science. But those may not be available to Middle America. It needs to permeate out into our country outside of the coastal middle-class liberals and into Middle America where farmers and their children realize that it takes scientific knowledge to be a farmer, and mechanics are engineers - similar to science. That science is accessible to everyone and it is magical and fun and amazing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Life is weird but good.

I've had a cold the last few days and keep taking lots of decongestants to ward off the congestion-vertigo thing, and it seems to be working, although Sudafed really does make me loopy. It's not so bad when I'm at home with no time limits on stuff to do but I had a couple miserable hours at work today where I felt all shaky and spacey from Sudafed and kept wishing for an excuse to take a nap on my boss's couch in his office instead of analyzing financial data. This particular cold is in my ears enough though I have to keep stuff draining because I did have a brief bout of vertigo on Friday night. Luckily, some quick taking of decongestants cut it short. For someone who has tried just about every recreational drug that was out there before 1990 I really don't like taking medicines with side effects. Yuck. Sometimes I wonder if I really am the same person.

Still loving the new house and neighborhood. I hate to say it because you wouldn't think there would be that much of a difference between the suburbs where I am and downtown Seattle which is only 20 miles away, but I have so much more in common with the other moms out here. I can't put my finger on it, but I have been so much more relaxed and I don't feel quite as lonely as I did when we lived in Seattle. The last few years I'd felt increasingly out of place and like I didn't quite fit in, but I feel like I totally fit in here. I haven't figured out if that's all in my head or not.

Here's an example of why I didn't feel like I fit in. We were at a small gathering yesterday and I met a woman who serves on the board of directors for an organization that the non-profit I work for does a lot of work with. We started to talk and I asked what she and her husband do and although right now she's working on her dissertation in the field of political science, her husband owns a feed store in the boonies. So, we start talking about that business and she says their first company was shipping hay to Taiwan. Well, that to me is a fascinating subject so I started asking her all sorts of questions ranging from "Why does Taiwan need to import hay?" to "How in the world did you manage to ship the hay internationally and retain the quality?" Seriously, that is a big deal! Horses need very high quality hay with no dust, extra moisture, mold or god forbid sand mixed in. Otherwise it can cause all sorts of colic which can be deadly because horses can't throw up. And of course then I had to explain to my new friend why horse's can't throw up and she in turn told me all the stuff they did to preserve the quality of the hay to ship and how hard that was ... we lost a couple people who'd been standing around with us. But that's the kind of stuff I like to talk about. My chances of finding fellow farm-geeks out here is much higher. And that makes me so happy!

One of our neighborhood families came over to help us start clearing out the empty space behind our house to put in community garden beds. We got most of the brambles cleared out but before the guys go out and by cedar planks and good dirt for raised beds we need to call the city to make sure they won't freak out if we do that. Since I'm not sure how much access they need to the storm pond. So, since we couldn't do as much work as we thought, I took the kids on an expedition through the swampy area behind the storm pond, into the woods and back to the creek. I was a little worried they wouldn't be able to climb across the dead trees that I use as a bridge to get across the swampy area, but of course, they're kids. They did fine. They thought it was pretty cool back there and I loved the my daughter kept saying things like, "This is so cool! I bet a million fairies live back here!" It is a pretty magical place. And a lot of that is because it is so wild and unattended.

My husband and I have decided to try being horse foster parents for a local horse rescue. I sent in my application yesterday. I'm actually very excited and am hoping that it will work out. I asked to foster Sinatra, who is this young horse I met when he was first at the rescue and I totally fell in love with him!

He is the one who inspired me to lose some weight so I could actually ride him. And I have lost enough weight to ride him, but now unfortunately he's having some lameness issues so he may not be rideable. But I can still do ground work with him and see if the vet will be able to rehabilitate him. I'm not sure it is practical to totally adopt him but I've been wanting to be able to be a foster home for a horse for awhile now so this is very cool.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh how the mighty fall

Last night I had a glimpse of our family as the typical suburban family and how I wasn't quite achieving this "off-grid pioneer mentality" that I aspire to. It was while we were jumping around the living room playing Wii sports on our giant tv. Oh well. I guess it's good not to be too extreme in any direction. A little video game action mixed in with a homesteading mentality is probably good for my daughter while living in this culture. Although I am seriously thinking of getting rid of cable tv (because we can just watch shows on Hulu ... see, not quite as admiral as it was initially sounding, huh?).

Meanwhile, back in my sustainable mindset: I am excited to learn a couple neighbors are possibly willing to help me get the empty space between our house and the storm pond cleaned up and turned into a neighborhood pea patch instead of just a vacant, weedy, rocky space. I was out there for a bit on Wednesday afternoon trying to dig out some of the crab and weeds and it is all growing in a huge mound of rocks and really hard clay so it felt like back-breaking work and I didn't get very far in what felt like a long time. Let's say that for how badly my back hurt, I didn't achieve much. I did find a Long-toed Salamander though. I named him "Little Dude" and put him down by the storm pond so I wouldn't accidentally impale him with the shovel.

I planted some broccoli and cauliflower starts and they are growing like crazy in their little covered starter pots on my windowsill. Some of my tomatoes have sprouted and as usual the red peppers haven't done anything yet.

The last couple days I've felt like I'm coming down with a cold or something, tired and fatigued and a little achy and my sinuses are plugged. So, I wasn't feeling up to my semi-scary lesson with Rolls the spooky, young, green Arabian. I wasn't really feeling up to a riding lesson on anyone. So, I asked for a lesson on how to lunge a horse instead, which turned out really cool. V. wanted to start our lesson on lunging with Toadie - an off-the-track thoroughbred she's training (or re-training) to be a dressage horse. Race horses are trained very differently than dressage - or really any kind of "riding horse" - so Toadie is started all over again from scratch with V. Toadie (who has a real name but I forgot what it is) is very recently off the track and actually won a few races when she was racing. She is just a few months shy of four years old. And she is so beautiful. I honestly don't think I've ever met a horse in person who is as beautiful as she is. It's kind of unreal - like meeting a super model in person**. She doesn't quite look like a real horse to me. She looks like an airbrushed photo in 3D walking around. I seriously did not know horses could be so beautiful! I wish I had a photo to post of her to make my point but I can't remember her real name so I can't look up to see if there's anything on the internet about her racing career.

While V. was getting Toadie ready (since she's not a lesson horse I'm not allowed to work with her) I went out and relieved V.'s boyfriend of the duty of holding V.'s younger horse Gabrielle while he was out eating grass in front of the barn. Gabrielle is four years and has only been under saddle for five months so I don't get to ride him yet. But he's like a big 16.1hh kid (that's 65 inches or 5 feet 5 inches to the top of shoulder). He's greener than Rolls and pushy but not spooky so I felt more confident with him. He did spook over a piece of black plastic that had fallen in the grass and rustled in the wind, but his spooking was just jumping a little and pulling his head back and getting a panicked look in his eye (the way Girl spooks) as opposed to jumping or rearing and then spinning around and running away like Rolls. So, handling him and then putting him away before getting Rolls helped bolster my confidence. Plus, just feeling more comfortable at the new barn and getting to know the owners and V. and getting to know Rolls is helping me be less afraid.

So, after watching V.'s lunging session with Toadie, when it was time for me to go get Rolls I wasn't scared of him at all. He wasn't being spooky, but he did decide that yesterday would be his stubborn, obstinate day, but honestly, that attitude does not scare me in horses the way spookiness does. I know how to react to a horse being a butthead and I can kind of see it coming and instinctually react. With spookiness it's like the horse and I run the risk of feeding off each other's fear and spiraling together because I have no idea what to expect and every spook on the horse's part spooks *me* which doesn't help either of us.

So Rolls decided half way to the cross ties that he was going to stop, push me over and turn around and go out to the pasture. That did not work for him and I pushed him back and reprimanded him for his rudeness and made him continue walking forward. Then when we got to the cross ties he decided to try and bite me, which just got a firm "Ah ah ah! No!" and swat on the muzzle. After that he stood like a perfect gentleman and when I asked him to move from side to side as I moved around him to groom him, I didn't need to touch him, I just pointed and he very nicely moved where I wanted him to. He even picked up his feet for me when I picked out his hooves.

I got to try the lunging with him and there were all sorts of intricacies that I had no idea about, from how one holds their body to how they hold lunge line in one's hand. Before we did an actual lunge session, V. showed me some ground work you do with babies when you're just starting them under saddle. One was making them turn in circles bending in their middle. I asked if I could try it and V. said, "Well, you can *try* ..." and I actually was able to do it (though not very gracefully) on one side, but the other side I was more clumsy and Rolls wasn't as sure what I wanted him to do.

Lunging went a lot better. What was surprising was I started out facing my body in the wrong direction (I was facing him but turned slightly in the wrong direction) and he tried to switch direction. Then as soon as I turned my body facing the correct way he didn't try to change direction again. So, body language IS super important in lunging. I know it looks like to the layperson that all their is to lunging is standing in the middle of a circle holding a long, nylon rope while a horse walks/trots/runs around you. Just like to a layperson all dressage is is sitting up straight on the back of a dancing horse. Oh but there is so much more to it, Little Grasshopper!

I was able to get him to walk, trot and canter and do fairly smooth transitions between the three without having to do anything other than gentle half halts with the lunge line, but relying mostly on my (inexperienced, clumsy ...) body language. A comical moment was that Rolls is lazy so to get him to canter you need to do a quiet, sideways crack with the lunge whip while giving him a voice command, opening your body to show movement and clucking or kissing. Well, I can apparently crack a whip with my right hand but not my left hand. I'm going to need to work on that. V. thought that was funny.

I was pretty excited about learning a new skill. And it's a very valuable skill if I'm going to eventually teach little kids riding because the age group I want to start with - four to six year olds - will need to start out without reins for awhile to get their seat and learn focus. My daughter was able to use reins when she was five, but when one of her friends tried to ride a horse with me and seeing that age of kid on ponies at horse camp last summer, most kids that age are way too unfocused and scattered to hold the reins because they wave, shake and pull them all the place and end up hurting the poor pony. So, I need to be really good with the horses on a lunge line if I want to do that.

**I did spend an afternoon once hanging out with a super model and other than being very tall and skinny she actually wasn't that breathtakingly beautiful in person, but I'm sure there are some who are. I couldn't think of a better analogy.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Even coffee is not motivating me

I'm having very little motivation today. I did get up and take the pitbull jogging down the trail in the woods to the park. She went a little crazy when she saw the creek and wanted to go jump in, but it's too cold for her to be swimming and the creek is really high right now and the current is really strong and the pitbull has only been swimming a couple times so I'm not so confident in her abilities.

I went to play Bunco at a neighbor's house last night and had a lot of fun. So far I still feel very at home here and have not experienced any of that "freak in the middle of the suburbs" feeling that I secretly feared and many of my friends were sure would happen. My neighbor's daughter has a rare disease called FOP which I am still upset about that there would be such a horrible disease. I felt like crying when my friend, K. told me what it was. But I must remember kids are resilient and as long as she is happy that is what is important, and she seems perfectly happy right now at five years old and not at all worried about her future. My neighbor had a little saying on her bathroom mirror that said, "If there was no change there would be no butterflies" which puts things in perspective a little.

My daughter went for her second riding lesson yesterday but it did not go as well as the first. She was very tired from having a sleep-over the night before and I was being very controlling I think while we were tacking up the horse and it just put her in the wrong frame of mind for riding. Plus, Tiny, in her annoying little Shetland Pony way was feeling really hot (for a pony) and took off at a fast trot with my daughter and she started crying about how Tiny wouldn't listen to her and how she couldn't stop her and she wanted to quit out of frustration. So, her instructor walked over to the end of the arena where she was and stood right in Tiny's path and said, "Ok, you know how to stop her. You won't let her run me over, right?" and my daughter stopped her. But she was so frustrated and angry and tired she just started crying really hard and saying she was a terrible rider and couldn't do it. Luckily, her instructor has kids and she turned to the stands where I was sitting and said, "She's exhausted, isn't she?" and I said yes, she hadn't slept enough the night before and her instructor said, "That's what I thought. Let's stop for now and let her rest." She didn't get mad or frustrated herself, she just recognized that she was tired and cranky and out of control of her emotions because of it.

I was instructed to buy her riding gloves because she's holding the reins perfectly but it chafes between her ring and little finger. I've been wanting riding gloves too so our instructor recommended Gift Horse Saddlery since I haven't found any I like at other places I've looked.

I gave my notice yesterday to move Girlfriend over to this new stable at the end of next month. I'm pretty nervous about it and I'm worried that Girl won't be happy, but she's a lot like my daughter - very sensitive and at times anxious - but she does adjust to change really quickly. I'm concerned that Ziggy might seriously freak out for a day or so. He freaks out now if I take her outside to sunbathe and eat some grass and he can't see her. She'll be in a stall next to a Lipazzaner who is as royal and elegant as Girlfriend feels she is. I'm sure it will be fine and since this is such a good place for my daughter to take lessons it would be good to have everyone at the same barn. Plus, I like her teacher and am now going to be her only adult student.

Two of the kids from my old stable are taking lessons there and were taking a double lesson together yesterday when we got there to tack up Tiny for our lesson. I spent some time talking to their parents and it was a little surreal having so many familiar faces at a new barn. There are a lot more younger pre-teen kids there since this instructor starts teaching kids as young as 4 years old, and so far they seem like nice kids. It's just new. New always makes me nervous.

I went for my second lesson with V. the new instructor on Thursday. I woke up at 1am the night before stressing out about having to ride her horse, Rolls again. And I even considered some ways to get out of the lesson. But when I got there it wasn't rainy or windy which helped, and I just straight out told her I was scared of Rolls. But I went out and got him from the pasture anyway. I said it would help if I was alone in the pasture with him and put his halter and all that on myself instead of having her do it and hand him off to me. She agreed and just loomed around on the other side of the fence. I gave him a carrot (hoping to bribe him into being calmer) and was very even and deliberate about my movements and watched him for any signs of being anxious. It seemed to really help because he was a lot calmer with me. Even when I rode him he was a lot calmer. And he didn't even spook the whole lesson. There was one experience where he was trotting and he stumbled on one of his back legs and that scared him so he just leapt up in the air. I stayed on (although lost my balance and lost my stirrups). I didn't even know what happened at first - all I knew was "That felt unusually bumpy ... wait - why are we flying?"

I took most of the lesson on the lunge line because I'm too scared of Rolls to trot on my own with him yet. But after our lesson V. told me to walk him around off the lunge line for a bit before getting down. As soon as V. took the lunge line off he stopped and waited for me to get down. When I didn't, and actually kicked him and asked him to go, he put his ears back and stomped his front foot. I said no, and kicked him and told him to go again - once again, ears back, foot stamping. I tried it one more time and he did the same thing and I thought, "Great! Now he's pissed off and he's going to throw me!" So V. came over to get him to walk and I said, "No, I need to do this on my own!" and she said, "Good girl!" and walked away. So, I sat for a minute to give him time to chill out and me time to compose myself, then I kicked him three times fast and said, "Walk on!" in a firm voice and sure enough he started walking. Half way round the circle he stopped, snorted, pinned his ears and stamped so I did the same thing and said, "We're going to stay out here all night until you go all the way around this circle at walk." And sure enough he did it! I was proud of myself.

I noticed yesterday in my daughter's lesson that she talks to Tiny just like I talk to horses I ride. At first when Tiny was trying to go faster my daughter would sit back, give her some half halts and say, "We're not trotting yet, Tiny. We're walking. Just walking. I didn't tell you you could trot yet." And she sounded just like me! So cute!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Searching for frogs

I finally got a chance (while it wasn't pouring down rain) to go searching for frogs in back of our house. Right past the storm pond there is a swampy area with lots of wild overgrown trees that I thought was right at the edge of the creek that runs behind our house. It took me two tries to get through the swampy area - my first try ended up with one of my galoshes getting stuck in the mud and I had to reach down and pull with all my might to get it out. The second try consisted of having to cross a couple fallen trees to bypass the succubus mud.

But it was well worth it! Right past the fallen trees the ground sloped slightly down to a beautiful semi-clearing for about 100 feet before the creek - which was flooded over and rushing with a really fast current! It is soooooo beautiful! I foresee summer picnics back there with the girl. I didn't see any frogs though unfortunately.

I went out first thing this morning to ride my horse and she did really well. She was calmer than usual at first. Walking at a nice relaxed and slow pace and stretching her head way down and snorting happily. I did not do as well. For one thing I had my feet positioned correctly the way Valerie turned them last Thursday and that put a lot more strain on my quadraceps during posting which made me tired much quicker, but I also started to get a lot of pain in my lower back again. The last three times I've ridden I've gotten a horrible, aching pain in my lower back. And my arthritis started acting up in my wrists and shoulders as soon as my ride was done and I'd taken Girl and Ziggy out to the pasture. Granted Ziggy was being a butt and pulling, and when we got to the pasture he tried to push past me to run in and I had to hold him back and scold him and let him know that wasn't ok. But I've had to do that stuff with him before and it has not caused a flare up. I'm just really behind on my Enbrel from so many colds and I'm hoping that over the next couple weeks I can catch up and get back to that nice comfortable non-RA-acting-up place I've been in for so long. Worst case scenario I have to add in the methotrexate again for awhile, but honestly the way I'm feeling right now, that might not be such a bad idea.

Meanwhile, still loving the new house and neighborhood. I need to buy a bunch of dirt for my raised bed gardens. And I got the ok to clean up behind our yard in this vacant area between us and the storm pond that is totally overgrown with weeds and blackberries and is calling to be cleaned up and have some meadow grass planted and some raised beds with blueberries and raspberries (and maybe strawberries).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I may never be warm again ...

I just come home from a short Equine Facilitated Workshop up north of Monroe at the Northwest Equine Stewardship Facility and I'm very happy to be home. My daughter and her dad are putting together her Leggo Harry Potter and Hagrid's hut set, there is a fire going and I have a cup of coffee. And I love our comfy house!

I went up to ride my horse for a bit before the workshop and I checked the temperature in Monroe online and it said it was 48 degrees. I guess I didn't take into account that we would be north of Monroe and out in the woods and the wind chill made it colder. And sitting outside as opposed to running around or riding horses makes a person much colder. I would've enjoyed the workshop more if I'd worn more warm clothes instead of thinking "Oh yeah, 48 degrees isn't that cold," because my gauge is always "when you're moving around" not "When you're sitting in a chair for two hours". I ended up pulling my arms inside my fleece coat and pulling my knees up to my chest and pulling my coat over them so I was in a little black, fleece cocoon for most of the workshop.

It was very interesting but it turns out I'm not qualified to actually go to school for EFL because I don't have a teaching or counseling degree. But the head of the school said I might want to look into finding a partner who is a therapist or special education teacher and work as a team if it is something I really want to pursue. After the workshop I'm not sure it is something I want to do directly because I am far more interested in the horses than the people. Maybe I would like being the wrangler for therapists who use horses for therapy but not work with the actual people. It is definitely something I want to support because I think horses a great tool for counseling.

After we talked about what EFL is and how it works with psychotherapy, we did some exercises that one does with patients in EFL. The first was to observe the horses and choose which one we wanted to work with. For some reason which in hindsight I question my common sense, I chose Mariposa because she is huge and beautiful and very energetic and seemed to have a lot of alpha-mare attitude.

After talking about our observations of the horses we had another exercise where we went and stood in a round pen alone with the horse we chose. One other woman, Lynn, also chose to work with Mariposa and she was the last horse to come out. The first two horses and the women who worked with them were fairly uneventful and relaxing. They just hung out and the horse nosed them and they petted them and they just hung out together and talked about what they observed as they interacted with the horse (which might not sound like much - but as horse people we're always "doing stuff" with our horses and it's odd to just stand in a round pen with a horse and not be "doing something" with them). I found it quite telling when we started the exercise and my first question was, "What are the rules?" and facilitators said, "There are no rules, just see what happens," and I said, "Ok, but what are we supposed to be doing?" which made the facilitators smirk.

Finally it was me and Lynn's turn and they brought Mariposa out to the round pen. She didn't spook like the previous horse had when he saw all of us sitting in chairs outside the round pen, but she was concerned about us. As soon as she was in the pen she started cantering around in circles and bucking and being really amped and anxious because her herd wasn't with her. She never stopped moving. So, because I'm weird and like to jump into trial by fires that I'm not ready for I said I'd go first. We talked a little about my expectations and I took a minute to get my courage up, then went into the pen.

Mariposa really could've cared less if I was there and kept cantering around the outside of the pen. Then she started swerving into the circle and cantering really close to me and a couple times she stopped and turned her back to me and showed me her butt - which is an aggressive move on a horse's part. Despite my best intentions it worked just like Mariposa wanted and I started shaking and my heart started beating really fast, so she started cantering in circles really close to me and Matney (one of the wranglers) said, "I'm coming in!" and came and stood with me. We talked a little and I said that I'd just gotten scared and couldn't control it and Matney pointed out that it's natural to get scared with a 16+ hand horse is cantering and bucking in circles around you. She asked what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be left alone with her again and this time keep my composure and see if I can stay calm and therefore see if I could calm her down.

So Matney left the pen and Mariposa almost immediately swerved in to run past me too close for my comfort and I remembered how to deal with horses again, reached up my arm and said quietly but firmly, "Back off. Too close," and she actually swerved out a little and then when she came around in her circle again this time she very deliberately swerved in toward me but also left a lot more distance between us. I said, "Good girl!" as soothingly as I could and she did it a few more times each time very deliberately leaving the extra distance between us.

Between Mariposa and Rolls I think I've been spending time with some really easy horses. I thought that Atlas must be a more difficult horse because he's only been domesticated from being wild for about a year but the truth is he's super easy even if he is green. Rolls makes Sparky (the experienced students only horse because he's so spooky and hot) seem like Buddha-horse. And Mariposa has a wild spirit like my horse. Who now seems incredibly easy to handle and easy to ride. I hope on her back now and I feel like that is where I belong and like we fit perfectly. We were cantering today and she goes so fast and with so much passion and speed for running and we're whipping around the arena and I realized I wasn't nervous at all - just happy. But when I met her I was really scared of her. She did the same thing Mariposa did when I first went in the pasture to meet her - she literally ran and bucked in circles around me. So, of course, now I'm fascinated and want to get to know Mariposa better.

Daylight Savings Time ... and why it sucks

Growing up, I thought Daylight Savings Time (DST) was a natural occurrence and was something we had to cope with as mere mortals against nature by setting our clocks back in the Fall and setting them ahead in the Spring. When I learned it was an invention by a mere mortal it started to lose its luster.

Benjamin Franklin first conceived of the idea and his rationale was that it gives people an extra hour in the evening in the summer of daylight. Living in the Pacific Northwest, this is hardly a boon considering that without DST it stays light until 9pm and with DST it stays light until 10pm in June. Somehow, having extra light from 9pm-10pm for a month or so just seems kind of ... useless. And it actually makes it worse in winter because we fall back, so instead of getting dark at 5pm in December it gets dark at 4pm. If it was going to do any good for those of us up north, then we would fall back in Spring to make up for lost daylight hours in winter.

But it continues on and will always continue on (except in Arizona ... which is so weirdly off in their old Wild West fantasy that these days they are talking about succession ... which I think many of us in the other states would fully support).

This is the first day I've forgotten about DST. I was supposed to be telling the children's story at church this morning and I had one all ready: explaining how Mardi Gras is the big party-of-excess before Lent and that Lent is the time to give up something that separates you from God. So, every year I try to give up being overly hard/critical of myself. And maybe the kids could think of something to give up - like whining or complaining or refusing to do chores or homework. I got up on time, I was making good time getting ready. Church starts at 11am and at 9:50am I was just finishing breakfast and planning on hitting the road at 10:15am just in case there's traffic so I could get there early AND ... I am reminded that it is DST and that it isn't actually 9:50am, it is 10:50am and there is no way I can do that 35 minute drive in 10 minutes. Bah! So annoying.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New trainer for my daughter!

Today was my daughter's first riding lesson with her new teacher who teaches young kids. Most riding instructors don't work with kids under 8 years old and my daughter just turned 7 a few weeks ago. This instructor teaches kids as young as 4 years old and has some really cute little ponies. My daughter got to ride Tiny, who is this little black and white Shetland who isn't much bigger than our dog. Literally. He was thicker and weighed a lot more, but wasn't much taller. While I was helping my daughter get Tiny tacked up I forgot a couple times she wasn't a dog.

I was proud of my daughter. She hasn't had much experience handling horses because she's too small to get them tacked up or groom them much since she can only reach their bellies. She has led Doc around but even though he's four times as big as Tiny, he's a lot less stubborn. Tiny kept stopping to eat hay off the flour and my daughter was getting frustrated and said I needed to lead him because she's not strong enough but I told her it's attitude not physical strength and she just had to know she's in control and that will come through to Tiny. She gave a good hard yank and said, "No, Tiny!" and sure enough she lifted her head up and submissively followed my daughter over to the cross ties.

While we were waiting for her instructor I had her lead Tiny around in a 20 meter circle in the arena and she did really well. When she got on she looked really good. The instructor had her walk and do a posting trot and came over said she's impressed and that my daughter is a natural. I've heard from a few other riders who've watched her that she has a natural talent for riding. Of course I think that but everyone thinks their child is the most beautiful, talented genius ever.

There was another mom there with her teenager daughter and her horse and we got talking while our girls were riding. The mom is a teacher and very interested in incorporating horsemanship with teaching so we got talking about that. I'm going to a workshop this weekend on Equine Facilitated Learning and hopefully this other mom will be there too.

While I was talking to the other mom my daughter was doing round the world in the saddle and leaning over to touch the pony's ears. Her instructor had already warned her that Tiny couldn't stand having her butt touched (where the bucking strap would go). But my daughter forgot and let her foot go up on Tiny's flank and next thing you know, Tiny's doing a full-on bucking bronco bucking fit. Instead of screaming or crying my daughter held on and yelled in a peevish tone, "Hey! She's bucking!" The instructor was standing right there with Tiny on the lunge line so after just once up in front and twice kicking backwards Tiny stopped. I had to tell my daughter afterward that my first thought was, "Hey, she's getting that riding the mechanical bull experience she wanted so much when we were in Arizona but couldn't do because she is too small". My daughter laughed about it really hard on the way home.

Afterward my daughter was hungry and tired and not really into grooming Tiny and untacking her but I reminded her that it's all part of horsemanship. It was nice that when we were taking off Tiny's bridle the instructor's boyfriend was standing nearby and asked if he could help us and I asked that he hand me Tiny's halter and said, "Here I'll show you how I do this," then the instructor appeared and I said, "Well, but she probably has her way of doing it that I should find out," and she said, "No, you're fine. I saw your horsemanship yesterday and I trust you. You're fine." That was nice to hear since I felt like my riding lesson with her yesterday was a fiasco!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Humbling experience

I went out today and took a riding class with the woman who is going to be teaching my daughter riding lessons on her ponies. I figured I should check her out and see who's going to be teaching my daughter. I really like her, but she doesn't teach beginner adults and the only beginner mounts she has are little ponies for all the kids she teaches. She has two of her own horses, one who's really big and only been ridden for less than a year and one that she teaches some intermediate/advanced teens on. I know technically I am supposed to be an intermediate rider but in the new environment with a young, terribly spooky Arabian I felt like a beginner all over again. I told her that and told her to just treat me like a beginner (although she said if I were a beginner I wouldn't be riding her horse Rolls).

It didn't help that it was really windy and she said that it was right on the verge of it being too windy for her to give me a lesson because she didn't want her horse to freak out with me on him (um ... me neither). It seemed like all my bad habits came back as soon as I got up on her horse so it was very humbling. We mostly walked and talked about dressage leg position vs. Western and she talked about how leg position helps balance. Pretty much I just asked her lots of questions about a dressage seat and collection. I'm glad we were walking because I heard a big gust of wind come up and the next second something outside went "thunk!" and Rolls spooked and did that JUMP! And start to bolt and I instinctively leaned back (too far she said) and sat down in the saddle and pulled back and said, "Whoooooa," long and low and Rolls stopped. The instructor came rushing over and said, "You stopped him! Good job! Barely three steps and you stopped him! That's what I want to see!" So, that was good.

She did years of eventing and road in the Grand Prix so I asked to see her ride. She's two years older than me, but she hopped right into the saddle without a mounting block. And I was relieved to see that Rolls did some dancing and spooking with her and even did a little buck when she asked him to canter, so it wasn't all me being an inexperienced rider. But it's fun to watch someone who looks as natural on the back of horse as when they're walking around. Very inspiring! She seems to really like teaching young children and it sounds like her oldest student is 16 years old so I feel confident now that she's probably going to be a good instructor for my daughter. We'll see tomorrow at my daughter's first lesson on her ponies (who are apparently perfect for beginners)!

As for me, I think that mechanical bull experience was good for me because I wasn't quite as scared riding Rolls because I remembered that falling off is not that awful. That was one of my main motivations for riding the mechanical bull because I haven't fallen off a horse since I was about fifteen (knock on wood) and it has been built up in my head as being terrifying. It brought it back into perspective getting bucked off the mechanical bull. Sure, it wasn't cantering or galloping, but it did remind me that you *can* fall off and live through it without being killed or maimed. And I have fallen off cantering horses. And jumping horses. It just sounds a lot scarier in your 40's than in your teens. But, I had a rheumatologist appointment yesterday and I asked my doctor if it was safe for me to ride a mechanical bull and she said it was just as safe for me as anyone else. I don't "break any easier than anyone else" she said. Then she asked what everyone else does, "How'd you do?!" But it's good to hear from my actual doctor that I am not any more frail than anyone else - at least as far as being breakable. She did emphasize that she forbids me to do anything that messes around with my immune system like taking immune boosters and stuff like that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

peer pressure

As my daughter gets older I find myself thinking more and more about peer pressure. We talk a lot about advertising and I try to bunch peer pressure in with it - afterall, it really is a form of societal marketing - having the general public try to get the rest of the general public to use a product (in this case smoking or drugs). There is a book I'm interested in reading because I really believe that a close relationship with one's family and feeling like one belongs and is accepted and has a place in that family is extremely important to counter-act peer pressure and the need to join gangs and identify with destructive crowds/activities.

But actually doing that - actually making sure one's child feels like they are a valued member of a family and that is "their place" is a challenge. I don't want to end up like "Phil - the cool dad" from the show Modern Family, you know, a parent who is trying too hard to be the kid's friend and just looks like a dork. But I also don't want to be so authoritarian that I am just the rule-maker and someone to rebel against.

While I was on vacation in AZ I read a Jodi Picoult book (why do I do that? She's not a very good writer and her books are always strange and dark with unrealistic two-dimensional characters ...) and I kept thinking about that throughout the book, that the parents weren't involved enough in their children's lives to really know them. So, now that I know what I want to do, the big challenge is learning how to do it.

I picked up the Jodi Picoult book at the airport because I decided on vacation I should read something lighter than the book I'd brought, The Panic Virus. As it is, the book I brought was the lighter of the two. Although, it does get me all wound up every time I think about all the people who won't get their kids vaccinated because of weird, completely non-truth-based conspiracy theories based on misinformation as opposed to science ... a delusion that causes children their lives.

Birth Day

Today is the anniversary of my birth =gulp= forty-four years ago. I admit I find that number a bit disturbing. Not because I don't like being old ... or at least "middle-aged". I do like it to be honest, because I feel like I'm finally to a place where I can be exactly who I want to be and I don't have to worry about fitting into a "scene" or finding my place in the world. I am secure in that what I like is fine and what I want to do is fine. It is "cool" because I think it is. I don't need externals telling me who I should be, what I should have, or what I should want. Of course, with that comes the question "Where do I belong if I'm truly just me?" There is no "clique" or "label" for individual people being themselves. But in the long run that is good - that is how I have always aspired to be.

My problem with the number is my fear that I will one day be stuck in this world in a broken down body. As it is, no matter what age I am, I have had that fear come up a lot ever since my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago and the threat of "without treatment you will be crippled". It was also compounded by watching my friend, Terrell die a very uncomfortable death from brain/spinal tumors just under two years ago.

That fear comes out in reoccurring nightmares that I need to be somewhere and I can't walk because my legs won't move well and hurt so much. I have those dreams a minimum of three times a week. Although, night before last I had that dream and I realized I was dreaming and if I focused on controlling the dream, I could walk again.

The day that Terrell died I was so upset that I couldn't be around anyone so I went out and rode my horse. Every time up to that day since I got my crazy-hot retired rodeo race horse, I had been afraid I would fall off, but that day the fear went away and it felt like when Terrell died she left me some courage to follow my adventuresome spirit (that I had been trying to squash down because of fear). She also left me a beautiful bracelet to remember her by (not that I need anything to remember her!) but I also feel like she left me some courage too. Which is why since then I've been taking up all sorts of new hobbies like kayaking and rock climbing and I've been pushing myself a lot harder learning how to ride horses and have decided to jump again. That's why this is one of my favorite songs. Despite all the teasing I get from my friends that it's "young country".

Another part of getting older that I find interesting. The guys I think are "cute" are all my age now. My current celebrity crushes are Ralph Fiennes, Tim McGraw and Alexi Murdoch - with the latter being the youngest at 38 years old. Yes, in order to be cute to me now you have to be over thirty. I guess that's good. Better than you're only cute if you're *under* thirty! Of course I'm also very lucky that my husband just looks better and better as he gets older. I don't know how he does it. And I wish he could see it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Maybe I'll be a farrier ...

I just found a post I never actually finished posting from the other day when my new farrier came out to help my horse with her new shoes. The first reason was because my old farrier had flaked on me three times and my horse was four weeks overdue. And when I told her I was going with someone else she got really defensive about how I shouldn't be upset because she missed one appointment but she had a family emergency and I should understand. Yes, once I would understand (even without her letting me know she wouldn't make it). But this appointment she did that three times so my poor horse was over four weeks late for shoes and every time she flakes at least once and doesn't tell me she's not coming. So, I don't even want to discuss it because that sounds like a bottomless pit discussion.

Now I'm glad I switched because my new farrier had some good ideas to make my horse more comfortable with her arthritis and to help her stop stumbling. Her feet looked really good by the time he left and I learned a lot more about hooves and posture.

From last week:

Ok, just in case you are concerned about the subject title of this post I am NOT going to be a farrier. For the plain and simple fact that even I can admit that I am just not physically capable of doing that job. In case you don't know what a farrier is, it is someone who takes care of a horse's feet - from filing them down and/or making shoes for them to making sure their feet are healthy and giving advice on medical treatment when they are not.

Farriers spend their days bent over at the waist, holding up horse's feet (which is fine if you have a horse like mine who "helps" you and holds up her feet, but not so easy when you have a 1200 pound horse who drops his foot into your hand and makes you hold it up). Also, not so good when the horse decides to kick you. You also have to shape (with fire and a huge hammer) metal horse shoes. Even I know that a middle-aged girl with rheumatoid arthritis could not do that job.

But it is so interesting learning about the care of horse's feet. I had a new farrier come out today to do my poor horse's 4 weeks overdue shoes. He was so cool. We talked a lot about the way my horse's hoof is shaped and how that affects her legs and where it puts the stress on her legs and in her body. It's fascinating to me and reminds me of how interesting the postural analysis segment of therapeutic massage was to me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dichotomies ... and phlegm ...

I seem to have caught my daughter's cold which I knew would inevitably happen but, ok, I had the delusion there for awhile that maybe this time I wouldn't catch it. Having a cold for me means that I can't take my Enbrel for my rheumatoid arthritis until I'm well again, and I'm already a week overdue so I am a sad, fatigued, achy girl today. I was relieved to learn a few years ago that fatigue is a very real and common symptom of RA so my periods of lack of energy throughout my life (always coinciding with flare-ups that throughout my 20's I thought were just repetitive use injuries from running or whatever) weren't just in my head, but at the same time, it kind of sucks.

Now that I'm done complaining. Sigh. I am heading out to meet my horse's vet after lunch today so that my horse can have her teeth floated. That means having them filed down so they don't get too long and end up making it hard for her to eat. She's a bit overdue for that. And she's waaaaay overdue for getting new shoes. My farrier has flaked on showing up to do her shoes three times now so I'm firing her. I just need to see if another farrier can get out this week (preferably). Horse's who wear shoes need new ones about every 10 weeks or so and it's been over 14 weeks! Poor girl. I rode her yesterday because she really wanted to get out and do some work, but by the end of our ride I could tell her feet were sensitive so I'm not going to ride her at all until she has new shoes.

Since I was gone for a week down in AZ and haven't had a chance to ride her much the last couple months with all the moving hassles, I expected her to be mad at me. The first year I had her if I didn't ride her or "mess with her" at least twice a week, the next time I saw her she'd turn her back on me in her stall and look back at me to see what I'd do. I always just moved slightly out of her way so she couldn't kick me (it seemed unlikely but better safe than sorry!) and stood my ground until she'd turn around again and walk over to me. But yesterday she was super snuggly. After our ride I took her saddle and bridle off so she could roll in the arena, and she walked out to the middle of the arena, kicked up the dirt like she does before rolling, then looked up at me all the sudden. Then she walked over to me and rested her head on my chest for a few minutes. I gave her some snuggles and a kiss on the nose and then she went back out and rolled. I like that she is so sweet and snuggly. And she always walks right up to me in the pasture like she's happy to see me. I could probably never catch Ziggy if she didn't walk straight up to me. But he gets so panicked at the idea of being left out there without her that as soon as we turn to leave he'll gallop across the pasture to us practically screaming, "Aaaagh! Don't leave me!"

So, I've been thinking a lot about who I am and what my beliefs are and how to define myself. Lately I've been reading a lot about and thinking a lot about things like the Homebirth movement and the anti-vaccine crowd. I actually get really angry about both because some good friends of mine who live in a rural area are having their baby at home without medical care and I believe that's dangerous. And well, the anti-vaccine crowd just pisses me off because it means less herd immunity from awful diseases. And I know a lot of people say measles is not that big of a deal but it ruined my mother's otherwise totally fine eye sight when she had it as a kid. And chicken pox can kill children with compromised immune systems (who can't get vaccines because of that). But at the same time, I am also viewed as "super crunchy" because I'm very opposed to how mass produced food is made and I think soda pop is a bunch of fizzy chemicals and why would you drink that? And a good portion of food made of chemicals and crap like high fructose corn syrup should never be consumed. And despite putting pesticides on my kid I firmly believe that pesticides are NEVER needed in a garden. And for a little TMI - I don't even use disposable "feminine protection" products. I use Glad Rags because you can wash them and re-use them and it doesn't fill landfills with plastic. I hate plastic. And much as I am grateful for the medical breakthroughs that animal testing has facilitated (including I'm sure the Enbrel that I use) I truly believe in my heart we as a species have no right to use animals for medical/cosmetic testing.

So I'm a hippie/granola/socialist/government-reform-supporter/carnivore/prof-vaccine/anti-homebirth/Christian skeptic. I find from my bad habit of posting on a lot of forums on certain subjects that I may be in agreement with the subject at hand, but then my freak flag of "living off the grid - anti-chemicals and plastics" comes through. Then I go and use Rid on my child to get rid of lice. But honestly, I was just going on advice of the majority of other parents on that one and after some research have found that they (and I) were wrong. So, I do slip up sometimes. So - more points to the "super crunchy" side of my personality - I found that Rid and those pesticide products are no more effective than natural products (or even the mayonnaise approach). And no I didn't find those statistics from advertising for a natural product - I found them from the EPA's study. But of course, then I still stand by vaccines. Which for more "super crunchy" points are actually Western medicines only real embrace of homoepathy in my opinion - using a dead strain of a "poison" to activate the immune system against a deadly virus.

I guess what I'm trying to say to myself and others who may read this blog - I'm still trying to figure out where I fit in the grand scheme of things. I seem to lean towards both sides of many arguments and though I tend to lean more toward "super crunchy" there are also issues very important to me that go completely against the norm of those beliefs too (mostly where medicine is concerned). I've always felt comfort in being able to "label" myself as something or another with a set of standard beliefs that fit into "the norm" but I'm finding it's not really possible to do that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Can't believe I forgot to mention the bull

One of the days we were down in AZ, we decided to go to a tourist trap called Rawhide which turned out to be great family fun. Our daughter loved it but honestly I loved it too. Way funner than Disneyland as far as grown-ups are concerned!

Much to the angst of my poor mother, they had a mechanical bull and I felt like one just can't be at a place with a mechanical bull and not try to ride it! It actually turned into enough of an argument that I threatened to call my rheumatologist long distance and get her permission to do it so that my mom would stop worrying. Even my husband started to say "No, that is a really bad idea for you with rheumatoid arthritis," but since he lives with me he knows not to fight me on doing something adventurous if I have my mind set on it. My mother has apparently forgotten what a force to be reckoned with I am when I get an idea in my head (you'd think she'd still be traumatized by that so not sure how she could forget except maybe by repressing the trauma of that part of my personality ...)

My husband actually went first and did really well, although he had eaten so much heavy food and had some beer at dinner and he couldn't handle the spinning, bouncing for more than few seconds without feeling like he was going to hurl. Then it was my turn. The worst part actually was putting on a hockey helmet (liability issue) - when the guy clipped the wire face thing on it made me have a moment of panic because it reminded me of when I had to get an MRI and the little cage they put over your face.

I did really well for a few seconds because the bull was just spinning and rocking back and forth. But I have been taught not to hold on with my legs when riding something so when it tipped to the side I slid right off (despite my best efforts). I am proud to say that my butt didn't bounce off the bull because I've had so much practice keeping my seat the last couple years - just not going off to the side! I held on till the bitter end though because my pride was making me want to try and pull myself back up before I hit the ground in hopes I could keep going. Oh well. It was super fun! I totally want to try it again! Of course the only place I know of with a mechanical bull in this area is Cowgirls Inc. and I am totally opposed to them because no real cowgirl would set foot in such a stupid place. NOT real cowgirls, frat boys. L.A. wannabe ho's in boots - and not even real boots. Stupid fashion boots. Plus, they wouldn't make it go fast enough to be worth it and they'd expect me to wear something stupid and slinky. The whole thing makes me think of this song (there are two songs on the video so scroll up to 2 minutes and 22 seconds for the second song).