Saturday, May 28, 2011

I did not escape the plague

Darn. I woke up this morning and there is no escaping that I caught whatever my daughter had last week.  That means no going to see The Royal Lipazzaners today.  Besides that I don't feel well enough to go without being miserable, I don't want to get my parents sick - especially not my 80-year old dad.  Luckily, things worked out and KD is going with my parents and is very excited.  There is a special pre-show for those of us who bought tickets through the horse rescue that owns Sinatra and I'm sorry to miss that but I'm glad that my ticket isn't going to waste. Well, it wouldn't totally go to waste because some of the money goes to the horse rescue anyway.

The pre-show sounds cool though because you get to be "up close and personal" with the horses and see them warming up.  But sometimes it just isn't worth it when you're sick.  I'd just end up feeling like I wished I could go lie down even though it would be cool.  KD's kids are over so that her husband can work in the community garden with my husband so hopefully that will keep my daughter entertained as opposed to wearing me out more.

The bad news is I don't feel well enough to go spend time with my horses or even to ride today or probably tomorrow.   Wah.  Horse withdrawal.

The weather has been just awful this Spring so at least I don't feel bad for getting my starts out late.   I put some of the bigger ones out already but the few times it has been sunny either I've been home with a sick kid or been at work or something like that.  Hopefully, today I will be able to get them out assuming it warms up a little.

Ok, my daughter is already throwing a fit because she's not getting her way (re: chasing her friend around the living room and knocking stuff over and refusing to take it upstairs to the playroom).  She wanted to stay in the living room because she wants to watch the movie that was on tv which she wasn't watching.   When I asked what was happening on the movie she had no idea but swore she wanted to watch it.  When I said she had to take the rough housing upstairs she threw herself down on the couch and screamed about how I couldn't make her do anything.  So, she got sent to her room.  Ah, parenthood.   I've become the Draconian leader that I always hated.  Life is so funny like that.

This may be a product of her new found higher confidence.  Ever since her ground work lesson with Tiny the bratty pony she has been doing so much better in her lessons.  She can handle Tiny really well on the ground now and even has the confidence to groom her and pick up her feet all by herself.  They're so cute together - my daughter is really small boned and skinny and Tiny is so ... well ... tiny. Well she's a very small pony but very rotund.  And she's got a lot more confidence riding.  Initially Tiny was so bratty and didn't listen to her and would try to run off and buck with her and her instructor would have to walk along beside my daughter and Tiny or my daughter was too scared to ride. But yesterday my instructor stood in the middle of the arena and gave direction while my daughter rode all the way around the arena at a walk and a trot and kept Tiny on the rail.  Even when Trainer K. was in there lunging Gemini (our resident Lipazzaner).  It was nice to hear Trainer V. (our instructor) gush about how well my daughter is doing.  It helps too that this a little girl who's two years old than my daughter and takes a lesson before her who has been very encouraging.

So, my latest garden research today is: why is my phlox dying? What does phlox need to be healthy and happy? Also, why - once again! Is my rhododendron dying?  I gave it better soil, compost and rhodie food? My neighbors think I know so much about garden but really there is sooooooo much I need to learn!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day three of house arrest

Today is my third day staying home with my sick daughter and I'm feeling a little stir-crazy. She is feeling better and doesn't have a fever anymore but she has a nasty cough and said she doesn't have the energy for school so I figured she's in first grade and there's no reason to push her.  My parents would have shoved her out the door if this were thirty years ago, so my first instinct is that I should do that, then I remember how I've spent my whole adult life re-learning how to take care of myself so I went with the the saner route and told her she could stay home and rest.  It seems only fair since I told her she can't go to her BFF's slumber party tomorrow night because she's been too sick and needs to rest.  It's a testament to how stir-crazy I must be because I was a little disappointed I couldn't go into work.  My boss is also having a party tonight that I wanted to go to but there will be more of those.  My daughter and I can at least commiserate on missed parties.

Yesterday some workers from the City of Woodinville came out to cut down the weeds in the empty space behind our house.  I thought that was nice of the city since the property actually belongs to our HOA, but it can't be built on because of the storm water run-off and the storm pond. Thus why it's a great place for the community garden.  I went back there to make sure they didn't mess with the raised beds we've already put in and explained to them what I'd worked out with the city for how much space we could use for our raised beds.  Then I asked just off-hand, could they maybe take away the styrofoam "speed bumps" that were falling apart and were in a row along the space (they said they had been a precaution for flooding but obviously were so degraded they wouldn't do any good anymore). Surprisingly they said they would and showed up this morning to haul them away - yay!  I also said that we were going to try to make a walking path and were going to get more gravel but because they wouldn't need to do anymore maintenance back there once the gardens were complete - could we trade off their labor time for some new gravel for the walking path and surprisingly they said that was a good idea and would go back and ask the public works manager.  Cool!  I've also had a really easy time with the land management manager at the city getting permission to create the garden back there.

I've been hesitant to learn much about the local politics here and I have not joined the PTA yet at school because I'm hesitant to learn that here too the city and the PTA is full of fuck-ups.   When my daughter was in a preschool I had a great experience being on the board of directors and being involved, but then when I made the mistake of agreeing to be on the PTA board at her elementary school, I learned way too quickly how messed up some of the parents were.  Once again the question comes up: Why are people so weird?

Probably, the answer is that I am the weird one.  But the theme of 2011 in my head seems to be that people in general often search out dogma to hang onto.  I wonder what my dogma is? I am actually disappointed that the whole "granola/crunchy" beliefs that I have had for most of my life are now starting to have their own dogma too.  I was talking to my mom about how I'd gone to a really good naturopath fifteen years ago when I was having trouble with re-occuring mono.  He'd given me really good advice and I took supplements and herbs that really helped.  But in the last few years I've met some people in school to be naturopaths, and my sister-in-law sees a naturopath who sound like they know less about medicine than I do!  It's like they tow-the-party-line of everyone needs to stop eating wheat and dairy and everyone in the Pacific Northwest needs to take high doses of Vitamin D and there are no adverse side effects to herbs.  I worry about my sister-in-law because when I asked if they took a blood test to check and see what her Vitamin D levels are so they could know how much she needed (that's what my rheumatologist does for Vitamin D and calcium and iron) she said no, everyone here needs this super high does and that's just known.  Well, actually no, too much Vitamin D is toxic.  They also gave her tryptophane for sleep and she started to develop joint pain and severe fatigue during the day.  Her naturopath said it was from something else but luckily SIL's instincts told her it was the tryptophane.  A little quick research into tryptophane shows that it can cause a syndrome in some people that causes fatigue and joint inflammation/pain.  And this supposed "doctor" didn't even know that?  I feel really disillusioned by the amount of bad naturopaths I've seen.

And what the heck happened to homeopathy? When I was a teenager I learned about how homeopathy was used in the old days dating all the way back thousands of years.  My mom first told me about it because when she was young it was still common to use a touch of belladonna for stomach aches.  What I learned is that originally it was the smallest amount of poison used to get the immune system activated.  That makes sense.  And homeopathic doctors were trained extremely well in this field so they didn't accidentally kill someone.  That's what allergy shots are basically and that is what vaccines are - they are a type of homeopathy.  But now days all "homeopathic doctors" need to do is carry around a kit with water in it and the water has "the memory" of the poison in it (read: it's just water) and it is this weird hokey-placebo thing that doesn't actually do anything.  It isn't homeopathy at all - they're just using that word.  Just like George W.'s version of the word "freedom" doesn't actually mean what the word used to mean.  Whenever George W. used the word "freedom" in a speech I always thought of the clip from the Princess Bride of Indigo Montoya saying, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."


And horrifying as it may be to most, I've been reading and thinking a lot about feminism in the U.S.  I started thinking about it back when I got married and took my husband's name as my own.  I like that tradition because to me it is a symbol that the two of us have decided that we are committed to being a  family.  A few of my friends who were already married were shocked and asked didn't I feel like I was not being true to myself and I was lowering myself as a woman and becoming his property? I said that wasn't my motivation and anyway, if I was that freaked out about it we both would've changed our last names to a totally different name that we could both agree on (my husband doesn't like his last name because it's so hard to pronounce but we decided it was easier just to keep it - and my last name was so boring).  What surprised me was the friends who asked me wasn't I betraying myself by taking his name, ended up (after some years of marriage) changing their last names to their husband's last names.  It was like they had wanted to all along but needed permission that they could do that and still be strong women.

The other thing that made me question "feminism" is when I had my daughter and I "flipped out" and couldn't stand the idea of going back to work when she was a baby.  Even now that she is in school it is more important to me to be home when she gets out of school most days than having a job. If that means (which it does) that we can't afford to go on a cool vacation every year and it means we can't have nice cars and it means we have to buy cheap clothes on sale at Old Navy - that's fine. It's more important to me that while she's living at home I can stay home with her when she's sick and I can be here when she gets out of school.  "What about your career?" I've been asked by friends.  Well, my career right now is raising my child, thank you very much.  What is wrong with that? It's what I want and what feels right.

Another thing I've been thinking about is the notion that women needed to be liberated in the 1970's.  A movie came out a couple years ago called Revolution Road and I saw the previews and read the synopsis and all I could think of was how annoying and messed up the main characters were. I had no sympathy for them.  I guess the point was to show how awful regular life is and how it's a trap that people are caged into.  But all I saw were two malcontents who had no sense of self and couldn't see what was right in front of them.  They had two children which is a miracle in itself and they weren't living on the street.  They seemed to have no interest in pursuing their own dreams despite having to have responsibility for being grown-ups.  They seemed like the plight of the rich, bored housewife - the plight of the type of Americans who have been handed everything their whole lives and seem to think they are entitled to always be taken care of, always be entertained, they never have to be responsible and when asked to be it is a huge burden on them.  Maybe if the wife was so bored and unfulfilled she could've gone back to school.  Or she could've volunteered at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter - anything to get out of her own head of obsessing on how hard it is to be upper-middle class with everything you need in a life of comfort.

That's what a lot of the feminist stuff I've read sounds like to me now.  There is a sentence by Suzanne Ventzner (and I'm paraphrasing) that really got me thinking "Women act like the civil rights movement for them is the same for African Americans - as though they needed to be freed from slavery too."  That really got me thinking.  Black folks were literally slaves to the white man.  But women were not. I think of my grandmother who had her own career when she married my grandfather and still worked even after having kids (she wasn't the maternal sort). I think of "Ma" in Little House on the Prairie and how she and "Pa" are portrayed as a team working together.  I think of the stories of my great aunts and uncles and my great grandparents and there really aren't stories of the women being treated as slaves.  I come from a long line of hard-working women who were not oppressed.  So, if women were treated like slaves before feminism, wouldn't that have happened to all my relatives too?  Sure, women couldn't vote before the Suffragettes, but the Suffragettes weren't complaining because they got to stay home and raise their children while their husbands worked - they just wanted to vote.  What about the husbands who were expected to support and entire family and work hard and give all their money to them? Then if a war came up the men were expected to go off and get killed in war - no questions asked if there was a draft.   Forced to leave their children behind and suffer on the front lines.  It's not always easy being a responsible adult no matter what gender you are.

There are places where women are treated like slaves and are oppressed.  Women living under Taliban rule come to mind.  But even my Arab relatives in Saudi enjoy a good life of not being oppressed.  As my cousin, Anna Marie said, "If wearing scarf over your head and having someone else drive you everywhere makes you feel oppressed, you'd hate Saudi."  But women there are well respected by men, are encouraged to be well educated and there are many women business owners.  And it makes Anna Marie so angry when my friends here say they pity her and don't understand why she chooses to live there - or does she choose? Is she being held captive? Have we tried to help her escape? Good lord.  My cousins, Omar and Nabeel's wives don't even like coming to the U.S. and would never dream of living here where we are supposedly so "free".  I once posted something on Facebook with a picture of a women in Saudi wearing a beautiful scarf over her head and a happy smile and an airbrushed photo of an ematiated fashion model here in the U.S. with the question "Who is oppressed?"  And I got a ton of comments about how OF COURSE that poor woman in Saudi who has to wear the veil is so much more oppressed and Arab society is so misogynist ... blah blah blah.  It's not the Taliban, people. Saudi is a totally different culture than the U.S. Some things are better and some things are worse - but it equals out and is just totally different.  Sometimes I think if Palin got elected president (or someone like her) we should move to Saudi to live in the same town as my cousins.  At least there things are becoming *more* progressive.

So, I've been seeing a lot of dogma everywhere I look.  Not just with the Harold Campings and the world is going to end on such and such date crowd.  Which of course makes me wonder what MY dogma is?  Or if maybe I'm just a weirdo all around.  I'm going to end up one of those off-gird wilderness folks who everyone thinks is crazy at the rate I'm going.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Going through a little horse withdrawal

I haven't been out to see my horses since day before yesterday and I probably won't be able to go out until day after tomorrow so I'm going through a little horse withdrawal.  TB who leases Girlfriend will take Sinatra out for a bit today and the owner of the barn will take him out tomorrow, but I am feeling ancy to see both the horses.  I'm ancy to ride more too although after just one physical therapy session I'm not quite ready to be carrying the saddle and putting it on Girlfriend. I can ride her, I just can't tack her up.  Blah.  Well, and I'm not supposed to fall off either which is why I'm only riding her and not any of the other horses who are so difficult to ride at that barn.  Although I did order an eventing vest but I have to send it back because it is too big.  I thought I had measured myself well before ordering it but apparently not.  I need a small instead of a medium because it does not fit well over the chest/shoulders and if I were to fall it would hike up and the hard part over the shoulders would hit me right in the middle of my neck. No good there. 

I also ordered the absolute smallest size for my daughter but it has not arrived yet and I doubt it will fit her yet.  Makes sense since most skinny little seven-year olds are not out riding cross country.  But I got it for her not for safety so much as to give her more confidence when she is riding Tiny and gets worried about being bucked off.  Although, thankfully, at her last lesson she was able to trot and post again without getting scared so she may not need the vest yet for confidence. And she can wait to grow into it and wear it when she starts jumping in a couple years. 

Two lessons ago I told her instructor she was having a lot of fear and insecurity and believed she couldn't control Tiny, so they did a full lesson on just ground work.  I couldn't believe the difference last week in my daughter's confidence level! Tiny tried to drag her down the aisle again and she did everything the instructor told her and caught Tiny before she got going and controlled her and got her right into the grooming room all by herself.   I spent her lesson hanging out with Sinatra and grooming him and giving him some attention and "outside the stall time" so I didn't see how my daughter did but her instructor said her confidence had come back and she had trotted and posted around the whole arena and did not let Tiny take off with her even once and that she even managed to do some serpentines.

But this week my daughter is sick so I've been staying home with her.  She has a fever, very weak, scratchy throat, bad cough.  We went to the doctor yesterday and she thinks it's bacterial since she's had a cough for a week or so and now has a fever.  So, it was a huge struggle to get her to take the nasty antibiotic liquid she was prescribed.  Hopefully, she'll be feeling better today and hopefully me and her dad won't catch whatever it is.  Sigh.  Me and my mom have tickets for Saturday to see The World Famous Lipazzaners (by the way, if we take Sinatra in the arena he tries to do the Capriole move even though he's a Saddlebred not a Lipazzaner and Hello! Stall rest!).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A good day to complain

Today is one of those days where I vacillate between being happy about my life and really wanting to complain.  I'm having a bit of a flare-up, my throat kind of hurts, my ears really hurt and to top things off, I'm having arthritis in my Temporal mandibular joint. And my neck/shoulder still hurts (well, hurts again ... ooops) and I'm hormonally challenged.

My neck/shoulder was actually feeling quite a bit better after a few days of taking naproxen twice a day at a larger than normal dose. But then I decided to give my stomach a break and not take it for a day and now my pain is back.  I have some physical therapy exercises to do which is helpful - although PT has made me painfully (pun intended) aware of how awful my posture is.  It wasn't such a big deal when I was young and skinny.  Then I just looked morose and ironic like the hipsters.  Now it makes me look dowdy and old. Sigh.  But I'm working on that.

Other than my creaky little body falling apart it was a nice weekend.  The hubby got some raised beds built yesterday for our community garden and KD's husband, MD came and dug out/evened out some space for them behind our house.  Now we've got two raised beds already to put dirt in and by next weekend we'll have two more. We're talking about putting at least five or six more raised beds in and if we're really inspired, we'll clean up the walkway area, put in meadow grass and some new gravel so it will be all cleaned up and look nice to walk through.  I wonder if we could plant a couple fruit trees back there too?

It still doesn't look like much but our imaginations have got things going in our head and by next Spring all we'll have to do is have a planting party - hopefully all the building of the foundations of the garden space will be done.  This is the hardest work because the ground back there is even worse than the "soil" in our yards (read: clay, rock and anything the contractors left after building the houses and covering all their junk with topsoil).  Our yards have lots of chunks of old cement and old building waste in them but that space (which I guess the developer thought would never be anything but a dumping ground) is even worse.  So, we have to cart in all the soil we're going to use.  And to level the ground out for the raised beds, MD had to take a pick ax out to break up the ground before shoveling out the rocks and clay to make it even.  In the course of that he managed to break our pick ax. Yes, the ground is so crappy around our house is broke a pick ax.

KD and I went out to Home Depot to get some garden soil and also stopped by the barn so I could take the horses more bags of daily supplements, check on them and take Sinatra out to the rehab paddock for a few minutes.  He was being very good in general until right before we got to the gate to the paddock.  Last time I tried to take him in there he balked and the owner who was standing right there said, "I'll take him in for you," and took the lead rope and took him in.  The owner is a grandfather and has that protective grandfatherly way about him, but I realized right after I handed him the lead rope I was giving Sinatra the wrong message - that if he balks, I can't handle it and someone else has to.  So, I wasn't surprised when he balked again today.

Only this time he didn't just balk, he stopped, I said soothingly, "Come on, Sinatra, you're ok," and tried to do the gentle rocking back and forth tug/release that trainer K. showed me, but instead of standing still like in the aisle of the barn, Sinatra spooked and decided to rear then bolt backward. Yikes! I loosened my hold on the rope like trainer V. showed me (the loosened pressure apparently freaks them out less) but said calmly but very firmly "Whoooooa, you're ok.  Whoaaaaaa!" Then after I was pulled through the mud a couple feet like I was waterskiing I regained my physical bearings and gave a good half halt tug and said, "Whoa!" again and he stopped and looked at me funny.  We tried again and he tried to do the same thing but this time I had a firmer footing and was able to loosen my grip enough to not get yanked around but still grab on in time to give a good hard half halt tug and say, "Whoa!" in time to stop him before he could bolt backward.  I said calmly but firmly, "You're fine, Sinatra. You're fine," and turned to try it again and this time he walked right in with me - no problem.  Then he just stood there until I took the stud chain and lead rope off and calmly walked around the rehab paddock and sighed a few times.

KD had come out of the barn right about then and was looking at my skeptically like she couldn't understand what in the world I could possibly see him in.  I let him stay out for about fifteen minutes then took him back in.  I was considering washing off his feet.  The rehab. paddock isn't very muddy because it's many layers of wood chips over padding, but there is the mud right at the entrance.  But when I put Sinatra on the cross ties in the wash room he decided he was freaked out and tried to rear and kick the walls.  I decided the most we should do today is just spend some time in the wash room and let him get used it without putting the added stress of turning on the faucets.  I kept him in there about five or ten minutes.  He was fine when I was standing right next to him putting him, or brushing him, but then as soon as I'd go to the doorway he'd start to try and rear and kick the walls again. When I finally took him out to go back to his stall he let out two huge sighs and his body totally relaxed.  Because he's a white horse he's sadly going to have to get used to that wash room!

After all this our family went over to KD's for a potluck BBQ.  In all it was a very nice day. Here is evidence of our catastrophic pick ax fail.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What I did during the end of the world

A nutjob who just happened to have a lot of money decided to put up billboards that said the Rapture would happen at 6pm PST today.  Because of this he got a lot of media attention.  His message seemed to get twisted a few times over in the translation between him and the media (or perhaps his brain and his mouth) because I never did quite figure out if the Rapture was supposed to happen today and the actual end of the world was supposed to be October 11, 2011, or if the whole thing was supposed to go down today.  He also said that it would happen at 6pm today in all different time zones. So, right now Australia should be toast.

Right now I have two friends who are of the Christian type who believe that there really will be a Rapture and then Armegedon and then the end of the world.  I am not one of those Christian types myself.  But even my two friends who are think this guy is ridiculous.  That does not bode well for him when people who the majority would say have extreme beliefs think his beliefs are extreme. It's like extreme squared.  In this video on this Huffington Post article, I am really curious what is going ot be going on tomorrow with the couple they interviewed. What will they do when the Rapture doesn't come and the world doesn't end? Will they think they have been "left behind"? Or will they have to face that they were following a crazy man and quit their jobs for nothing? And what do they say when there is a huge gap in their resume? They can't really say "I quit my job because I truly believed the world will end and then it didn't so now I need to find another job."  I find all of this fascinating. 

Other than the Judgment Day being here, I'm kind of tired and cranky today.  I've got PMS and my ears hurt a bit and I'm coming down with a cough that is going around with all the kids/families around here.  I feel like going to bed and staying there all day and watching tv but of course I actually have a to-do list.  But I got up at my normal early weekday hour today and went all the way downtown to work for a meeting all morning and now I'm feeling uninspired.  Plus, it is much cooler today and I'm not sure I want to put the last of my starts out today because I have not "hardened them off" (meaning put them out in the colder weather for a few hours at a time for a week.  And my husband claims he does not need my help for the raised beds for our community garden.  I'm really hoping to get that done this weekend so we can start planting.  I've been happily surprised by positive interest from our neighbors. I think this could be really cool.  Our own little neighborhood pea patch!  Our neigbbor SF says she always kills plants but would love to have a little herb garden for fresh herbs for cooking and this is a great opportunity for her.  She can pick up some starts and get them planted and have a bunch of us gardeners nearby to help her.   The only thing I'm concerned about is watering.  Since it's right by our house I fear all the watering will be on us which could get expensive.  I guess we'll have to cross that obstacle when it comes up though.  Right now we just need to get the beds created and some dirt delivered.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

City Girl blunder

This morning I went out to check on my horses before an eye doctor appointment.  I figured I'd go out for about a half hour and then have plenty of time to drive back to my appointment.  I was just going to walk Sinatra and give Girlfriend some pets and snuggles.

As it was I got out there just before the owner was going to switch out the horse's in the pasture. I used to really like bringing in my own horse at her last stable so I said I would do it.  Especially because I'd only be bringing her in as opposed to both her and Ziggy. No problem, right?  The difference was that she was in a paddock that you access through a paddock that is currently not being used because it is so muddy.  But I was wearing my cowboy boots so I didn't care.  And without really thinking it through, instead of walking around the periphery of the paddock I walked straight through the middle. And needless to say I literally walked right out of my cowboy boots and ended up standing up to my mid-shins in mud in my socks.  Luckily, I'd at least had the foresight to roll up my jeans.

The mud just sucked my boots right in so after I stuck my feet back in them I had to pull them up by holding on to the tops of my boots instead of just pulling them up with my feet. This of course threw my balance off and made me almost topple over on my face into the mud (and into the electric fence! Eeep!).  Luckily, I did not fall over and I did get my boots out of the mud and I walked back with Girl along the periphery and neither of us got stuck again.  But then I had to drive home really fast - leave my boots and socks on the porch and run in and get clean socks and shoes and I just barely made it to my appointment in time.  And I didn't get to spend much time at all with Sinatra like I'd wanted. Doh!

My eye doctor appointment was to do some tests to see why it looks "lumpy" around my optic nerve.  And to make sure I don't have glaucoma.  The tests were kind of odd and made my eyes a little tired, but they were not unpleasant.  The part that supposed to be unpleasant (laser scans of my eye with bright blinking lights - with my eyes dialated) were not even that bad.  In fact, it was kind of interesting. I called it "a rave in my eye".  And when they were done with the test everything looked red which I found very interesting.  The coolest part though was that they were able to pull up a three-dimensional view of my eye and then chop it up piece by piece in the picture.  Ok, it was actually really cool! And the imaging is all done by lasers - which I need to look up how that works.  Initially the doctor said "It's like getting an MRI" but then I looked at the machine and said, "But the mechanics can't be the same because there's no large magnet," and he looked surprised and said, "No, it's not mechanically the same, the imaging is done by lasers," and I made some comment about all my atoms spinning together and the other doctor made a remark about "everybody line up in the same direction now!"  So, since I know how they get the image from an MRI, I need to look up now how the computer receives the data for the image from a laser.  Now I want everyone I know to go in and have their eyes scanned so I can see what everyone's optic nerves look like.  But apparently, it is a very expensive piece of equipment so no fun and games for me.

Pasco, dog dependency and gardening

Last week I got to work, asked my co-worker if she had time for our meeting to talk about fundraising and she said, "I have to go to a meeting in Pasco. Do you want to come?" and some strange part of me said "Sure." For those of you who don't live in the Western U.S., I work in downtown Seattle and Pasco is a small town in the tri-cities in Eastern WA. It is approximately 230 miles away on the other side of the mountains. But it was a sunny day in Seattle (which meant really nice in Eastern WA) so I said sure. As it turns out the drive was lovely. I drove over and my co-worker drove back which gave me plenty of time to look out at the scenery. And we stopped in Cle Elum for dinner, which is a little horse-obsessed town that I love and I think maybe after our daughter goes to college I can convince my husband to move to a farm out there.

Our meeting was with a woman who works with migrant farm-workers and we're starting an educational/outreach program for them. My co-worker went into the meeting first because well ... we had stopped at Taco Del Mar in Ellensburg to get something to eat and I quickly learned that eating a mondito burrito with lots of guacamole and sour cream doesn't work so well if you are driving and only have one hand to hold said burrito with. So, I spent the first part of the meeting in the bathroom desperately trying to clean burrito off the front of my blouse. In a bathroom with no paper towels because good lord - when did the City of Pasco decide to go green????

The meeting itself was very interesting. The social worker we met with grew up in a migrant farm worker's family too and was telling us a bit about their lifestyle. Even her life now is still very rural and she was talking about a fishing hole her husband goes to every weekend and I of course blurted out, "I would love to go fishing with you guys sometime," and she said, "Oh, that would be great!" When we were leaving my co-worker said "You know, the meeting was going ok, but then you got there and it's like you two were instant best friends! I'm so glad you decided to come with me!" That made me feel really good.

In other news I'm still on stall rest. I was actually starting to feel a lot better because of the high dose of naproxen I've been taking, but now my neck is hurting again today. Which means I shouldn't probably work in my garden like I was thinking of doing today. Hmmm ... I'll see if I can rig things up so I don't have to do much lifting. If only I had a trebuchet.

I was talking to my mom last night about someone I know who is my age and lives with her parents and doesn't work or anything (and is not disabled ... we do have some friends whose adult children live with them but in those cases the kids have autism or developmental disabilities and despite that still take classes and have active lives). Anyway, I was telling my mom how I felt sorry for this person because much as much as I love my mom, I think it would be so depressing to live with my parents and not have any friends, or family of my own or job or dreams. Maybe it's the lack of dreams or goals that I find most depressing. Even just having a child is a huge goal - my goal being to help her grow up to be happy and independent. Even if that's all I did was be a mom it would be something I was working at and striving for. Just surviving day to day without anything to look forward to or work toward sounds worse than anything to me. I guess that's the difference between some of our friends whose children are disabled but live at home - even their kids have goals and dreams even if it does not involve living independently.

My mom, whose is not one to mince words said, "She doesn't care. She's lazy and dependent". To which I said I'm not terribly lazy (no more so than the average bear) but I think of myself as a dependent person. My mom pointed out that I certainly wasn't dependent on her or my dad. So, I thought about it and tried to think who I am dependent on. I guess my husband and I are fairly inter-dependent. But that's the way it's supposed to be. That's part of the joy of having family. Then I realized, I think I'm dependent on my dog. Seriously. She's kind of a therapy dog for me. I take her a lot of places I go (except public places like restaurants and grocery stores obviously). If I don't have her when I drive long distances I feel lonely and kind of disjointed. If I'm downtown at work without her I feel vulnerable and small and like an easy target and when I'm home alone I can't get comfortable and completely relax without her. I realize that having a big pitbull helps me to not feel small, vulnerable and unsafe. Having my old dog (German Shepherd/border collie) did the same thing for me before we had the pitbull. I guess there are worse things to be dependent on. I'd rather be dependent on my dog than on cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or my parents. It makes me even more grateful to her for being such a great dog!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

parenting police and other random bits

We live on a "Local Access Only" street which people literally never come down - or need to come down - unless they live here or are visiting someone here. Because everyone (except us) has a backyard that is basically giant trees that back up in the environmentally protected wetland, the kids all ride their bikes and scooter and play soccer and baseball in the street in front of our houses. When we first moved here I was horrified by that. But as we've lived here longer I've seen that the older kids (or parents) have a system of yelling "Car!" if a car is coming (which is rare) and the kids scatter to the sidewalk. Plus, the other parents are actually smart, well-educated, responsible parents who I'd trust taking care of my child. So, when in Rome. Or when in the suburbs ...

Also, we might be "out in the sticks" as my brother calls it, but the majority of our neighbors are high tech workers with advanced degrees. The ones who aren't are either retired or own their own businesses. So, it's not what many of my city acquaintances told me the demographic would be like when we moved out here (ie: toothless, uneducated, drunk on moonshine all day or high on meth with an arsenal of guns and American flags on their Harleys)*. So, in general I'm comfortable with the dynamics here and feel safe when I have to work late and have our neighbor babysit my daughter. *(You don't have to go far though to find those neighbors ... they are in walking distance, just not on our street)

Which is why it was a big surprise to come home the other day and have my daughter tell me that the police came and gave everyone sticker badges and hung out for a bit. I asked KD who was babysitting and she said someone called the police to say that there were kids playing in the street. The police showed up and told the parents that it was a formality that he had to come because they got a call complaining about children playing in the street, then he asked the kids what they were playing and gave them sticker badges and watched them do tricks on their bikes and scooters and said the parents "They're having fun in their own neighborhood, don't worry about it. Carry on just the same as you were like I was never here!"

Of course the talk of the neighborhood the next day was who in the heck called the police? The new neighbors are us and the parents of another little girl who plays with all the kids and the rest of the people have lived here for years. So, it must have been someone visiting because literally no one else ever drives down our street. I had to explain to KD that there are people out there who feel like they need to get involved in the details of how other people raise their kids. I'm not talking about someone who will intervene when there's neglect or abuse, I'm talking about people who think they are perfect parents and need to intervene on other's parenting. Like my old neighbor in Seattle who told me I was a bad parent for not co-sleeping if I wanted to save my daughter I needed to change to doing that immediately. Or the mother who wouldn't let me tell her child no when he was at my house because I might "stifle his spirit" and because she believed in not having rules I was not allowed to enforce my house rules with him (needless to say I never let him come over again after that). I have run into that less out here which is nice. But apparently it does still happen.

Another thing that apparently does still happen is that our neighbor's car got broken into last week and they stole her GPS. That was disappointing because it seems so idealic and bucolic out here and we don't live a few blocks away from sketchy medical marijauna facilities or plasma centers that will buy plasma from junkies to use for medical research. But it turns out that apparently if you "go over there" a couple blocks there are problems with meth houses. Bummer. I thought we were too suburban for meth. I figured you had to get out to Sultan and Gold Bar for meth houses. Ok, so we didn't move to paradise but it still fits our lifestyle much better than where we were before in the city.

My daughter's riding lesson was yesterday and while she was out there I took Sinatra for a short walk and groomed him. There are two grooming rooms and he's gotten better at standing still in one of them so I thought we'd try the other one yesterday. Completely different experience! He was pulling on the cross ties and backing into the corner and trying to kick the walls - complete opposite of how he was acting in the other grooming room. So, we worked more on teaching him that it was ok to stand quietly in the cross ties in the middle of the room (as opposed to smashed in the corner) than we did actually grooming.

I'm by no means qualified to be a horse trainer but now that I'm in charge of a young horse it's trial by fire learning. I'm trying to remember everything I've been told and read. The biggest ones are "repetition is key", "you need endless patience and be prepared for small progress and things to go very slooooow" and "If you start to lose your temper you aren't effective any more". So, working with Sinatra I need to consciously go into "the zone" of stepping out of my normal, hyper self.

We did lots of me using rocking back and forth pressure on the cross tie saying, "Forward, forward" until Sinatra came out of the corner. Praise, and then firm half halts on the cross tie saying "Whoa" to ask him to stay there while I moved over to his side. Immediately, he'd back into the opposite corner as soon as I tried to move to his side. So, I'd do the same thing over again. We did this over and over and over again. I was wondering if Gemini's owner (a few stalls down) was getting sick of hearing "Forward, forward .... whoa ..." over and over again.

Finally, after doing this over and over again and even one time where I had to stop and take a deep breath and will myself to go back into "the zone" because I could feel myself getting frustrated, Sinatra moved into the center of the cross ties and stood completely still while I moved to his side and I even got to brush him without him moving away or backing up! He also let out a nice big sigh at that point! Success! I ended our little session on that happy note. I figured we'd both gone through enough on that side and didn't need to work on the opposite side. Then Gemini's owner came by and talked about how cute Sinatra is (and never mentioned being annoyed by listening to me say the same thing over and over again for god knows how long).

I suppose I could just groom him while he's backed into the corner, and I'm guessing that must be what they did at his last foster home, but I figure if he's going to be in my charge, he's going to learn to have excellent manners and part of that is standing quietly in the cross ties while he's being groomed. I'm spoiled by Girlfriend who has the best ground manners of any horse I've ever met, and I'm holding Sinatra to those high standards. Granted my horse is 27 years old and I've only known her since she was 24 years old, but that just means Sinatra has a lot of time to reach that goal.

He's improved A LOT with his mouthiness, at least with me. And that is something. He didn't try to nibble on me at all yesterday. He did try to get his halter in his mouth to chew on it when I put it on, but small steps. And he was much better with my personal space when I was in his stall with him. Girlfriend will move out of a person's way all on her own, but he's not very aware of humans and their personal space when he's in a small space with them. But yesterday we worked on me moving around his stall and keeping his attention so he'd move away from me so that I could walk all the way around the stall and he was not running over me or backing into me. I was even very proud of him that I kept the stall door cracked and he didn't rush it at all when I told him not to. He's getting used to his new home and starting to show his wanting-to-please and smart side!

I managed to not ride Girlfriend yesterday. I found myself when I woke up this morning doing the "surely we could just walk today ..." justification, but no, I can not ride her until the physical therapist says I can. I already probably did too much yesterday when I assembled an arbor that I'm putting up in front of my vegetable garden with a gate to keep the pitbull out. On one open side I have a big clematis vine that I'm going to train to grow over the arbor and that is supposed to deter the pitbull from going through that space. Unfortunately, yesterday she somehow got past it and then got "stuck" on the other side and was standing back there staring at me in horror, until she finally decided to jump through the vine and rip off all the bottom leaves and flowers. Sigh. Still, I'm feeling a little sorry for myself because I'm still in pain and still have to not do the things like gardening, riding and physical activity - the things that keep my spirits up. I didn't realize until this last week when I enforced the "stall rest" on myself again that physical exercise is so important to keeping my spirits up. I'll have to figure something else out for the next few weeks though I have no clue yet what that will be.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More about stall rest and the stir craziness it begets

After my breakdown in willpower and riding Girlfriend last Friday I have been suffering from pretty darn bad pain in my neck and shoulder - enough so that I broke down and went to the doctor. She did a bunch of movement tests and palpations and diagnosed me as having severely strained my SCM (I still think it's scalenes) and trapezius. And she said she thought I hadn't really hurt myself much by falling off Rolls, but when I didn't let my muscles heal for a few days I totally messed myself up. Despite that, I went ahead and bought myself an
eventing vest for when I ride young, spooky horses. I'm just too old to be falling off otherwise and the arthritis flare-ups it causes don't help.

I went out to see Girlfriend and Sinatra yesterday and managed to not ride Girl. I swear I'll need to ask my friend, K. to be my "no riding horses" sponsor and call her and beg her to talk me out of riding when I go out there because all sense seems to fly out the window when I'm with Girlfriend. "Surely, just walking won't mess up my muscles," and "Posting is good exercise so a little trotting would be good," and "It would be so fun just to canter around the arena once ... how much would it hurt?" Then I spend the next two days in awful pain that even ibuprofen won't help.

So, now I'm taking naproxen and waiting to hear back from the physical therapist to set up an appointment. And I'm supposed to take muscle relaxers but I'm kind of scared of them because the pharmacy info. sheet listed a bunch of horrendous side effects ranging from dizziness, nausea to seizures and death. I know all pharmacy info. sheets say that but it still freaks me out.

Sinatra seemed to be doing fine yesterday morning. I took him out and groomed him for awhile and we worked a lot on standing still in the cross ties. I don't know what he was like at his previous foster homes but he likes to back into the corner in the grooming area right now. So, there was a lot of asking him to come forward and then stand still. He started to comply after doing it over and over again. I wanted to check his feet and he was being a butt about letting me pick up his left foot. Three times he turned his head as I leaned over and tried to bite me in the butt. Finally the fourth time I managed to position my elbow just right behind me so that when he turned to bite me he bumped his nose on my elbow and decided it wasn't working for him afterall. Then he picked up his foot - which looked fine. Then when I went around to his right foot as soon I leaned over and touched his leg he lifted up his foot! I was so proud of him!

After grooming him and a short walk outside I took him back to his stall and he walked right in, no problem at all. Yay! He is also not trying to bite at me when we walk anymore which is a huge improvement. I wonder if he gets really good after some consistent handling by the same person, then it backslides when his care is turned over to a new person? I don't know how he acted at his previous foster homes but I had been told he has poor body space boundaries and is mouthy/bites. But those things seem to be improving quickly which is impressive - which is why I think he must have been better too with other people after consistent handling and his improvements with me are nothing new - he's just adjusting to me after transition to yet another handler.

I'm really having a hard time being patient with my gardening that I want to do. I need to finish filling the raised beds with dirt so I can start transplanting my starts and planting seeds, but that involves carrying heavy bags and shoveling which I'm also not supposed to be doing. Grumble. I need a cabana boy to follow around and give orders to. My husband spent much of his Saturday last weekend planting new plants for me because it involved digging holes in the nasty clay that is our yard.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Just a lot of complaining

I have a friend who is trying to quit smoking who has asked me to be her "stop smoking sponsor". In turn she has appointed herself my "get J.'s shoulder better" sponsor. I finally made an appointment with the doctor to go see if she can figure out what I did when I fell of Rolls and why every time I exert myself it seizes up and hurt like hell. Part if it (I KNOW!) is that I need to stop exerting myself for an actually significant amount of time ... like a month. Aaargh. My denial of what is "exertion" seems to be very similar to my friend's denial about how "one cigarette really won't hurt ..."

Yesterday morning my shoulder/neck hurt enough that I spent the whole staff meeting at work alternating between ice pack and heating pad. But then after some ibuprofen I felt better and when I took my daughter for her riding lesson I thought it might "loosen things up" if I rode Girlfriend. Plus, riding Girl at a walk/trot is really not that much exertion (for me ... since she's learned to be quiet with me). Maybe it was lifting the saddle? Sigh. We had a great ride. She seems to really like this new barn and is very relaxed but her spirits are high. And I think she likes the new arena because it is much lighter and the footing is better. And having T. (the new girl who is leasing her three days a week) and my instructor riding her seems to help too. Well, just getting ridden a lot more. Anyway, she did amazing. I'm so proud of my old girl!

One thing that is frustrating is that there are no beginner horses there except Tasha who can be borrowed from her owners for lessons with K. the other instructor, but right now Tasha has a stomach edema and can't have a saddle/girth on her. So, there aren't any horses in the entire stable that my mom can take lessons on.

So, I have no idea what is wrong with my shoulder/neck but it has to do with my SCM (sternocleidomastoid) muscle and my trapezius muscle. My SCM is totally screwed up and I'm not sure if it's a tendonitis from over-use after being pulled when I fell off Rolls or if it's something to do with ligaments or what the deal is. But I know that any kind of stress on my back makes it much worse whether it's shoveling in my clay garden, riding my horse, or picking up heavy boxes. Bah. All things that need to be done a lot while still being somewhat new in our house and our garden has to be started from scratch.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moments of unfamiliarity

I had one of those weird moments today where I felt surreal and like "Where am I? Who are you people? When am I going to wake up at my house in Ballard?" I'm in that weird state where I am starting to feel at home but it still hasn't been long enough that I feel totally rooted. It's only been three months. But I now feel like I have "my friends" and "my place" to a certain degree but when I go volunteer at the school only a couple kids know me, as opposed to our old school where kids were always saying hi and coming up and hugging me. It just takes time.

I still haven't seen any of these wild rabbits everyone speaks of either, although my daughter has. I have seen a tree frog and a big brown toad partially hidden in the mud though. And lots and lots of wolf spiders all over our back yard and the woods behind our house.

I am happy to report that Sinatra was not limping at all today when I took him out. I've been practicing walking in front of his shoulder instead of next to him, and not looking at him the way my instructor showed me. He does seem a bit more well-mannered when I do that. And I'm not taking him in the arena at all because he just gets too hyped up. But leading him the "safe way" my instructor showed me, also means I can't watch his feet, so luckily my friend, Cheryl was with me today and was able to watch him walk and said he wasn't limping at all. And other than being terrified of the big green monster we call a recycling truck, and spooking and thus almost falling over from the slippery ground, he did fine on his walk.

On the advice of some folks at Gift Horse Saddlery (which has really good prices I've found after perusing all the tack shops in the north end ... they rival my old-stand-by Stoney Creek Outfitters) I got this giant Kong like thing at PetSmart and filled it with treats. It's not actually a Kong because even the biggest ones for giant dogs aren't quite big enough for Sinatra. This thing is like the Kong Extreme or something like that. It's bigger than a football and it wobbles like those toys from the 70's called Weebles. You put small treats in it and when it's knocked around the treats fall out. Sinatra is a smart little guy and found out quickly that knocking it over meant treats, but they have to be really small, so it's hard for him to pick them up out of the shavings in his stall. So today I saw he had found a solution! Pick up the Kong, drop it in his food bin, knock it over and eat the treats without any of that annoying shavings stuff getting in the way. It was so funny watching him carry it around in his mouth! He also likes throwing it and picking it up and banging it on the side of his stall. So cute!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

More transition

Girlfriend is all moved into her new stable as of yesterday. I went out in the morning to meet her previous owner, KP at the old stable so she could help me trailer her to her new stable which was only 3 miles away. But I was still worried about loading Girl into the trailer since she was not too happy about going in J.'s when we went on a trail ride at Bridle Trails summer before last. I was relieved that K. said that Girlfriend looks great. I would feel awful if after just shy of three years she regretted giving me her horse!

We drove up to the new stable and K. (one of the trainers) had her horse, Madios turned out in the paddock next to the driveway and he freaked out to have a new mare at the stable! When I drove up he was quiet and grazing but as soon as the trailer came in a few minutes after me, he caught a whiff of the new mare and started galloping around in circles, bucking and rearing and screaming to the new girl. I was a little worried he'd hurt himself because he looked like he wanted to break out of the paddock despite the hot wire around the fence. I guess K. thought the same thing because she came out to get him and had to calm him down for a few minutes before taking him to his stall. Which lucky for him is right across the aisle from Girl!

Girl was all wound up in the trailer, kicking and calling back to Madios, but as soon as KP took her out of the trailer she was very alert but calm. I walked her around and she was very curious but seemed to be in good spirits. I put her in her new stall and the owner brought a flake of hay and she did exactly the same thing she did at her old stable her first time in her stall - she grabbed a mouthful of hay and tried to bolt out the stall door. This time I was prepared and kept her inside. She seemed fine with that - seemed to do a mental shrug and went back to eating her hay. After some time in her stall and a snack of hay I took her out to the arena and just let her go to explore. She did a few laps galloping and doing her barrel racing turns, then cantered a little, then trotted a little, then just walked around and looked at things and sniffed at things. She seemed to approve.

When I came back in the afternoon to drive I. to her lesson I went ahead and tried out riding Girlfriend in the new arena. She did great! She was curious about a lot of things but not at all spooky and although she was very attentive, it was a good-spirited alertness and attentiveness. When I.'s lesson was done my instructor said, "Oh please, can I ride her!" which I really wanted to see because I wanted to see what a real pro dressage rider could do with her.

When I handed V. the reins I said, "She's really really hot," and V. said, "She didn't look hot at all just now," and I said without thinking, "Well, she doesn't look hot when I ride her," which I later realized probably sounded a little arrogant. But I just meant that she knows me really well and she's the type of horse who really excels when ridden by the same person a lot - when she really develops a relationship with someone. So, V. hopped on and Girl walked a little ways at an energetic pace and V. said, "Oh, this really isn't much ..." then she decided to bolt and V. laughed and said, "Oh there it is!" The trotted and cantered around the arena a few times and V. said, "I'm really not holding back much on the reins with her, she's very good ... see ..." and let go of the reins just a little bit more and Girl bolted and V. laughed and said, "Oh, a little too much there maybe!" Then she exclaimed, "I can't believe I'm riding a twenty-seven year old horse right now! I just can't believe this horse is twenty-seven with all this energy!"

V. was able to keep Girl very collected and do a lovely English canter which I have yet to accomplish with her. But I know she can do it so I will continue to work on that.

I started this blog post this morning and am finishing it late this afternoon after going out to the barn to check on the horses. Girl seemed just fine and had been let out in the pasture by the barn for a bit. She knew when my car drove up though and wanted me to take her out as soon as I got there. I let her run around in the arena for a bit and gave her lots of pets and love and she seemed very relaxed and content.

The worrisome part is that I brought Sinatra out for a walk and he was very visibly limping. It was like he had very little strength in his front legs and when I put him in the grooming area to check his hooves to make sure it wasn't something just stuck in a hoof, he couldn't even hold up his weight on his left foot for me to pick up his right. And when I picked up his left foot is obviously visibly hurt him to have me handling it. So, I left a message with our vet asking her if she wanted to come look at him. I feel horrible like this is somehow all my fault but I have been following protocol and only taking him for short walks around the barn or even just grooming him and putting him back. I'm wondering if it's the two times I tried to walk him in the arena that did it - the first time when he got away and ran around the arena a couple times or a couple days ago when V. was helping me walk him and he kept trying to jump and bolt. But that was such minimal activity - he was getting more activity running in the round pen at NWESC at the vet's. So, I'm worried and hoping I didn't screw him up on accident. I'm also wondering if the Valerian supplement he's taking is making him feel weak? He's taken the regular dose but he's not a very big guy so I need to check on that too. Regardless, despite that it's considered safer to walk him in the arena because it's enclosed, he is on much better behavior when I walk him outside so when I get the ok from the vet to keep walking him we're just going to walk outside where he doesn't jump around so much. He just sniffs around like an old hound dog and doesn't try to play.