Monday, April 30, 2012

Lost count ... maybe it drowned in phlegm

I've lost count of how many days I haven't been eating wheat, but I think maybe it has been a week.  And I think I might be feeling a little better.  Although it's hard to tell because I have a terrible cold.  It's not the worst cold I've ever had, I'd say it's probably the second worst because I actually had a fever (which rarely ever happens to me anymore).  But I think my stomach is feeling better.  That is good news and bad news.  Good news because it would be nice to feel better and bad news because WTF! Never eat wheat anymore? How am I supposed to go out to dinner and have dinner at friend's houses? I'm going to be that annoying person who can't eat anything that the typical American cooks! Sigh.  I'll have to move to Mexico or Asia.

Actually, it hasn't been hard at all this week for me not to eat wheat.  I can still eat Phad Thai and Rad Nar (rice noodles!) and I replaced pasta with polenta (yuuuum! Love polenta!) and I've been making gluten-free bread which is easy to make and pretty tasty.  I also found some fairly inexpensive wheat free crackers although I think I'll just make some.  I've been making sandwiches with corn tortillas instead of bread and I even splurged on some wheat free pancake mix which made perfectly good pancakes.  The only hard part is my love of pastries.  I have yet to find any decent wheat-free pastries.  I'm going to have to start experimenting with baking.  First off is going to be banana bread. Then pie.  Yuuuum. Pie.

My daughter has been sick too.  Actually sicker than me.  She had a fever for four days and it appears to have finally gone away today.  Not that I can tell.  I got a temporal lobe thermometer and that thing is all over the board.  One reading she has a 101 fever and five minutes later it's 98.6.  I need to figure out what I'm doing wrong*. 

Because of all the illness in our house I am going through some horse withdrawal because between me and her I haven't been out to work with Toadie since Thursday.  Saturday I had to take more hay pellets to the barn so I stayed long enough to take her for a walk outside - just down the driveway and up the street alittle - but my husband was off at some art-thingie all day so my daughter had to hang out in the car and play on the iPad (she said she didn't feel up to going in the barn and saying hi to the horses).  Then Sunday - yesterday - the fever and worst cold symptoms hit me and were still hanging on today.  Not enough Toadie time.  Although, apparently things were very exciting at the barn today because it was so windy.  It was pretty crazy windy at our house because at one point the garbage cans on our street went flying by our house.  That was impressive.  Trainer K. said Toadie actually did really well despite the crazy wind and only had one big freak-out while Trainer K. was doing a training ride.  She apparently leaped a little and scooted but Trainer K. said she physically stopped quickly even though she continued to be scared.  I think having me and/or Trainer K. with her gives her courage though. And I'm proud of how I've seen her really start to grow up and slowly learn how to manage her reactions to her spooks.

In other random news we put up a basketball hoop finally.  I started out putting it together last Saturday and I thought I was doing really well until it came to actually mounting the backboard.  Then it just didn't look right.  I couldn't find my husband so I went next door and got my neighbor's husband (also an engineer like my husband) and asked if he could advise me on what I'd done wrong.  He looked at the directions a long time, looked at the hoop a long time, then my husband showed up and he looked at the directions a long time, looked at the hoop a long time ... then over an hour later the two of them together finally figured it out and got it up.  Part of the problem was the weird Chinese directions with no words only pictures trying to convey what they were trying to say.  It was like getting all your directions for building it from a game of charades.

The minute the hoop was finished the little boys in the neighborhood all congregated in our front yard to shoot baskets and were very excited.  One of the moms even called me to tell me her son had been jumping up and down squealing "---- got a new basketball hoop!!!"  This afternoon my daughter was so stir-crazy that I agreed to let her go outside and shoot baskets.  She was out there until she literally got a cramp in her hand.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and would literally spend hours upon hours upon days shooting baskets, or hitting the tennis ball against the garage door.  Which reminds me that I need to get it together and go out and buy a new tennis racket because I finally found someone (my new employer) who will play tennis with me this summer!  Trainer K. will too if she ever has time (which is unlikely).  But two incredibly busy tennis partners are better than none!

*After downloading the PDF manual (yes - that's right, these thermometers have a manual) I finally found out why the readings on my daughter seem falsely high.  She has really long bangs, and apparently bangs will give a falsely high reading.  Weird.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On an unexpected bandwagon

I'm trying something new (for me) today that I never expected I would try.  I'm going to attempt to not eat any wheat for a couple weeks.  Not gluten - just wheat.  I had a blood test awhile ago that showed that I do not have celiac disease, but for my whole life I've had chronic stomachaches and they seem to be getting worse so something is not working right down there.  Add to that I have chronic sinus congestion and after a little research it looked like the most likely culprit for those two symptoms are some sort of food intolerance.  I figured I'd start with the most common (wheat) since I already don't eat dairy except for cheese and yogurt and those don't seem to have any effect when I do or don't eat them.  If wheat doesn't work I will try eliminating all dairy for a couple weeks (that will be hard - urgh!) And if that doesn't work I'll try eliminating nuts.  After that I can't think of anything I eat on  regular basis that is common for people to have an intolerance too.

Today is my first day and it's already a little annoying since I have not really stocked up on wheat free foods.  And I ran out of yogurt without realizing it.  And we've gone a ton of wheat-based stuff that I seem to be the only person in the family who eats and if it turns out that wheat is the culprit I'll need to give that away.  Did you know Cheerios even has wheat in it as opposed to just oats?  Much as I'd like to physically feel better and know what's going on I am kind of hoping it is not wheat or dairy.  How about if it's something random like cauliflower or broccoli? Or rye.  Or sesame seeds.  I guess we'll see.  Obviously, it's only been half a day but I haven't noticed any difference.  Good lord - I hope it's not a coffee intolerance.  I think that might kill me.  Coffee and gossip are my last remaining vices!  Aaaargh!

Somehow I have to schedule in time to make a big grocery store run to stock up on corn tortillas and rice flour and look up lots of recipes of stuff to make with rice.  I made a loaf of bread last night but it didn't turn out that well.  I had to replace soy flour and half the white rice flour with this "all-purpose gluten free flour" (I had all of that left over from making bread last Thanksgiving because my sister-in-law and brother don't eat wheat - but that sounds like it is because her naturopath has a theory that wheat is not a natural food for humans to eat because it's only been around for the last 2k years as a food source.  Unlike energy drinks from Whole Foods and soy crackers from Trader Joes.  Because those are so natural and the original humans ate them ... Ok ... I am seriously digressing ...).  Anyway, the bread didn't turn out as well as it did at Thanksgiving so I need to get the right kind of flour if I'm going to do that again.   I'm also regretting that I gave Trainer K. my pasta maker now (which hadn't been used in twenty years).  She's trying to do the same thing for the same reason and after a couple weeks she said her stomach is feeling a lot better.  She also ate Cheetos without realizing the had wheat in them the other day and they made her very sick.  So, sadly, she appears to have confirmed that hers is a wheat intolerance.  I know other people though who tried taking wheat out of their diet to see if it helped chronic stomach aches and it didn't help at all.  So, we will see.  It could go either way for me.

I'll be curious to see how this goes with my other current attempt which is to lose the 10 pounds I gained during the hypothyroid phase.  I noticed today there is a lot of chocolate products that do not contain wheat.  That's not helpful.

In horse news, I rode Misty in a practice ride this morning and that left me feeling like the biggest novice rider in the world.  She was in a pissy mood and full of herself and some sort of rodeo-bug.  Trainer K. told me to lunge her first but I said I didn't have time.  After fifteen minutes of fighting with her at the end of our ride Trainer K. said that she had once been told that a good thing to put on someone's gravestone is "I just didn't have time to lunge my horse today ..."

Misty was a little difficult at first - Trainer K. was on Tasha and Penny was being ridden by her owner, and they stopped at one side of the arena to talk to the barn owner and Misty kept trying to go over to the barn owner and just stand there asking for pets.  So, we had some fights about that.  But then we got going at a posting trot and she was doing great.  Tasha and Penny left the arena and we were still doing really well at the posting trot and I thought, "What the heck - we'll do a little canter!"  But since Misty is not my horse I have specific instructions to only canter when I say so (never let her decide to) and only canter if she does a nice, quiet transition.  So, as soon as I asked her to canter she lowered her head way down, kicked her legs out and bolted.  When I corrected her and told her we had to back to the walk she started throwing her head around like crazy.  When we finally got back to a semi-sane walk, I asked her to trot (which she did ok) and then asked her to canter - which was even worse this time.  She let out a big kick with her hind legs, started throwing her head around and bolted.  This time when I asked her to walk, she wouldn't and instead started dancing off to the side and trying to spin.  I tried shortening the reins and asking for a walk and she bucked a couple times, then started to walk but would have nothing to do with steering and instead started trying to dance off to the side that I was not asking her to go.  It was all discombobulated mess with me feeling like I was doing everything wrong and forgetting everything that was "correct" (like posture, where my arms and hands were, etc).  Finally, I managed to get her to walk nicely in a 20 meter circle and trot nicely in a 20 meter circle and no cantering for us.  Guess I learned my lesson that if there is time to ride, there is time to lunge.   I did learn that my default when the horse is acting like that is the completely wrong thing to do.  With Girlfriend my default was to say "Fine, let's just run and get it out of your system" and then race around the arena a coupla-20 times until she wasn't quite so wild.  But it did not occur to me that by doing that I was rewarding bad behavior.  Ooops!

Monday, April 23, 2012

I've created little hunting monsters.

In a little over a week "the kittens" will be a year old.  They are definitely not kittens anymore, but I think we will keep calling them that because in our hearts and minds they are still kittens.  I figure as long as they keep attacking my daughter's toys they are kittens. 

Last summer they were too little to let outside without one of us right there with them, but now that they are bigger and much bolder we started letting them out this weekend now that the weather is getting nicer.  Nermal has been working hard at eating a lot and expanding her girth and she now successfully weighs in at 10 pounds so she's definitely ready to be outside.  But now all they want to do is be outside and hunt the little black spiders that live in our grass.  Just wait until the frogs and the little brown lizards come out in plague-worthy droves.  The "no frogs in the house" rule will take on a whole new meaning.

Speaking of no frogs in the house, my neighbor showed me his gun collection the other day and I realized I am so not in Kansas ... erm ... Seattle anymore.  I thought of that because he is the neighbor who is out hunting frogs with his sons in the summer and filling up huge aquariums with giant toads that they find.  I have commented to his wife before that wouldn't fly with my "no frogs in the house" rule.  But I was over there the other day looking at the paint job his wife had just done in their bedroom and he showed up and say, "Hey, while you're here let me show you my guns!"  Wow.  He has a lot of big guns.  It was the first time I've ever held a hunting rifle, a shotgun and an M-4 (not all at the same time).  All three of which would probably knock me on my ass if I were stupid enough to try and shoot one (which believe me, I will be someday).  Earlier in the week I'd been out at a party with our other neighbors and their friends and one of them was showing a photo on his phone of his new safe and I asked, "Is it a safe safe or a gun safe?" and some of the couples laughed and I said, "No, I'm serious." To which my other neighbor said, "Out here that seems like a completely legitimate question."  (In answer to the question yes - it was a gun safe).   Apparently, there is quite a difference between the safes that you keep your birth certificate and family heirlooms in and that you keep a gun in.  You can keep your heirlooms in a gun safe but not your gun in a regular safe.  Not sure why but I'm thinking it has to do with fire/heat resistance of the safe.  I'm just thrilled that my friends out here keep their guns locked up and take that seriously.

Meanwhile - in life-affirming news - our fish are having a ton of babies.  First we had three new fish a few months ago who are now half the size of the adult fish.  We call them the teenage fish (or Flipper, Fin-Fin and Penny).  Then I saw three more tiny babies when we got back from Arizona, then yesterday I saw two more tiny babies on top that!  Good lord.  And baby snails are popping up like bunnies too.  Luckily, for the sake of the snail over-population, Goldy (the giant yellow snail) demonstrated to me last night that snails do eat their own, by gliding over a baby snail and sucking it out of its shell.  Weird.  I had never actually seen a snail mouth before.  And I have to say they're a bit disturbing when they're sucking up their own young. 

I gave Toad her first bath (with me) yesterday.  Actually I gave her her first and second bath.  After her first bath I took her out for a walk and stopped by the outside arena gate to let her eat grass while I watched my daughter's lesson on Tasha.  Unfortunately, when Tasha trotted by the gate Toad freaked out and tried to rear and spin and acted all koo-koo-for-cocoa-puffs.  Trainer K. told me firmly to leave immediately so Toad wouldn't upset Tasha with my tiny little 8-year-old daughter on her back.  So, we went to go for a walk and Toad was prancing and trying to spin and being a pain in the ass.  So, I tried to put her in an empty paddock so she could run and buck and get it out of her system.  But no ... instead she immediately rolled.  In the dirt.  While soaking wet.  Doh!  Girl used to just stand around and eat grass after her baths.  Apparently, that is not normal.  So, I had to take Toad in and give her a second bath, which she looked horrified about, but was actually very polite about.   Then we went out for a walk up and down the driveway and around the property.  She was a little less frantic, but I was still glad after she was a bit more dry and it was time to go in.  Apparently, Thoroughbreds do not like the feel of water drying on their skin.  Toadie is the ultimate Princess and the Pea.  Although today when I gave her a good brushing on her back (especially around her spine) and she was wiggling and twitching because it tickled her so much, she sucked it up and still stood still even though it tickled so much it kept making her shiver.  She's trying.  And she really is making a lot of improvement!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I kissed a girl ...

Hey - got your attention, huh?

Actually, we were watching a Glee episode the other night and that is a Katy Perry song that is stuck in my head.  There is actually a much better song by the same name but it was not pop enough to make it onto Glee. And an interesting drama unfolded in the neighborhood while we were on vacation.  My friend who had to flee the state with her children and a protection order is doing great but sadly for our neighborhood her ex. still lives here and hates all of us who wrote statements to the court (upon the court's request of us).  Apparently he's planning to sue us for defamation of character.  And one of his allegations is that I had an affair with his ex-wife/my friend which is why he did certain things.  This is amazing to my group of friends here, but not as much as it is to the ex-wife and me.  Our group of friends believe us that we didn't but of course it's natural to have a shadow of doubt.  Whereas the ex-wife and I actually know it didn't happen so it's even more amazing to us.  My husband has said (and he'll seriously do this) that if this ever went to court and those allegations came out that he would get up on the stand and say under oath, "I wish! Do you know how many years I've been trying to convince her to bring another woman to our bed!"  Hee ... I love my husband!

I was very happy to see Toad on Thursday and I think she was very happy to see me.  She tried to whack me in the stomach with her nose a bunch of times which is her way of saying "I love you," which does not work and we need to work on new ways for her to say that because it is completely inappropriate and knocks me over.  I took her out to groom her first thing and she did a lot of huge, happy sighs so I think she was happy to see me.  It's finally starting to get nice out and not be drizzling/raining all the time so we are getting regular daily walks outside and I'm seeing a lot of improvement.  She's still very anxious but she is remembering more often to walk politely beside me instead of pulling.  Yesterday she even stood quietly when the owner drove by in his tractor (as long as she was facing him - she panicked when we turned around to walk away before he was past).

I planted some bean starts outside yesterday because they are getting too big for the little pots they were in inside - and I actually need those pots to transplant my tomato starts and bok choy starts.  I also planted some pea seeds outside and I'm hoping the last frost has come and gone so they will survive.  After planting the tree in our next door neighbor's yard for them I am inspired and want to send my husband out to get a tree for our front yard.  My only complaint about our little yard and our house is that the lazy-ass developers who built our row of houses completely destroyed the land our house is on.  They cut down every single tree and filled the land with their construction waste, then covered it with topsoil  Our house has a big enough yard they didn't have to cut down all the trees (in my opinion - maybe for permits they did).  But since it's only six years old we don't have any big trees in our actual yard.  Granted there is a forest behind us, but I want some in our yard, especially the front yard.  So, a tree for us it is!

My next door neighbor's memorial is today and we're going to support his wife and show our respect.  I've been feeding their cat and when I went in to the house for the first time since we've been back the other day I was overwhelmed at how sad and empty it felt.  It had an eerie "time has stopped" feeling because so much of the husband's stuff was just as it was before he went to the hospital.  I went and sat in his chair for awhile and just looked around and tried to process that he had actually died while we were in Arizona.  It is just really sad.  I hope his wife stays in the house but it's too early to know what she will need to do for herself.  I think the most profound thing I felt was the emptiness of the house and how the husband's spirit wasn't even there anymore.  But I believe that is because he is with his wife where ever she goes right now.  I think that was the best way to describe the sadness of the house, even with all his things still there, including the hospice stuff like oxygen tanks and medication charts, there was a profound emptiness.  I'm sure when his wife comes back and as she heals from her loss that feeling will go away and the house will seem warm and inviting like it did when they both were living there.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Home again ... home again...

Good lord there is a lot of unpacking to do this morning.  But it's good to be home with all my pets.  I don't know how people live without pets.  I guess they don't stress about trying to get all the animal fur off their couches every time they have company. That would actually be really nice.  But in general it makes me so happy to wake up in the morning to a kitten walking on my head and purring incredibly loudly about the fact that we are home.  The pitbull came home from the kennel this morning and is sprawled on one of the chairs, happily sleeping - probably more soundly than she did the whole time she was at the kennel.

We left the grow light the whole time we were gone (usually we turn it off at night but we figured it was better to leave it on the whole time than off the whole time) and now my plant starts are huge!  I need to get out this weekend and plant my bean starts because they are outgrowing even their larger seedling pots.  I hope the last frost has finally come and gone although with this year it is really hard to say.  Even my cantaloupes have started to sprout.

I also can't wait to see Toad - who I have not seen for a whole week.  I'm heading out there in about an hour.  That said, I should get off my butt and start unpacking and then dive into my Spring cleaning I want to do over the weekend.  But my motivation is so low.  I slept pretty well on vacation and the mysterious stomach pains I was having before we left went away - and once again last night I had trouble sleeping and by this morning the mysterious stomach pains were back.  I think I need to try and identify what it is that is stressing me out so much at home lately to the point where it's causing me pain.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RIP my neighbor

I have a really annoying "gift" that I have intuitions of what is going to happen in the future. I have spent my entire life writing off these flashes of insight into the future as "being neurotic" or "worrying" but it's always different when it happens - it is always completely without emotion when I will think of things before they happen.  Sadly, I had one of those thoughts a few days ago when we got to Arizona. It flashed through my mind, "What if our neighbor dies before we get home?"  but it was more of "Our neighbor is going to die before we get home."  Part of me really wishes that hadn't been true, but then again, part of me is relieved for him because he did not get to the point of great suffering before he died.  And that in itself is a gift.  Although, it breaks my heart for his family, friends and wife he had to leave behind.

When we first moved in last year we didn't know who the neighbors on that side were.  The neighbor on the other side of us came over and introduced herself when the moving trucks were there.  But the other side neighbors seemed like they had their own thing going on and we never saw them, and when we did get a glimpse of them they were rushing off somewhere and I swear the husband looked at me like I was some evil interloper into the neighborhood (turns out I totally misinterpreted that look).  So, I named them "The Spies" because I didn't know there name and that was the story I liked for why we never saw them except briefly.  They were international spies and needed to keep their cover.

Sometime last summer I met the wife outside and we got talking about gardening.  Then I met her husband and it turned out we had a lot in common.  They were trying to get pregnant and had all sorts of neat plans and they were very sweet to our daughter and seemed very charmed by her.  They even put up one of her drawings on their fridge.  A few times the wife confided in me that she was concerned about her husband's "depression" but it sounded like he was dealing with it and seeing a counselor.  Until one day she came over and told me something horrible - the depression wasn't actually depression after all.  Her instincts told her that he needed to see a neurologist and tests showed he had stage 4 brain cancer.  The same thing my friend Terrell died from almost three years ago.  It was like a nightmare for them, I'm sure.  But they've handled it with so much grace and it was inspiring how the wife instantly switched gears and became his full-time advocate and caretaker.

The last time I saw him was the day before we left.  He'd been left with a hospice worker while the wife ran some errands and had apparently gotten disoriented and decided to go out and ask the neighbors if they knew where his wife was.  He and my other next door neighbor rang my doorbell and when he asked where his wife was I knew something was wrong because she wouldn't leave him alone. I saw the hospice worker standing on their front porch and I called over to her and asked her name and asked who she was.  When she said she was with hospice and I said, "Can you come over and walk him back home?" and she said, "Not right now, I'm on the phone with the office," and I got so angry! So, I asked the husband if he'd hold my hand and walked him back over to his house in my t-shirt and slippers in the rain because I was worried about him wandering around in the rain.  I'm glad I did now because I was able to say to him that no matter what happened we'd always be next door if he needed us and he can always come to us for help.  I may not have been able to say good-bye but I'm glad he knew that our family cares about him.  It's very sad though, I was all set to sit down with the wife when we got home and tell her how mad I was at the incompetent hospice worker and help her find a better one, and now that's not necessary anymore.

It's my absolute biggest fear is that I will lose my husband or my daughter out of the blue like that.  I've had a lot of friends die in my life - including two "best friends" - but it never gets easier with practice.  In fact when Terrell died I went into the same withdrawn "hide away in my cave and lick my wounds and everyone leave me alone" state of mind that I went into when I was 27 and my close friend, Todd died.  There was no "coping with it in a healthier fashion" going on even though I was ten years older and had gone through tons of therapy and was supposedly so much more mature.  I reacted exactly the same way.

I didn't know my neighbor very well which is a loss for me because he seemed pretty great from the little I knew about him.  Hopefully, the wife and I will remain friends for years to come.  Still, the world definitely feels like it's missing a little something now that he's moved on in his journey.  I have a feeling he left a lot of gifts for all the people he loved though.  I don't mean material gifts, I mean parts of himself.  When Terrell died I had a strange experience where I realized the day after that I felt just a little less afraid.  It was almost like instead of giving me money, or property or some material item, when she died she gave me some of her courage.  Right before she died she gave me a bracelet and whenever I feel insecure about doing something I wear that bracelet - I call it my "adventure bracelet" and it reminds me of the courage she left me because she didn't need it anymore.  I imagine John had a lot of gifts like that to leave to the people left here.

My husband really hates "young country music" so he'll just have to skip this link - but this is my Terrell song and I've made a point of trying to live by it for the last two and a half years.

Monday, April 16, 2012

First trail ride for the girl ...

My daughter went on her first real trail ride yesterday with me and her dad.  I was a little surprised her dad went because he has pretty much no interest in horses but he does love to hike and trail rides are like an easy way to go hiking.  Plus, it was out at White Tank Mountain in Arizona (close to Phoenix) and it's pretty neat up there.  Very stereotypical desert with the big cacti and dry, rocky ground.

They put her on a little quarterhorse mare named Tinker and she rode right behind the guide, Bryce.  I was trying not to play the part of an anxious mom, but when we were all on our horses and the leader said, "Now is there any particular order folks want to be in? Speak up now so we can get you in order?" and I said - in a far more anxious tone than I meant - I said I wanted to be right behind the little girl on Tinker.  Bryce-the-cowboy asked my daughter if it was her first time on a horse and she proudly said, "No, I ride at home a lot. I ride Tasha in my lesson every week!"  We ended up having a very interesting talk about dressage and Western riding and horses and what they feed their horses at that stable.  I would've been happy to spend the whole afternoon sitting in the shade talking to the cowboys who led the trail rides all about my type of riding vs. their type of riding and hearing all about bull riding - which is the other thing the cowboy trail leaders do.  I was pleasantly surprised that before I got off my horse, our leader Bryce said, "Hold on, she's going to show me some tricks," so a couple other employees came over to see how I hold the reins and how I ride a horse.  I showed them how I held he reins and what a slight subtle movement it is to direct the horse to go the direction you want - and I didn't expect the horse I was on to listen because they said she only knows how to neck rein, but she responded just like that to it - which the cowboys thought was very cool.  I told them how the volunteer who was showing me how to neck rein (which I'd never done before) did something that Trainer K. calls "combing the reins" to teach the horse how to stretch their neck, and I started doing it with Moose - the horse I was on - and she just immediately responded by taking up the bit and stretching her head way down.  That was pretty fun. 

On the way out my husband said (more matter-of-factly than jealously or sadly) "You should've married a cowboy instead."  Granted, it is awfully fun to hang out with the cowboys, I would rather be married to my husband!  There is no doubt in my mind about that!

Meanwhile, my daughter did great on her first hour long trail ride.  And it wasn't the easiest of trail rides because the horses went up and down some small but steep little inclines a couple times.  I could hear the guide in back of us - Travis-the-cowboy - telling the people who didn't ride how to brace  themselves with their stirrups and by leaning forward or leaning back.  The horses are all so sure-footed and bomb-proof and have walked those trails a million times I'm sure, but watching my baby sit on a horse who's walking down a short but steep and crumbly little path made me stop breathing for a moment.

When we were getting on the horses the volunteer who came by for me asked if I'd ever been on a horse and I said I knew how to ride pretty well but I had no idea how to neck rein.  So, she ran through that with me, then adjusted my stirrups for me and asked if they were comfortable.  I said they were ok but last time I'd ridden in a Western saddle I'd dropped my stirrups after awhile because of my bad knees and was it against the rules if I wanted to drop my stirrups? She said there was no rule on it but the path was bumpy with lots of ups and downs and I needed my stirrups to brace myself in the saddle.  I started to say, "Well, actually ..." then stopped. The volunteer said, "What?" and I said, "Never mind, it's obnoxious.  I didn't realize until too late how obnoxious it was," and she said, "What was it? Come on?" and I said, "In my riding lessons we're working really hard on my seat and on using my posture and balance to keep me on the horse, not the stirrups.  And in fact I'm having to learn not to use the stirrups for balance or bracing myself because that's improper riding.  But that is super obnoxious to say and it doesn't really matter and my knees are really bad so I'm probably just going to drop my stirrups anyway."  Yikes!  Which I did because having my knees bent even a tiny bit for even a half hour causes them to lock up and really hurt.  With dressage I at least change what my knees are doing by posting when we trot.  But after half the ride, once I dropped my stirrups and let me legs hang it was much more comfortable.

My daughter loved it so much that today when I asked what she wanted to do other than go swimming she shrugged and said she didn't know.  When I asked was there anything she could think of and she said the only thing she wanted to do beside swim was go back and ride Tinker some more.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Sounds ...

I heard a sound I didn't recognize last night and I couldn't figure out what it was until my mom told me - the sound of wind blowing through the palm trees.  It's windy again this morning and I'm enamored with this sound because it's so new to me.  It sounds like sheets of rain falling on the roof/windows until you look out and see there is no rain.  I lived in Sacramento for a summer almost twenty years ago but I don't remember this sound.  But I lived downtown and I don't think we had this many palm trees - or this much open space.  The other cool thing is that our hotel looks out over a big golf course and there are jack rabbits running around the green.

Our flight down was kind of annoying - more annoying than the last few times we've taken a plane.  Part of it may just be hormonal angst on my part.  But I was having a really hard not being incredibly cranky near the end of the flight.  There was a toddler behind us who cried the whole first hour then as soon as he calmed down the toddler next to him started crying.  But that didn't seem to be bothering me so much.  I'm used to children crying - you know, from having one.  I know how hard it for children to be stuck on their parent's lap between one and two years old - it's just torture for them not being able to move and run around.  But I think it was that and that the guy in front of me leaned his seat back all the way so it was practically in my lap to the point where I couldn't even put my lap top on the tray in front of me because the seat was too much in my lap.  And there was this woman two rows behind us who was talking at the top of her lungs the WHOLE DAMN FLIGHT.  I am always amazed by people who are so oblivious to other people that they don't realize that they are talking really, really loud and it's driving people nuts.  There were brief (very brief) breaks in her talking when I think her soft-spoken, Asian friend was saying something because I could just barely hear a whispering, accented sound when she was actually quiet, but after just a moment she would say, "Oh, I totally know! Oh my god! And then we did blah blah blah and it was soooooo awesome! And did you KNOW that her brother is soooooo cute and I got to sit next to him ..."  Aaaaagh!  You've been talking three fucking hours straight - can't you shut up just for a moment!!!  Just add some packing peanuts floating around and a floor covered with juniper and I would be in Hell.  I used to say that Hell was filled with creeping Juniper and packing peanuts but I think it's also filled with self-important 30-somethings who can't stop talking really loudly in small enclosed places. 

Thankfully, when I whispered to my husband that I was really cranky he whispered back, "It's that damn woman two rows behind us, isn't it?"  which made me feel better.  Then he said, "Why do you think the spiky haired guy behind us is on his third rum and coke?"  It was true, I saw him walk by us in the terminal and he was on his cell phone, seriously weaving and saying to someone, "I just flew today on the worst flight!"

Every year when we come visit my parents in Arizona we stay at a Hilton-chain hotel but last year it had really gone downhill - they were two hours late checking us into our room, which was tiny and cramped and smelled bad, the towels were little threadbare and frayed, and the bathroom floor was dirty.  So, this year we're staying at their Marriott-chain competitor and it's way better. Waaaaay better.  This morning over breakfast my daughter said staying here made her feel like a princess. 

I miss my pets and horses already.  I was thinking this morning about how it was just a year ago (before I had met her) that Toad was owned by the irresponsible teenager and she had mud fever on her hind feet (a fungus that causes painful sores and scabs around the coronet band, fetlock and pastern and comes on from legs being caked in mud) but she was so freaked out and wild that no one could touch her back legs to clean them, so she had to live with it until summer when it dried out and cleared up on its own.  Even the vet said that someone needed to work with her because if she got a serious injury it wouldn't even be able to be cleaned without completely sedating her.  Trainer K. told me that story (with that "good god!" look of horror in her eyes that Toad wasn't getting the care she needed and the irresponsible teen would not hire a trainer for help).  I was thinking about that this morning and how now when it's super muddy and I'm the one bringing her in, I can just take her right into the washroom and scrub her hooves, pastern and fetlock, then rub it dry with a towel and she just stands there politely.  I knew she had it in her, she just needed a professional trainer, like Trainer K. working with consistently and an owner that loves her and will follow directions on how to work with her. 

In fact, let me list some of the wonderful ways that she has improved since I bought her in August '11.  She leads like a dream from her stall to the groom room, bathing rack, and arena.  We're still working on leading outside (especially when she wants grass) but it's still nothing like when I first got her when she would literally try to drag me with her and she ran to the grass.  In the arena she will even follow and listen to my commands without a lead rope.  When we go into the arena to free lunge she now follows me in (98%) will be polite (and the other 2% will be polite after correction) and will walk around with me while I go to close gates and put down my whip and will stand quietly while I take her halter off.  Before she would rush into the arena and it was all you could do to try and get the halter off before she'd explode and fly off - sometimes before you got the halter all the way off.  She was never bad about me picking her feet but now after I pick up one foot to clean, all I have to do is lean over next to another foot and she'll pick it up for me without me even touching it.   I'm so glad I decided to keep her because even though we're still not to the point where I can just hop on and ride her outside of training, her ground work is showing her to be such an amazing, sweet and good horse.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First bareback riding lesson in almost thirty years!

At my daughter's lesson on Sunday she apparently posted without stirrups for fifty-three steps.  Yes, she counted.  Apparently, when you are eight years old it is important to count how many steps you can post without stirrups ... so you can challenge your mother to a dual.  But since I can't make it to my lesson on Friday our instructor quickly scrambled and suggested instead of a practice ride today I make it a lesson.  Unfortunately, Misty - the horse I usually ride during my lessons (as opposed to my horse who just ends up hogging all the attention because she needs the training) wasn't feeling well from her vaccines. 

Another win - I successfully took a horse's temperature without her trying to kick me through the wall.  A few weeks ago when Toadie wasn't feeling well after her dewormer I tried to take her temperature and having only done it one time before about three years ago, I apparently was not gentle or deft enough in my approach because had I been standing in the wrong place I would've gone through the wall ... and the arena, and the bleachers and the stalls on the other side of the barn.  Trainer K. said that she wasn't sure anyone had ever taken Misty's temperature so she didn't really know what she'd do, but I figured it's Misty - it couldn't possibly be worse than Toad. And as it was she did nothing.  Well, except register a slight fever.

So, Trainer K. graciously said I could ride Tasha  - who she was going to ride during my lesson.  Only as far as I know nobody ever rides Tasha in a saddle except my daughter and the one other little girl who rides her in lessons.  So, the catch was I had to ride bareback.  I rode Girlriend bareback once for maybe five minutes a few years ago, but she is so narrow and soooo boney and so bouncy that I didn't last very long.  And I rode a lesson horse at my old stable for about ten minutes once when we were playing "musical horses" but I can't remember who it was.  So, I guess I have ridden bareback a couple times since I was a teenager.  Luckily, Tasha is nice and big and wide and has a very smooth trot so it was actually incredibly comfortable.  And it really helped me with relaxing my legs and letting them hang which I have trouble doing.  We worked a lot on my leg position and relaxing my ankles and keeping all that when I used my leg on her (which usually resulted in my tensing up my leg and bending my knee up).  And we worked a lot on trotting and "combing the reins" to get her on the bit and stretching her neck down. 

Near the end of the lesson I was supposed to be standing and listening to something Trainer K. was saying and all the sudden Tasha (in all her mellow 28-year old glory) actually started fidgeting and trying to walk away.  I told her to "whoa" and she fidgeted a little more and we had to turn a circle to go back to Trainer K. and I thought for a brief second how weird it was that all the sudden out of the blue she had all this "Misty/Girlfriend energy" (they are both ex-gaming horses).  Seconds later Trainer K. said, "Uh-oh," we heard a scuffling commotion that was growing louder, and then a horse went galloping by the north arena door with his head held high and his tail held high and a lead rope flying behind.  Trainer K. said, "Crap. That's one of the stallions, you guys stay down here."  And went out to help the barn owner catch the wayward horse.  Old Tasha's still got some life in her!  She still perked up at the sound of a runaway stallion!  I find that very endearing.  We walked around the arena and she was very alert and even a little bouncy and I reminded her that she and I are both too old to be having any more babies.

After the stallion was safely back in his stall Trainer K. came back and said she was out of time and had to go get her horses out of the pasture so I asked if I could keep riding and she said, "Yes, but no cantering, Ok? You have to promise not to canter."  Which just made me laugh because I hadn't ridden bareback in so long I had been worried about trotting - did she really think I was crazy enough to try cantering? Really?  But then she left and I was working on correct posture and trotting and I caught myself thinking, "Wouldn't it be fun to try cantering bareback! Just a little - just halfway around the arena ..." and I realized that maybe Trainer K. had been on to something.

No my core muscles are really sore.  After my last lesson my triceps were really sore.  But Trainer K. is happy about that and says that means I'm doing it right. 

Oh, and I scored off ebay a lovely new (to me - used otherwise) Wintec Pro Dressage saddle with nice brand new leathers and Korsteel irons and and a full exchangeable gullet set.  We tried it on Toad today and it fits really well!  Hopefully, we can try riding her in it tomorrow.  Although, I'll be dragging my daughter along with me because we discovered this evening that she has lice. Again! WTF??? This is the third time this year.  I don't even know what to say about that except where the fuck is she getting it from? Sigh.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dipping my toe into Stepforwifedom

I'm having a Mary Kay party today.  I asked my new boss if she'd like to come and she said "Normally that's a little too Stepford Wife for me, but I'm going to trust you on this and try to come."  My husband's response to that was, "Honey, isn't it a little too Stepford Wife for *you*?"  Actually, I went to one about sixteen years ago with a girl we knew from the neighborhood when we lived on Capitol Hill.  Her name was Euphoria.  It was actually kind of fun.  If you can have fun at a Mary Kay party with a hippie girl named Euphoria, you can have fun anywhere.

I'm not sure if everyone knows what the Stepford Wives is.  It is actually a novel from the 1970's that was later made into a movie with two sequels and then a remake in 2004.  I think these mass marketing programs like Party Lite, Mary Kay, and Avon are more just a homegrown side of capitalism than anything to do with submitting to the patriarchy.  In some ways they are good (if you're a natural salesperson) and in others they aren't because I think they encourage young people who aren't good salespeople to try doing it and then don't support them enough and they fail miserably and sometime lose money in the process.  But I have seen people who are good at sales do well at them.  I myself completely suck at sales which is why I stay far away from anything like that.

It was actually my neighbor, S.'s idea we host one when I said we really needed to have a "girl's night" in the neighborhood soon.  I think it's just a good excuse to act girly - which I so rarely do.  S. is helping me get in touch with that side of me again though.  She took me shopping for make-up on my birthday and got so excited to tell me all about make-up and skin care that her enthusiam was a little contagious.  Of course, I've only worn make-up once since then because I really don't need to wear it to work or the barn or volunteering at school (mostly because I think it looks weird on me and I like how I look without it better).  It's ok if we're going somewhere fancy but I just don't think I look like myself if I wear it in normal daily life.

I'm kind of glad I'm taking a day off from barn duties and gardening and all the other stuff I do that actually takes lots of energy and physical activity.  Yesterday's riding lesson was a huge work-out and my back is actually pretty sore, as are my triceps (?).  We worked on standing up in the saddle (not standing on the saddle - standing up with my feet in the stirrups) and balancing without using my hands to steady myself or hold myself up. I'm getting a little better at it.  Then we did a whole bunch of quick sitting trot, rising trot, canter transitions.  Like literally, a few steps rising trot, a few steps sitting trot, canter for half the 20 meter circle, then back to rising trot.  We were working on my seat and getting my posture in the correct position during my transitions - no pitching forward when we slow to rising trot from canter for instance.  So, it was a lot like doing pilates on a moving horse.

I think what added to that unfortunately, was that I also took a nasty fall night before last.  No, not off a horse - much more ridiculous.  The pitbull had an accident on the entry hall carpet (grrr) and I'd cleaned it up with what we call "smelly stuff" (enzyme stain/smell remover).  We used to just put a cloth over it to dry, or some newspaper or paper towels but then the kittens get confused and come along and pea on it.  So, we put our daughter's step stool over it to dry.  Right before bed I turned off all the lights so it was almost pitch dark downstairs, but I could kind of see where I was going through light coming in through the window above our front door - no big deal, right?  So, I'm shuffling along to bed with my big glass of ice water I had just poured and my foot caught in the little dent at the bottom of the footstool mid-step, which pitched me forward into the air so I went up and came down right on my left shoulder while trying to catch myself with my left arm - since my right arm was in the middle of being pitched forward with my glass sending water and ice flying throughout the entry hall.  Sigh.

Ok, off to clean up the house for my foray-into-the-girly.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why it's hard to be beautiful ...

I'm sure by now most of you have heard about the Samantha Brick fiasco of her writing an article about how hard it is has been all her life to be beautiful and how unfair people have been to her because of it.  First off, though I'm baffled as to why she thinks she is such a stunning beauty, I can also see how if she has a charming personality she could be very attractive.  Of course, that would be because of her personality - not her looks.  But then to me most people are like that - their personality and charisma over rides physical features.

There are three things that could be going on here and none of them are good in my opinion.  1) It is a farce.  In which case it is a tasteless and damaging farce because of how heavy-handed it is in the misogyny department (which is even more distasteful when the misogyny is coming from a woman).  2) Ms. Brick has just revealed to the entire world that she has a character disorder and/or mental/emotional illness to the point of being delusional, which is really sad.  Because someday she may get help and realize what's she's done and that would be devastating.  3) She did this for ratings and attention to further her career.  Which is also sad.  Really? You think it's worth it to turn on your own gender and make yourself look like a complete ass just to bring up readership?

This is my experience of being "beautiful".  First off, I have never thought I was beautiful and in fact have never even thought I was pretty.  At my worst I thought I was hideous.  But I actually have struggled most of my life with body issues which I know require therapy and a lot of re-learning to know myself and appreciate who I am.  But in my teens, twenties and early thirties I received a lot of feedback from people which eventually helped me to realize that for some strange reason a lot of people think I'm pretty ... or even beautiful.  I don't see it, but ok.  That's what it is.  I had endless lines of boys who had crushes on me, lots of lesbians had crushes on me, straight girls said if they were ever to want to be with a woman it would be me, gay guys said the same thing.  I have no clue why but that's just the way it was.

So, did anything bad ever come from being (or at least being perceived as) beautiful? No.  To me, it was a gift, the same way having a high IQ is a gift.  Or having a natural talent for something.  There is absolutely no downside to being beautiful.  In fact, with all my emotional troubles back then I'm not sure any guy would've looked twice at me had I not been "beautiful".  I think that it was a crutch in a way that guy's would initially overlook my emotional turmoil because of how attractive I was. (As I write this I still feel baffled because I still look back and say "But I wasn't beautiful at all - what was it that people saw???")

I'll tell you what the downside is.  It does not come from beauty or how anyone looks at all - the downside is believing that being pretty is the only worth a woman has.  And the belief that there is no romantic love other than lust and lust can only happen because of how a woman looks.  And sad to say, that downside afflicts many women no matter how they look, whether they have the stereotypical look that is considered "beauty" or not.  I would love to see the media stop propagating that kind of ridiculous mentality, but they never will.  Consumerism is based on the idea that none of us are ever enough:  we are not rich, pretty, successful or smart enough and never will be so we must keep buying, buying, buying.  So, hoping that the media will stop pushing women to believe that beauty is their only real value for being loved is like hoping that the Angler fish will stop putting out it's light to attract prey.

So, if we can't change the message the media sends out, we can at least change the message that we as individual women send out.  Even if we don't feel like we have worth for who we really are other than our looks, we can know that feeling is not reality.  Even if we feel like our husbands will leave us because we're middle-aged and don't look like a super-model, it doesn't mean it's reality (and if it it reality then I'd seriously question who you are married to and think about how it's better being alone or being with someone a lot more mature and less shallow and demeaning).  Every day I remind myself that there is a smart, interesting, loving person in this middle-aged body with a chronic illness, ten extra pounds, graying hair, excema on my hands and those damn witches hairs on my chin - and that is what matters in the world and to my friends and family.  And slowly I am starting to feel like that is reality - not the crap that the media spews or my immature belief that people only love me for how I look.  And it's important that women continue to validate that to other women too.  Unlike Samantha Brick.  Sister, you really dropped the ball on this one.  I'd keep your mouth shut for awhile now if you don't want to make yourself look even worse.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

If only I could draw cartoons ...

My husband is really good at drawing cartoons but I do not have that talent.  As he puts it I can draw horses anatomically correct so it's only a small step to draw them as cartoons.  Unfortunately, that's easy for him to say as someone who's talented at drawing cartoons.  I think it's a lot easier just to draw what you see in front of you then to translate it into a comic character that is endearing and cute.

He mentioned that he thought I should draw cartoons about Toadie when I told him one of the dopey things she did today.  We were actually doing really well this morning when I went to go work with her.  She had fun free-lunging then very politely came up to me when we were done and went for a walk outside with me which went surprisingly well with her - most of the time - walking politely on the lead rope.  She did get in my space a little when I expected her to walk through a big puddle and she thought it would be better to start quivering and crawl in my arms in hopes that I would carry her across it.  But we got past that.  The two groom rooms were being used when we got back and she had hay in her stall and I wanted to put her bridle on to do some lunging (it seemed like setting her up for failure to try to put her bridle on when there was a fresh flake of hay in her stall) so I put her in the extra stall that is sometimes used as a groom room.  She thought that was a little weird, but after a full grooming in there she was very relaxed and seemed to think of it as a good place to be.  Then she was great on the lunge line - calm, polite, tried really hard to do everything perfectly.

Then we went back to the "overflow" groom room and as usual I put her halter, attached to one cross tie, around her neck while I was taking off her bridle.  Unlike the other groom rooms there are no hooks or shelves in the extra one so I had my cloth bag of grooming supplies sitting on the floor in front of the open door and I reached around to hang the bridle on the hook on the outside of the door.  The barn owner was feeding grain to the other horses and Toad completely forgot her manners and decided that the split second I took a step out of the door to hang her bridle was her queue to run out of the groom room and back to her stall to eat.  Only problem was, she still had the halter around her neck attached to one cross tie aaaand ... the cloth bag with my grooming supplies was in front of the doorway.

So, Toadie took a couple running steps to try and bolt out of the groom room and just as the halter/cross tie combination stopped her around her neck, her right front foot landed right in my bag of grooming supplies (which of course meant "Monster's got my foot!") so she threw her foot up in the air thus throwing shedding blade, brushes, curry combs and hoof picks flying in the air (which translated to "Monsters raining down on me!" so she jumped back, all my stuff clattered to the ground and she tried to rear up but the top of the doorway was in the way, so she hopped backward up against the back wall of the groom room and turned to look at me like, "Maaaama! Comfort me!"  Sigh.

Trainer K. came by and asked "What are you guys doing in here?" and I told her what had happened and she laughed and Toad looked at us like we were the most heartless, cruel people in the world not to be comforting her after her traumatic ordeal.  We told her it served her right.