Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We're home and it's cold.

I can't say that I wasn't disappointed to leave New Orleans yesterday.  We got up at 4am their time (so 2am our time) to go to the airport to catch our first flight to Houston. It's good that we left so early because it was so crowded that we got our gate as they were starting to board our flight.  Both flights were pretty easy and quiet - no barking dogs or yelling assholes or Jerry Springer type fights.  But we were all really tired.  The flight from Houston to Seattle was a bit over four hours so keep myself from wallowing in "I'm so tired and going back to a cold place" self-pity I paid the exorbitant fee to watch t.v. and watched dumb, but funny shows like The Big Bang Theory and did mosaic crafts with my daughter.  And drank bad airplane coffee.  And talked to the couple in front of us who are Pentecostal children's ministers in rural Alaska and were actually quite charming.

Back home it is cold and gray and good God but our old cat can puke and have the runs and miss the litter box a lot while we're gone.  Sigh.  I spent a lot of time going around the house and cleaning it all up and using up over half a bottle of orange enzyme odor remover in the process.  Our cat sitters kept them fed and their litter boxes cleaned but it was too much to ask that they go into each corner of each room to check for cat puke. 

I tried to get it together and go out and see my horses in the afternoon but I had my obligatory travel-headache and we got home at 2pm (Pacific time) which was exactly 12 hours after we'd woken up.  So, my daughter and I took a nap (or I dozed and tried to nap but my head hurt too much) and I didn't do much of anything. So, this morning I'm going out to see them and I'm hoping they haven't forgotten about me.

I do wish I could move all my good friends, Trainer K. and my daughter's awesome school down to Mandeville, LA.  Or even Covington or Madisonville.  I told my husband if we ever "come into money" (like half a million or more) I want to move to the Northsore of Lake Pontchatrain.  Since there really aren't any jobs out there for him, especially not on the Northshore (there *might* be a job for him in the city but I don't want to live downtown or Metairie and he doesn't want to commute across the Causeway ... people think commuting across the 520 bridge here is bad ... imagine that bridge only literally twenty times longer!) ... anyway, since there aren't any jobs for him we'd have to come into money to buy a house for cash and then I could work part-time and he could do art.  But since the chances of that happening are pretty much slim to none I think we're here for the longhaul in the Northwest.  And once it snows I'm sure I will forget all about my homesickness for N'awlins.

Et toi!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Finally some time ... semi-alone

We've been in New Orleans all week and I've been really enjoying seeing my in-law family, but this morning I am grateful for some time to be alone - or at least alone with my husband and daughter which is just as relaxing as being alone.  Another cousin and her teenage kids (who is in town from Houston) wanted to meet us for breakfast and I was working on convincing my husband I needed to bow out or I would be too drained.  Luckily, the teens wanted to sleep in.  Don't get me wrong - I adore his family - I just need time alone to recharge.  The only folks that stress me out are his parents but part of that is his mother has never liked me because I'm not the girl she envisioned for him (ie: Southern!!! Blond, quiet, demure, skinny as a rail, and without tattoos and without a keen eye for bullshit and a mouth to match).

What's funny is that all the cousins are so much like me that I fit in like I'm a blood relative.  I also love his sister and her husband (more than just because I have to because we're related!) At Thanksgiving I spent a good portion of the time with all the women out on the back porch and my husband said he walked by the big window out to the porch and said it looked like I was "holding court".  We had so much fun!  His cousin, Darra was even telling me I need to have less of a filter and just "say it like it is" which made me laugh because that's a part of me I'm always trying to rein in at family functions!

On Thanksgiving, cousin Don gave me a quick run down on how football is played.  He was a little shocked at how much I didn't know.  I found it all very interesting and realized it is like a battle and that the two teams are soldiers creating strategies against each other, and I thought that was fascinating. It was of course the LSU game (the Saints).  But after awhile I said, "It's so slow though. There's a burst of activity then everyone stands around.  I'm used to fast moving and continuous action like basketball.  I'm not sure I could handle something so slow." To which I surprised by how defensive Don sounded when he said, "Maybe you should give it more than a few minutes to decide!"  Don is one of our most progressive, Metrosexual relatives who long ago moved to WA DC.  I thought it was cute that he was so true to the obsessive past-time of N'awlins. 

Yesterday I went over to Gina's house to spend time with her family. Her husband is my husband's cousin and they have two daughters about my daughter's age.  My husband stayed back at the hotel to try and get some work done (and he was drained too) until I went and picked him up to go to lunch with all of us.  Gina is a music teacher, paints and also sews really well, the latter I know nothing about.  We get along great, as do the girls and at one point I said, "I really wish we could've moved to Mandeville or Covington when we sold our house." And she said, "That is just weird to hear you say! I've never heard anyone from the West Coast say they wished they lived in Louisiana!"  I admit, a part of it is just having family down here I really like.  And the sun all year around.  And the amazing food and the amazing music.  But there's more to it.

People say "I can really be myself on the West Coast.  I can be whoever I want to be." Well, if you are a liberal, or gay, yes you can be more yourself than a lot of places.   And I do fine because I am liberal (although not as liberal as the average Seattleite ... I never have been *that* liberal even though with my conservative family I thought I was super liberal - my dad was the only liberal one when I was growing up and we never talked).   In our old neighborhood there wasn't a lot of room to have conflicting views.   I remember one elderly woman put up a McCain sign in her yard on our block in our old neighborhood during the last election and it got torn down and broken within a week.  I got a real message over the years that you can "be whoever you want to be as long as it fits the popular agenda" - sounds a lot like people complain about from the Right Wing too.

I don't want to live in Metairie though.  It looks very much like suburbs of big cities all of the South but it's too different than what I'm used to.  Plus, I need lots of woods and wild animals wandering around my yard.  Darra is putting her house up for sale one of these days and I could live there - except that they have an HOA that says you can't own horses on your property.  But in reality I don't want to leave all my awesome friends in Woodinville or my daughter's awesome school.  I wish I could move them all down here where it's sunny all year long though.

It was validating when I was talking to my sister-in-law though, when I was telling her about the culture in our old downtown neighborhood and the "social rules" among the moms, about how strict and  fundie liberal one has to be to fit in.  The whole psuedo-science thing came up ... like no matter how many times you present scientific evidence that vaccines are safer than no vaccines the argument comes back as "those scientific studies are backed by big pharmaceutical and the real truth is in bizarre websites you find on the internet and with that scientist who was arrested for falsifying data because he is so much more trustworthy than other scientists because he was framed!"  Oh ... and now is a good time to use the word "quantum" again.  Anyway, it was validating that my sister-in-law (who has lived all over the East Coast and went to college in NYC so she's not what people would blow-off as "typical Southern") rolled her eyes and said, "That would drive me crazy! I don't know how you live there!" I don't anymore - the rural suburbs is a lot different and a lot easier.

I don't have the same politics as most of in-laws down here (except Gina's family and Don) but they don't seem to care at all which is nice.  It frustrates me when my fellow-liberals tell me I'm uneducated or worse "a fascist" when I don't agree with them.  It's very Glenn Beck of them.  Luckily, down here politics seems less a hot-button topic, at least with the folks we know.  And they just tease me and say "Oh, we'll make a conservative out of you, yet" and that's about it.

A lot of me talking so much about this stuff is that I feel like I'm coming out of my own state of being a fundamentalist about my views.  I remember ten years ago when even though I didn't have as left-wing of a views as many of my friends, I still thought if you were a Republican you were evil.   I also assumed that if you lived in the South you were way less progressive.  Even two years ago I was talking to Darra and she was talking about teaching yoga and I said, "You have yoga classes out here in rural Louisiana?" and she said, "Yes, and we have a Vegan restaurant, too." I looked shocked and she said, "You need to get off the West Coast more often.  The rest of the world is not totally backward compared to you."  That was pretty eye opening for me.

Meanwhile, I totally miss my pets.  I keep wanting to call the kennel and find out how the pitbull is doing.  And I miss the kittens when I wake up in the morning and there aren't any little bouncing, purring bundles jumping on me.  And I miss my horses so much that last night all my dreams were about horses.  Only they were about horses running away and people not letting me help catch them and me being kept away from them for various reasons.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

N'awlins ... how do I love thee, let me count the ways

You know, I may not be so enamored with the Deep South as I am with the sun.  After freezing my toes at the barn last week, we got into New Orleans late Monday night and as soon as we left the airport we were hit with warm, humid air, like being in a sauna that wasn't turned up all the way.  Tuesday morning we got up to 80 degree weather and our daughter spent the whole morning at the pool with some kids her age she met from the hotel.  Don't get me wrong, I still don't enjoy being directly in the sun, I just enjoy seeing it.  I like to be in the shade with the sun next to me.  Actually being in the direct sun makes me feel bad pretty quickly for some reason.  I may be part vampire.  And since it has been established during my riding lessons with Toad that I may also be part thoroughbred (because I understand Toad so well, but I am also high-strung and when inundated with too much information all at once my mind tends to shut down ... something trainers call "a thoroughbred moment") ... anyway, it appears that I am actually a "vampire thoroughbred".  Which would fit in just fine in New Orleans.

Since we were tired from getting in late - and a long day of traveling on Monday - Tuesday was our day to not do much and also for me and my husband to catch up on some work that we hadn't finished before we left.  Luckily, I was able to finish mine, get it emailed to my boss, get his changes, give my approval on them and now I'm done.  My husband is not so lucky and still has some code left to write on his project.  Poor guy.  In the afternoon we went out shopping for a birthday present for our nephew who just turned two and to pick up some dinner and some groceries to have around the hotel.  Whole Foods deli section is a totally different experience down here.  For dinner we had jambalaya, chicken/andouille sausage gumbo (to rival my mom-in-law's) chicken and dumpling soup and jalapeno corn bread.  They also had lobster bisque, squash bisque, shrimp ettouffee and crab scampi. Wow.   We also found a good local radio station which is good because I left our iPod adapter at home on accident.

My husband does not understand why I like it down here so much.  Or maybe he understands it but doesn't believe I would like living here.  And I wouldn't like living in New Orleans proper because I'm not a big-city girl (obviously!) and the crime is much worse than in Seattle.  Although if you look at the latest crime statistics Seattle is actually getting up there.  The crime rate is now higher than New York City and Los Angeles and rivaling Chicago.  Of course, that could be because the general attitude in Seattle seems to have become feeling sorry for and giving big hugs to criminals is the thing to do.  But at the same time don't talk about being Christian because that is not politically correct - which I at least tend to equate being super-soft on crime and letting people walk all over you being an outcropping of misunderstanding Christianity.  But then Seattle culture no longer makes sense to me.

I think that a lot of what my husband doesn't like down here that he thinks would bother me is the racism.  But after growing up in Seattle I actually find people being open about being racist easier to deal with than the closed-door-racism (and hypocrisy regarding racism) in the Pacific NW.  Plus, Seattle is so segregated!  It's always a bit of a shock to come down here and realize once again how incredibly segregated Seattle is.  Where we currently live is kind of like a weird little pocket of many different ethnic groups but it is still all white Americans and many immigrants from all over.  So, that to me is a huge relief to be in a area that is not so segregated.

I do love where we live right now though and I love my new friends and neighbors.  I just really like the sun, the music, the food, the culture being so much more laid back down here in New Orleans.  Even thought I don't drink I am amused to no end how you can buy a daiquiri at the zoo and get a to-go cup for your drink if you haven't finished it.  Although, I imagine living down here that might irritate me after awhile.  But I wouldn't live in the city - I would live in Mandeville or Covington.  I also wouldn't live in Metairie where we are right now because it's not "pretty" enough.  And actually Metairie feels too much like a city for me too even though technically it's the suburbs.  I need to be in the rural suburbs where neighbors have cows and horses and you see coyote in your back yard.

Although, my sister-in-law's house is really nice and they are really close to a big park.  Plus, I just adore her and her family.  My parents-in-law are ... difficult at best.  But they seem a lot more relaxed this trip and I think it is because they are finally selling their house in Charlotte, NC and moving back here which I think will end up being incredibly good for them.

I need to get off my butt and go work out before we head out to Covington, LA for Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm hoping Cousin Darra's friend, Ellie is there again this year.  She has a wildlife sanctuary on her land and rehabilitates hurt wild animals and is so incredibly cool.  She lives around the corner from Darra and we got to go see some of her animals when we were here two years ago.  And Saturday we get to go to Cousin Debbie's who lives in the swamp and my daughter is very impressed that you can go out onto the docks in their back yard and see gators.

Of course, the only other thing that would make this vacation perfect is if all our pets were down here.  I miss our kittens, the pitbull and the horses - especially Toadie because we've been coming so far in our work together.  Sigh.  Trainer K. texted and said it's so nasty outside Toad hasn't been out to pasture in four days but that "Toad hasn't killed her yet so things must be going ok".

Here's a little test to see how well you'd survive down here.  Can you find the gator in this photo?



Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cold feet just at the thought

It was 26 degrees and has warmed up to 28 degrees.  I need to get it together and go out to the barn and my feet are cold just thinking about it.  I heard about these things called "foot warmers" that you can put in your boots so I'm thinking I may go check them out because two pairs of wool socks just aren't cutting it when I'm out for hours and it's this cold. Especially because my riding boots aren't insulated. It'd be ok if I was wearing my big insulated waterproof boots from REI but I can't ride well in those.

And no, I'm not at all excited to go on vacation tomorrow.  My poor husband is so "Pacific Northwest" and I am totally enamored with his N'awlins culture.  Plus, I was kind of excited but a little nervous about our trip until I talked to his cousin, Debbie last night and she was telling me how excited her daughter is to see our daughter and about how her daughter's new thing is wakeboarding and she's taking class with the second top wakeboarder in the nation.  And hearing about the rest of the family and everything they're up to and how everyone is happy we're coming down, it just started getting me psyched to go.  Plus, have I mentioned that I LOVE New Orleans? Well, I wouldn't live in the city itself, but I would love to live in the suburbs or in a rural area outside.  Actually, I had my heart set on moving the family to Mandeville, LA but my husband wouldn't go for it.  Probably for the best because I do love our neighborhood and school here and all our friends.  But it is fun to visit at least.

I'm a little concerned about being away from the pets for so long.  And day before yesterday I had my first ride with The Toad where I felt confident and comfortable like we are a team and are starting to trust each other.  Every time I've ridden her I've been very nervous that if she doesn't act really well then I won't be able to handle it.  Friday was the first day I really found myself feeling confident and like I could handle her and take care of her, instead of her having to take care of me.  That was pretty awesome!

Ok, I need to rally and start putting on many layers of clothes and head out to the barn to make sure the horses have all their supplements to last while we're gone. And come back and write out detailed instructions for our housesitter taking care of the cats, and upload audiobooks onto our iPods for the travling part, and make sure my daughter packs appropriate clothes and doesn't forget things like underwear or packs all shirts but no pants (which has happened before).  Yikes. Much to do.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Music

This is my current favorite song.  At least for today.  Even though in the video the lead singer looks like a sheltered doughboy whose ass I could kick, which is always a turn-off for me.  Geez.  I really am a sweet person, I swear.  I probably should not let those thoughts out in public. Sigh.

One of my long running favorite musicians is Trombone Shorty a kid from New Orleans.  I was hoping he'd be in town when we're there but no such luck because he's too big.  He'll be touring around WA DC while we're in New Orleans.  When we were there in 2004 I heard him on a local radio station and he was playing at a club in Treme but it was the night we were flying out.  Bah.  Instead since he's not in town I'm hoping to go see these guys while I'm down there because they look fun.  And it's all-ages so my daughter might actually like to go with us.  Oh, who am I kidding.  Everything is all ages down there.  You can even take kids into pubs as long as you don't buy them alcohol.

I know it comes as irony for someone who is so pro-vaccine, and for someone who knows a lot about vaccines and their history and the reality behind much of the urban legends and propaganda ... but I am afraid to get the flu shot.  The only reason I am is because of the horror stories I'd heard years ago from people about how they got a flu shot and got desperately sick.  I realize intellectually that they may have gotten the flu shot AND gotten desperately sick but that the two were not actually connected.  It is impossible to get sick like that from a dead virus unless you are allergic to some part of the vaccination formula.  Which I'm not because I've had all the vaccines one can have (that are dead, with my compromised immune system I can't have live vaccines) and never had a problem.  I've even had the flu shot in the last few years because my rheumatologist insists on it.  In fact I'm supposed to get a pneumonia vaccine too, which is weird because I thought pneumonia was a secondary bacterial infection.  I need to look that up.  Anyway, I went out and got my flu shot this morning because I've been putting it off and figure I should get it before hopping on an airplane for a full day.   And as always, I practically stopped breathing and made myself woozy.  It's not the shot, it's the fear of bizarre side effects.  Totally irrational.  And ironic because I will lecture a new mom's ear off if she starts talking about not vaccinating her kids out of fear of autism.

The weather report for our area says it's supposed to snow today and tomorrow but so far I haven't seen any indications of it.  I just keep watching the weather to make sure it doesn't snow on Monday because SeaTac Airport is notorious for shutting down with just a bit of snow.  Plus, I don't trust driver's on I-405 in the snow/ice.  Too many Californians in their Hummers thinking that they can drive like dumbasses with their 4 wheel drives, not realizing that all 4 wheel drive means is that when they skid out and crash all four wheels will be spinning independently right before they careen across the patch of ice.  Meanwhile, down in Gulf Coast Louisana they are expecting high in the upper 70's and thunderstorms.  I could ask for no better weather for New Orleans in fall!  Except when we have to cross the Causeway which freaks me out because it's just so wrong to drive out onto a bridge where you can't see the other side.   I should probably try to change my attitude and think of it as "cool" as opposed to "creepy".

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I really need to stop reading the news for awhile

I need to stop reading the news because not only does the actual content irritate me, but so does the presentation and exploitation of manipulation of facts in order to try and get people riled up.  We're going on vacation in a few days so I may make that my news-fast time.  Otherwise I just get really irritated.  And of course the whole Occupy thing is really irritating me.  My work just got our major government grant that we survive on cut because of enormous budget shortfalls this week.  The place I work is a major player in fighting to achieve the goals that the Occupiers claim they want (and we actually are working toward change as opposed to camping out downtown and demanding that other people come up with solutions and do the dirty work).  So, here are these people camping out at SCC Campus, using up thousands of dollars in the city's money to pay for cops (to remind them to be respectful of others - which is not their strong suit ... they demand we all respect and let them do whatever but god forbid they respect anyone else) and the city cleans up after their messes - and the money to go to organizations who are doing the work FOR the Occupiers are losing their government funding.  I know it's not a direct result of the Occupiers, but still, they are wasting resources that could go toward something production - something that would actually help their cause.  In my opinion they are actually hurting their cause.   They are such bozos.  I finally realized how to define myself politically:  I am a liberal, not a bozo.  There is a difference.

Anyhoo.  Let's see if somewhere deep down inside I can rustle up something non-cranky.  This song makes me very happy. It is one of my favorites. And I never get tired of this band.

Girlfriend is doing better.  In fact on Sunday I put her out in the arena thinking she might want to roll, and before I had even unsnapped the lead rope she was bouncing around and trying to run off.  As soon as I unsnapped it she whirled around and started galloping around the arena, bucking all over the place.  Then she started running her barrel patterns.  She was running so fast without warming up her old lady muscles that she skidded out and biffed on one term.  But she let out a snort and jumped right up and started galloping again.  It's good to see my old girl so energetic and feeling so well.  I think the Cushings medication is having an effect because although she's had energy, it hasn't been that much.  That's the kind of energy she had four years ago.  It gives me hope that even at 27 she has a few good years left in her.

Toad was really wound up on Sunday but she was super lazy today.  It was my first time lunging her with a bridle on (Trainer K. suggested I start doing that) and I was pretty worried about hurting her mouth.  I'll need to ask a lot more questions at her training tomorrow.  I didn't feel like I was bothering her during the actual lunging, but I wasn't sure.  And I had a lot of concerns that I was pulling and yanking the bit around too much when I was attaching the lunge rope to it.  She didn't act like I was hurting her, but when she knows she's supposed to be working she gets that attitude that she has to be obedient (which is good) but I don't want to be hurting her on accident and her not letting me know.  I guess if it was too bad she's let me know.  And my bruise - which is now almost two weeks old and still taking up a big portion of my thigh - is a reminder.  A big, green, red, purple reminder.

The last couple weeks I've noticed that my neighbors the llamas are gone.  I find this oddly distressing.   Actually, all the animals appear to be gone including the emu and the long-horned steer.  I don't know if they're just in a different pasture in the back of the property or what but I am bummed that I don't see the llama anymore when I head out to leave the neighborhood.  Meanwhile, up the street the other direction, one of the big fancy colonial houses with their pristine pasture with fancy electric fences stopped having horses in their pasture one day.  Then a couple weeks ago a couple cows showed up.  They look a little out of place on such a nice equestrian property.

My campaign to get chickens again seems to have failed enough that I'm going to give up on it.  And since the city has been pissy about letting us have our community garden on the land that the HOA owns (so really ... the city should have no say ... grumble ...) I imagine the city would really throw a hissy fit if we went ahead and put a community chicken coop back there.  But hey, we voted out a couple of really annoying incumbents on the city council the last election so maybe that won't be an issue anymore.  That would be nice.  Although it is a moot point until March at this rate, now that it's so dang cold out.  I have a couple potted plants I either need to get in the ground this weekend or bring them into the garage for a few months.  And it's possibly going to snow this weekend so that may not happen.

And we're going on vacation.  Of course, we're going to see the in-laws so that is always a crapshoot on whether or not it is traumatic or relaxing.  But we're going to see the in-laws in New Orleans so that is a huge mega-bonus.  Experience has shown me that New Orleans locals (ie: my in-laws) are all crazy, but they also have the best Cajun accents and the Best.Food.Ever and their craziness is at least fun craziness.  Oh yes, and Best.Music.Ever.  Ya'll can be thinking of me on Thanksgiving when we're having a Cajun Thanksgiving meal.  Hot pepper jelly and everything crab-this and crawfish that and everything covered in red pepper and paprika - not to mention you must have the Holy Trinity: celery, onion and peppers.

And I just like the idea of not having to work.  Well, not really having to work.  Hopefully, not having to work.  Because of the loss of our big grant at work no one is allowed to write any checks without calling me and getting my O.K.  So, I will inevitably get a couple work calls.  But I will also be drinking sweet tea and wearing short sleeves in the 70 degree weather and eating jumbalaya and gumbo and "live" boiled crawfish while deciding if I'm going to give them the O.K. or not.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't let's go to the dogs

I'm surprised that I've become that person who anxiously watches the results of our election on school board officials. But with my daughter in second grade now these things are important to me now.  There was a big one this election because one of the candidates wants to save money by closing at least one grade school, and since my daughter's (incredibly awesome) grade school is the one full of poor families and immigrant families it is always the first on the chopping block. Even though it is fully enrolled (with a waiting list) and has won awards.  But we live in a wealthy area (well, like being next door to the woods we are next door to the wealth) so they would never dream of trying to close the wealthy schools even though they have not won any awards recently and both are under enrolled.  It sounds crazy and like one of those "How can they do that?" things, but it is true. Anyway, the one who wanted to close schools has lost.  Yay!  I'm also anxiously awaiting results on the city council positions but they haven't been published so far.  These things matter more in a small town.  In Seattle when the city council was stupid it would just be awash in the crowdedness of a city that grew too fast and is bursting at the seams anyway.

This cold I have seems to be getting nastier by the day which is disconcerting.  Last night I could barely sleep because I kept coughing.  Not the tickle in one's throat cough but a "I can't breathe through this junk in my chest" cough.  Just as I'm trying to cut down on chemicals that I put in my body ... and cold medicine includes chemicals.  I'm thinking of going back to my old ways and just loading up on as much cold medicine as I can until this goes away. Bah.  The whole natural approach of saline rinse and humidifier during the night is not cutting it.

So dogs.  When we lived in Seattle we had one neighbor so phobic of our pitbull that her kids were not allowed to play anywhere near our house.  Here there are more people who are phobic of our pitbull but they seem to understand that they have a phobia - not that I have a vicious kid-eating dog.  My neighbor V.D. (who is from India - I've noticed most of my friends from India are scared of dogs) is terrified of the pitbull and said he has no desire to get over his phobia, but when I said, "Well, let me tell you a little bit about how to tell what a dog is thinking," he actually said that helped a lot - even if he still doesn't want to be around our dog.

My friend, D. is phobic of dogs too but has been showing signs of wanting to get past it.  She's from Nigeria but unlike my friend Laud who is from a neighboring country, Ghana, people in her life had pet dogs. Laud said in his area of Accra where he grew up people didn't have pet dogs unless they had pitbulls for attack dogs.  And they especially didn't let the dogs live in inside, let alone let them sleep under the comforter in their beds.  As Laud said, "You white people do weird things with your dogs." But D. said people had dogs, and the problem for her is that a family friend's dog attacked and bit her dad when she was a little girl.  She said it was a dog everyone knew and it just freaked out.  I explained that if you knew how to read dogs, there would be signs that the dog had the capacity to attack a human supposed unprovoked.  Because dogs, like people, don't just "snap" and become vicious.  That's like saying that because my good friend's husband seemed nice until suddenly it came out how horribly abuse he is, that he just snapped and became abusive.  But as the whole story comes out I'm seeing signs of abuse that were hidden from our little group of friends all along.  So just because my friend's husband is incredibly abusive doesn't mean that any day my husband is suddenly going to become abusive.  Especially because in our 16 years together he has not shown signs of being abusive.  It is the same way with dogs.  Our pitbull is not suddenly going to turn human-aggressive and snap.


Through all this I'm realizing that the best cure for a phobia for dogs is probably education *before* exposure.  I had a terrible phobia of spiders when I was younger and come to think of it the first thing I did to get over my phobia was start learning about spiders.  I now know way more than a non-entomologist should know about spiders.  But I wanted to learn which ones were safe and which ones weren't before I started exposing myself to them.  I'm wondering if I should start a little program for my neighbors on understanding dogs and reading their body language in order to help them get over their fears.  But then as I'm thinking about that I wonder if I would be able to teach them that because it's not something I consciously think about.  A lot like when I'm riding Girlfriend and someone says "How do you get her to stay so calm and walk so quietly because when I get on her she bolts."  I really don't have an answer for that because I'm not consciously doing anything, it's something that I learned by trial and error over the last four years and now do without thinking about it.  Since I've been around dogs since I came home from the hospital when I was about three days old, I think a lot of my reading them is just from growing up with them.

challenge for myself over the next few weeks (if I have time ...) is to attempt to write out how I can tell what dogs are feeling or doing.  Sometimes I just know though so I need to explore that further.  For instance I can tell that my dog is agitated by the way she holds her body and where her ears are and how she is moving, but knowing *why* she is agitated is a little harder to explain.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lightness has a call that's hard to hear

There was talk last night of setting up an intervention for Trainer V.  But I don't think anyone is really going to do it.  I'm not sure what the statistics are, but I'm pretty sure that interventions are not hugely successful.  If someone wants to destroy their life it's pretty hard to stop them.  I don't understand.  Even though I went through a phase when I was young of blaming everyone else and not wanting to take responsibility, I burned out on it pretty fast.  It's just not fun being miserable.  And I have a low tolerance for the embarrassment of being in constant dramatic crisis like one's life is when it's always "someone else's fault".

On a different note, I've been learning a lot about people living with disabilities since we moved to our new neighborhood.  There are two kids on the block with autism (brothers - one is higher functioning than the other but has ADD), one kid with FOP (a cruel, cruel disability) and our next door neighbor's adult daughter who has agenises of the corpus callosum (yes, that sounded overwhelming when I first heard it too).  I was out today with the latter neighbor, her daughter and my daughter and it just seemed like a routine trip to me.  Her daughter was being her usual emotive self and I find that very endearing (albeit a little exhausting because she feels the need to talk in a stream of conscious constantly which I'm not sure why ... I think it's her way of connecting to people close to her in the only way she can).  We were doing our thing and in *my world* we did not stand out at all. But I noticed when we were at the check-out stand a woman who'd been in the store with us at the same time was staring at us (me and my friend's daughter specifically, who at that moment was hanging on my arm). She had this almost rageful look on her face like she truly hated us and it shocked me so much that I just stared back at her.   She apparently didn't notice and just continued to stare at my neighbor's daughter with this awful scowl and it was all I could do not to walk over and slap that scowl right off her face!

It probably didn't help that as we were leaving I told my neighbor she could sell the purse she made for at least $100 and if she were really motivated she could start a sweatshop in her basement and I'd be her first slave.  But hey, if that woman is going to give us nasty looks, might as well say something off-color to make her feel justified for glaring at a disabled girl who just wants to love everyone.  I didn't say anything to my neighbor (the mom) about it because I'm pretty sure that she is all too aware of that stuff and has been for the last twenty-five years. 

Well, I'm glad that autism and other mental-function disabilities seem normal to me now.  And I'm extremely glad that those disabilities seem normal to my daughter.  Just like how it's normal to her that a lot of kids at her school speak English as a second language and a lot of their parents didn't grow up in this country.

In horse related news, I went with Trainer K. up to a feed store in Snohomish today and spent a very long time going over senior grains for Girlfriend.  One needs to have a degree in nutrition and veterinary medicine to own a senior horse it seems.  Girlfriend was recently diagnosed with a disease called Cushings, which didn't really surprise me because she is so old.  But between having trouble keeping weight on her now that she's so old, and having to watch her diet because of the Cushings, feeding her is becoming an exact science.

And Toad ... sigh ... the Toad.  Toad kicked me yesterday in what may have been the first time in my life I've ever been kicked by a horse.  Of all the riding lessons I took as a kid and all the summers I spent with my best friend and her two horses one would think at some point I got kicked but I don't remember if I did.  I also don't remember being stomped on although you would think I had been.  I remember falling off, two specific times especially - one into the poles going over a jump and one time when the horse I was riding during a schooling show was cantering and spooked and threw me into the arena wall.  But I honestly can not remember ever being kicked.  So, way to go, Toadie. First horse ever to kick me.  Grumble.

I was brushing the mud off of her belly with a curry-glove and I was not paying attention to the cues that it was bothering her and she just lifted her back leg and kicked forward and got me right in the thigh right above my knee.  It didn't hurt that much so it was obvious she was just trying to nudge me away, but a nudge from the back leg of a half-ton creature hurts really bad if you're small and human.  So, now I have a big, hoof size bruise on the inside of my thigh with a blood blister above that.  It looks impressive, but it's actually a surface bruise and thankfully it didn't hurt that much. It was sore all day when I'd walk, but it wasn't that knock-you-down-speechless pain like when Sinatra stomped on my toe and the toe itself turned black.  Or labor with pitocin when I had my daughter.  Yeah, that was pretty bad.

I need to be much more aware when I'm doing something with her that she is uncomfortable about so that she doesn't get any ideas that kicking (or biting) is a way to deal with setting boundaries with me.  I think she learned her lesson yesterday just by knowing what she did was wrong.  She jumped off to the side so fast after she kicked me that when I swung my arm to hit her she was already out of reach.  I went to move toward her to hit her and Trainer K. said, "Come forward! Come forward! Get away from her back end!" and by then she'd backed up away from me again.  But by then she was hanging her head looking like she thought the world was going to end so I figured she was punishing herself enough.  Trainer K. pointed out it is not the discipline action that matters as much as that the horse knows when she has done something truly wrong (like kick someone).  And Toadie knew.  She hung her head like that for a good ten minutes, looking at me with these tragic eyes because she just knew I was going to sell her off to some breeding farm and be done with her.  Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and gave her a big hug around her neck and she pushed her head down onto my chest and just held it there and let out big sighs.

I can't help but question my choice of hobbies.  But then my other choice of hobby before I got Girlfriend four years ago was to join the Rat City Roller Girls roller derby team.  So, there ya go. This is probably safer for me.  And I need something that will get me out getting exercise and lot of adrenaline pumping.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Good wives, bad iPhones, signs of kitten activity and ends of eras.

This morning my daughter announced that she wanted to walk to the school bus stop alone. I said I needed to talk to my neighbor, Preetha so I wanted to walk up with her and my daughter rolled her eyes and said, "You could just call her."  Sigh. Fine.  So, I told her I'd sit on the front porch and watch her and she cheerfully said, "Bye, Mom!" and took off, only looking back once to give me a "Go inside already!" look.  I have to admit, watching her walk off alone like that kind of made me tear up a little.  I am so not ready to have my little buddy who's joined to me at my hip grow up.  Maybe I'll be ready when she's a teenager but right now I just want her to live with me forever and continue to just be her awesome self in my house and immersed in my life.

For a couple years now I've been bugging my husband that we should get smart phones or iPhones.  I would've gotten one by myself but I wanted us to get a family plan together.  He said he wanted to but he kept saying there were things he wanted to wait for - such as Verizon supporting iPhones, then new versions of the iPhone coming out, etc.  The catalyst was a month or so ago when we were carpooling downtown to work and we were parked on I-5 in the HOV lane of the express lanes. My husband said, "I wish I had a magical device that I could just pick up right here and check to see what is going on up ahead." And I said, "We're finally going to get iPhones, aren't we?"

We ordered the new iPhone 4s and they arrived day before yesterday so yesterday I tried to set mine up.  My husband got himself a black one and a white one for me.  Which is kind of weird cause who was the goth in her youth in this relationship? Anyway ... I got it set up and everything was working fine except if I called someone I could hear them just fine but they could not hear me.  And no the "mute" button was not pressed.  I spent way too much time trying to fix it myself and even called the phone tech support which was completely useless (the guy actually asked me after I explained the problem "Are you calling me on the device right now?" to which I said, "Um ... you couldn't hear me if I was ..."  I did not say "duh" cause I'm a grown-up but I felt like it).  It took about twenty minutes for him to go over a lot of stuff I'd already thought of like "Is the mute button pressed down?" "Is there a cover on it covering the microphone?" "Is it plugged in? Is it turned on? Are aliens coming out of your butt?" Finally after he walked me through (very slowly) how to reboot it, and I finally said, "Are you telling me how to reboot it because I already did that." He said,  "I can't help you, you need to take it in to the Apple store." Wow. What a waste of twenty minutes.  We took it in to the Apple store and they graciously replaced it with one that works saying that they'd found that is a common problem in these new iPhones.  Lesson learned - don't wait two years for the perfect iPhone because all technology has problems and waiting for technology that doesn't achieves only ... well ... waiting.

The kittens, now six months old, have become teenagers and are acting as such.  Nermal has developed a taste for bread so we have to make sure all bread products are in the pantry or else we'll come home to shredded plastic bags and crumbs and scraps of bread product all over the floor.  They also think that everything is their toy so the playroom and my daughter's room must have the doors shut at all times.  Despite that, I occassionally find one of my daughter's toys sitting next to the litter box or the cat food dish.  Not because she dropped it there but because the kittens play with them, then leave them there to use the litter box, eat, or drink water.  This morning there was a tiny ghost eraser in front of the litter box.

I've been thinking the last couple days about what it means to be a "good wife".  That phrase - at least in my world - holds some really negative conatations.  Unlike a "good husband" which seems to be a positive thing, a "good wife" is a bad thing, showing that a person is oppressed and unwilling to think for herself.   Kind of like I know so many people who think the word "God" symbolizes oppression.  In fact in my search for a new church I looked at a website for a local Unitarian church that assured visitors that they would not be forced to hear the word "God" at church.  I thought that was sad.  To treat people like they are such huge victims that they can't even use a common, easy, one-syllable word.  You may notice that I am really big on not "thinking like a victim" these days. Which is pissing some people off.  Especially where Occupy Wall Street is concerned.  My whole idea that the people (the 99%) need to become empowered and make our own change instead of wasting our time wishing the 1% in power would change has really been pissing people off.  But none of us can change anyone but ourselves and if we don't want 1% of the population to be in power we need to take that power back.  Just letting them stay in power and hoping they'll do good does nothing to change the skewed power dynamic, but supporters of Occupy Wall Street get so angry when I point that out and say they shouldn't have to do anything because it's not their fault and it's not fair.  Well, duh.  But life's not fair.  And those who abuse power are not going to stop abusing power until you take that power away from them.  But apparently, that concept is pissing off a lot of people and I just don't get it.

I've segued again.  So, for the last year or so I've been trying really hard to be a good wife.  And I am finding that I am much happier and I think my husband is a bit happier.  It only seems fair because he tries hard to be a good husband.  But if I say that sentence "I've been focusing on being a good wife" to a large majority of my friends I get this look like "Have you given up on your own needs? Have you given up all that women have fought for?"  No, let me rephrase it so it sounds better.  "I'm working very hard on being the best friend I can be to my husband." There - that sounds better, doesn't it? When did "wife" become a bad word? It was probably hundreds of years when the women whose husbands abused their power began to speak up.  I think it's time to take back the word "wife" and have it mean what it's supposed to mean - a loving, supportive partner just like the word "husband" means.

It's been hard to crawl out of lifetime of being told that being a "good wife" is bad to get to the point where I can be one though.  When I was much younger I was a doormat and would let guys treat me horribly because I felt like I deserved it.  Then I flipped things around and expected guys to be, basically, my perfect servant with no negative feelings and no human failings.  Now I'm just trying to be a supportive partner.  It's weird to grow up and see some of my past demanding failures as a spouse and realize that I am not "owed" anything from men anymore than they are owed anything from me.  But that is part of empowerment.  If I am empowered and strong in myself my husband does not have to be the perfect, politically correct, non-oppressor.  He can have bad days and be snappy and ignore me because he's busy just like I do to him sometimes.  It can be an equal partnership of two people are just trying to do their best instead of me (the woman) demanding the man meet all my needs and be perfect.  I've been thinking a lot about this the last couple weeks because I have a friend in an abusive marriage who won't leave for some reason.  Every time she thinks about it she seems to flip back to feeling sorry for her husband and blaming herself and making excuses for him.  That is the situation a lot of people think of when they think of as a "good wife" but that is actually an "abused wife" which is totally different.  And it hasn't made her husband think she's a good wife because he just seems to get meaner and meaner.  So, I'm thinking that the phrase "good wife" needs to have a resurgence to mean someone who is a supportive partner to her spouse and thinks of her spouse's needs as much as her own.  And that's what I'm aspiring too and it seems to be working well.  My husband may say differently of course but of course it's a big learning curve for me not to be all defensive and "looking out for me" all the time.