Monday, January 30, 2012

The problem with fame ... and dogs

After something like three years I've started to take it for granted that I can take my dog to work with me. And that often my boss brings his dog.  So, on days like today when my head felt like it would explode because I had so much to do and was getting easily frustrated I was able to go sit on the couch in my boss's office and both dogs jumped up and sprawled across me (my pitbull is about 65 lbs and my boss's black lab is around 80 lbs and growing).  My boss now has a photo of that on his phone.  That may end up being my staff photo on the company website.  I think if more offices allowed people to bring their dogs to work there would be a lot less stress and a lot of happier employees.  I had a meeting this afternoon with someone about some financial/banking stuff and when she came in dressed in her nice business clothes we tried to quickly shoo the dogs into my boss's office but she said, "Oh, let them stay. You're so lucky you can bring your dogs to work!"

One of the things we were talking about while I was sitting on the couch ensconced in dog, is how to go about auctioning off a day with my boss's friend N.S. who is a famous science fiction writer, and their other friend who is semi-famous in cult circles because N.S. wrote a book about him.   I made some comment about how we could put it on eBay but as soon as I thought about it, it would completely creep me out if someone was auctioning off a day with me on eBay.  In fact, it would creep me out if anyone was auctioning off time with me to begin with.  Maybe not in our circle, and in fact I suggested we keep it just to our circle of acquaintances and regular donors.  Because every donor is known to someone in our organization.   My boss called N.S.'s friend on speaker phone and he (the friend) said we should open it up to all the rich computer geek millionaires in the world.  He is probably onto something there.  

I think I can relate to N.S. in the whole not wanting to make public appearances thing. And I wonder how he can make a living as a published author with that way of being? I was just lamenting to myself yesterday that long gone are the days of J.D. Salinger where you can just write a book and have it published and have people read it.  The last writer's conference I went to a couple years ago, it was all about marketing.  I hate doing marketing.  It has it's place and there are a lots of people who are good at it, but I want nothing to do with it because it is not my thing and I suck at it.  And I've made it this long in my life making a living plinking away at numbers in a back room and avoiding it.

This has been on my mind a lot the last couple weeks because I think this attitude is what has contributed to my couple years of writer's block.  I wrote two novels while I was stay-at-home mom with my daughter her first three years.  But between getting my horses and going back to work, I just haven't had the energy to write anything other than blog posts.  I have *ideas* in my head and occasionally I jot down some notes and some dialogue, but actually making time to write isn't happening.  Also, when I have down time I'm more interesting in "taking in" information than "putting out" information too.  Like for instance, I want to relearn algebra so that I can then relearn calculus so that I can start understanding the mathematics involved in physics as well as just the basic concepts.  I seem to have more energy for stuff like that than for writing.  If I could have everything I think I would have time to do both.  Maybe if I put aside an hour a day to write fiction and an hour a day for learning stuff and I didn't allow myself to do anything else during that time I could start writing again. 

But then the question looms it's ugly head again "What is the point of writing if I'm not going to bother trying to get it published for people to read?"  One suggestion someone made is to put it up for free on Kindle.  I might look into that.  If it is in fact free it might be worth it.  Then I could send it to my friends and have them easily read it, but not have to deal with contracts and marketing and the fear of one day becoming famous and seeing blog posts dissecting me and my writing or worse OMG articles on Yahoo about what I was seen wearing.  Ugh.  At an auction for work last year they auctioned off a couple of my books that I published back when I had my own little publishing company and one of our big supporters bought both of them.  I told him how I didn't want to try and market them because it was too unpleasant for me and he made a joke about how he could pretend he wrote them and do all the readings and honestly, that would be great!  If only I could find an actor willing to pretend to be the author and do the readings and interviews and agree not to get paid except royalties of my royalties.  I would totally go for that.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Safe havens and pitbulls

I have a good friend who left an abusive relationship with her kids and is now in hiding with a restraining order until a court hearing about domestic violence.  I was visiting her at her new place this weekend and thinking a lot about her situation - which she is not alone in.  The domestic violence safe houses around our region are all full right now.  She and the kids went from a pretty darn nice big house to literally a trailer park.  But it's home and it's safe so that makes it a lot nicer.

So, I started thinking that it would be comforting for her to have a dog because pets have a tendency to ease stress for people and are just all around good for you.  And dogs are friendlier than cats and smarter than rodents.  And sadly, not everyone can have (or for some crazy reason may not even want) a horse.  But she doesn't know if she's going to be living in this trailer for a long time, or if after the court dates are all done she'll move to a more long-term apartment or house and who knows if that place will take dogs since most rentals around here don't.  So, adopting a dog right now wouldn't work.  But what if there were a service that provided temporary dogs - like service dogs - to women in transitional housing after leaving an abusive relationship?

I was thinking it would be cool to have an organization that takes pitbulls from shelters, puts them with knowledgeable dog owners who are willing to train them with the same training as service or therapy dogs, then women coming out of abusive relationships could sign up to have a dog live with them.  They could have six months (or something like that) where the organization helps with dog food and vet care, then they'd have the option to officially adopt the dog if they wanted after their six months is over.

Of course, I couldn't be the one to take in or train dogs because our house is already over run by pets. But if I could find other satellite homes and trainers ...  I don't know.  It seemed like a good idea when I was having insomnia at 5am this morning.  I told two of my co-workers my idea over lunch today and they said it sounded great, but then they're those kind of nice people who would probably be supportive of me if I said I had an idea to inhabit Jupiter and create a weight loss clinic based on different gravities.

Speaking of lunch, I'm going through a phase of being especially obsessed with spicy foods.  I loved spicy foods or years, then couldn't even smell them when I was pregnant without throwing up, then lost my ability to eat much spice at all because it was too overwhelming.  But since I've been eating more (in attempts to balance out my immune system ... and because I'm hanging out with Laotian, Indian and Nigerian folks a lot so it rubs off ...) spices it is starting to bother me when food *isn't* spicy (unless it is supposed to not be spicy like say pie).  For the second time in a couple weeks when we went out to get take-out Thai food and I specifically asked for mine and JJ's to be spicy, we got back to my office and they hadn't put any hot spice on mine.  It had a nice flavor but no heat at all.  That happened at the Thai place by our house a couple weeks ago (once again - I specifically asked for spicy!) so I took my neighbor's advice and bought some Sriracha sauce to add to my food when they forget to make it spicy. Now I'm thinking I need to keep a bottle at work too.  I'm starting to understand why my friends from Indian wrinkle their nose at some American food that doesn't have heat to it.  Maybe I should stop ordering the food.  Maybe they see me as a pasty white girl who can't possibly mean she wants spicy.  When my boss picked up some Thai food for me last month when I had cold and he asked for it to be spicy, he brought it back and it was so hot it burned my mouth through the whole meal. Sigh.

And on that note, I made a stir-fry tonight with Karam's Garlic Sauce and Sriracha sauce as the only flavoring and it was really good.  Although, it's hard to find both those sauces these days except for I think Central Market in Shoreline still sells them.   It's definitely harder to find Karam's sauces.  I found mine on Amazon because they don't carry them up north up here in the stores.  Although they do carry sriracha sauce and hot pepper jelly - the latter I couldn't find anywhere until we moved up here.  Plus, there is a good Indian grocery not too far away to get the hot-n-spicy ketchup.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cavalia!

I took my daughter to see Cavalia.  It was quite the experience.  I"m not a huge obsessive fan of many things but I am now an obsessive fan of Cavalia.  For one thing, the horses are incredibly well trained and lovely and the acrobats are amazing, but for another you can tell they treat their horses really well.  Their riding is based on dressage which at its roots is about the ultimate in communication between rider and horse.  Although not everyone I've met in the last five years who claims to ride dressage actually understands what dressage really is and will resort to "old cowboy tricks" or scaring or trying to "break" a horse into submission.  And they'll use whips to scare their horses and that sorts of thing - as opposed to what whips and crops are meant to be which is an extension of one's own arm so as to continue to give cues.  I was watching the girl lunging a herd of horses and she never "cracked" the whip at the horses, she used it to signal where to go, or touch the back of their heels to get their attention and subtle cues like that.

There were a few mistakes which the performers dealt with well and stayed completely calm and graceful about.  One girl doing tricks with a lariat messed up and just regrouped herself and kept going like we hadn't even noticed.  One of the performers who was riding a horse while standing up and was supposed to jump up, do a somersault in the air and land back on his horse, actually misjudged his distance and landed on the side of his horse and slid off - but he righted himself and landed on his feet on the ground.  He tried it again and although he landed on the horse he lost his balance and fell off, but managed to land on his feet again.  He made lots of faces and gestures in mock self-deprivation, but I noticed when he went back to the starting spot for the routine, he spent a minute talking to his horse and comforting him about the fact that he was doing a routine more than once during a performance.  The third time he successful did the mid-air somersault, landed standing up on the horses back, and then praised the horse excessively for the horse having the patience to do it over again three times like that.

The scary accident was a young guy who was riding two horses at once - one foot on either horse, and he was supposed to ride the horses at a gallop (while standing with one foot on either horse) up to a big poled and when the horses ran under the pole he jumped over the pole and hopefully would land with a foot on either horse and balance himself to stand on them until they slowed down.  But instead the horses ran under the pole, he jumped over the pole, but when he landed one of his feet slipped and he crumpled down in between the two galloping horses and landed face down on the ground.  Thankfully, we were in the second row on the left side of the stage and this happened on the right side of the stage so I could see that he fell straight in between the horses and they both instantly moved out away from him so he didn't get trampled.  Still, it was a horrible fall and he lay on the ground for a full minute (which in a performance is a long time) until two other performers actually left their posts to go over to his side.  I was really worried he was badly hurt, but as soon as the other performers reached his side he jumped up, waved to the audience, shrugged in self-deprecation then went back, got on the two horses and performed the trick again - this time perfectly.

My friend, A.  and I were completely breathless by that point and she gasped, "Well, that right there was enough excitement to be worth the high ticket price!"  It wasn't until we got home that my daughter realized that it wasn't part of the show and he had actually fallen.  For her sake I'm really glad he wasn't hurt too.  It was inspiring to see him out there having fun and performing in the second half of the show after intermission.  And it reminds me that all these performers must have fallen off of horses so many times.  Just like I used to do when I was a kid.

I think everyone should go see this show.  It's amazing what humans and horses can actually do together.  The level of strength and balance and timing that the performance entails is so inspiring1  Plus, it's just really neat and pretty to look at.  And being in the front like we were another cool effect was when they "made it snow" with soap bubbles and they fell onto the first three rows as well as the stage.  That was pretty cool.  And they dropped paper leaves on us at one point too.

As we were leaving I asked A. "Can you imagine being able to do that?" and she said, "I've never been on a horse in my life," which I found unbelievable! Her teenage daughter is obsessed with horses so I just assumed she'd ridden at least once.  So, I know what I'm getting her for her birthday!  A dressage lesson with Trainer K.!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Birthday to Lil Girl

My daughter is 8 years old today.  I find that hard to believe.  I remember when she was born how the first week I would wake up in a panic in the middle of the night and wonder who I was going to get to raise her because surely I was not capable of doing it myself and not completely messing her up.  I also remember how in my new mom's group people talked about worrying about getting enough sleep, or worrying their baby would be autistic or developmentally disabled somehow and I was worried about not being a good enough parent in those "crucial first three years" and causing my child to have an attachment disorder and grow up to be a sociopath.  But as Jon Ronson says in The Psychopath Test (and I'm quoting loosely because I can't remember exactly how he said it) "If you are really worried after getting this far in the book, that you might be a psychopath, then rest assured that you are not one."

(By the way - my newest celebrity crush has gone from  Alexi Murdoch  to  Jon Ronson.  Add in James McAvoy and I have my perfect boy-harem.  Hmmm ... I notice they're all British but also that they're all similar to my husband in one way or another.)

Anyway, I am happy to say that eight years into this experiment of being a parent my daughter appears to not be a sociopath.  And better than that she appears to be happy, well-adjusted and very smart and to top it off a tomboy who loves animals. 

In eight days it will mark one year since we moved to our new house/new neighborhood.  I think it has gone better than I'd hoped for.  I feel like I have more real friends up here than our old neighborhood in the city.  Or at least more friends that actually show some interest in connecting and I definitely feel less lonely than I did living in the city.  There are some issues like a nasty guy who lives at the end of our block whose wife and kids are in hiding with restraining orders against him.  All us parents keep our eyes out if he's outside when our kids are playing outside.  But hopefully since he's a renter he will move eventually.  And no one neighborhood is going to be perfect.  Probably not any more nerve-wracking than having nine registered Level III sex offenders living within one mile of our house in the city.

I'm looking outside wondering if this snow - we have over a foot - is going to melt enough for me to safely drive anywhere today.  The weather forecast says it's going to warm up within the hour and start melting but I am dubious.  I think since I have all-wheel-drive and it's not supposed to be sheets of ice out there anymore I will try to head to the stable mid-day.  I have not seen my horses since Monday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adventures in sledding

Well, first off, one of my younger friends who is considering where to go back to college mentioned going into equine studies.  I made the mistake of looking at equine programs at colleges across the country and saw that you can actually get a BS in English riding.  Sigh.  I know what I would do if I could do it all over again.  Go to school to major in English riding and minor in math or physics.  Yep. That would be awesome.

My daughter didn't have school today so I did not go in to work as planned.  It probably would've been fine because the highways were all clear, but it would've been too much of a stretch to find all day babysitting for her and I didn't know if the roads would get bad later and I don't like driving with her in the snow if I don't have to.  As it is I took my neighbor, Preetha to the grocery store because I have all-wheel drive, and it was dumping snow so much that there were a couple inches when we came home.  I probably could've gone to the stable for training like I wanted, but a couple different trucks were tailgating me and being aggressive because I was going the speed limit in one spot and 5 miles under in another spot (because I was driving on three inches of snow!!!) and it just didn't seem worth it.

So, I stayed home and attempted to be productive (and was not).  In the afternoon there was enough snow on the hill outside our house to go sledding again.  It had been worn down to just ice but with the new snow today it was good to go again.  So, I went out to oversee my daughter and Preetha's daughter.  I kept asking the other grown-ups to come sledding with me because I did not want to be the only one and they all had some excuse or another (mostly that their yoga pants would get too wet and they'd be too cold ... but I told them if they stay ON the sled their pants won't get wet ...).  Anyway, Preetha said she'd go with me but she had never been on a sled in her life so she had to literally go on the sled with me.  It makes sense.  I don't think it snows much where she grew up in India.  But it is weird to think about because I remember plenty of times sledding as a kid.

We went up to the top of our hill and I sat down on the sled and Preetha paused and said, "Oh, this looks steep," which is funny because I knew what she was talking about.  It is a fairly steep hill but we don't think about it walking up and down it every day, but it looked steeper as she was about to sit on a sled for the first time.  Honestly, it is really a trail-by-fire type of hill to sled on for the first time because it is pretty steep.  But it's only a block long and you plow right into the grass in the front yard at the house at the bottom - their car wasn't even close enough by to run into.  And there are no cars parked on the street on the hill so there isn't anything to run into except the curb (which I did a couple times ... and I ran into our recycling can). 

So, Preetha sat down behind me and put her legs on my legs so they wouldn't drag and slow us down.  I said I would stop if she wanted me to but I guess what I meant was "I'll stop if we're even in the slightest amount of danger".  Because we took off and halfway down she started to yell, "Stop! Stop! We must stop!" and I said, "Hold on! You're fine. You're ok.  Just hold on!" We got to the bottom of the hill and I said "I didn't want to stop because I knew we weren't in danger and I was afraid if we stopped before the bottom it would make you more scared the next time," to which she said, "That's ok! Let's do it again!"

We decided to go down again and this time were were going to race our daughter's on another sled.  But we hit an icy patch halfway down the hill and I said, "Hold on, we're going to spin," and Preetha yelled, "Oh no! We must stop! Oh no!" and I said, "No, we're fine.  Just hang on!" We spun around and were careening down the hill backwards and next thing we know we went backwards over the snow jump the kids made, landed with a thud, skidded out down the street and stopped when we hit the curb a few doors down from where we usually land at the bottom of the hill.  Preetha was both horrified and laughing at the same time and just laid down on the curb for a minute and said, "Oh my.  That was not what I expected."  Meanwhile, I was laughing my head off, which then sent her into laughing her head off.  It was so fun!

All the while the pitbull was bouncing around in the snow (literally bouncing) and she got very worried about me and Preetha when we were careening down the hill laughing and screaming.  She kept trying to comfort Preetha by licking her face when we finally stopped.  Then she took off and ran up the hill to run next to the kids every time they slid down.  Especially the girls - she was very concerned about the girls.  And if they crashed, she would run up to them and loom over them while they were lying in the snow and try to lick their faces and make sure they were ok.

A bunch of the kids in the neighborhood came over for hot chocolate, then when they went home my next door neighbor dropped off her two little 3 month old Shitzu/Maltese puppies for my daughter and her friend to play with.  It was all in all an excellent snow day!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Honey, would you like to borrow my shotgun?

Yes, I really did overhear one neighbor say that to another this evening.  And it makes me want to say again "I love my neighborhood!!!"

We did get a bit of snow up here which was really cool.  There was enough yesterday that by 11am kids in the neighborhood were outside sledding down the hill in front of our house.  The highlight was not just getting to sled with the kids (I'm amazed that I didn't see many other parents sledding - a couple dads but that's it) ... anyway, the highlight was taking my neighbor's 2 year old daughter down on the sled in front of me and then watching her pitch a fit until her dad agreed to take her down on the sled with him again and again.  That was pretty cute!  And I tried out one of the kid snowboards that the boys had out.  That was a catastrophe.  I gave one of the dads my iPhone and said, "Take some pictures so I can explain it better when I go to the ER." After a few minutes of me falling down every time the snowboard moved he said, "I'd take a picture if you could stand up long enough!"

We ventured out of our little icy neighborhood late morning to go to the barn to see my horses.  When we got to the highway it was completely clear and I really only had a little bit of a problem going down the last incline just before the turn-off to the driveway into the stable.  I started to slide a little and when I put on the brakes even a little it seemed to make it worse.  But we never actually slid or skidded and we got into the driveway ok.  I had my husband drive on the way out and duh ... it is much easier to drive up the same incline in a all-wheel drive than to drive down.  It was good to get out and see the horses though since they say it's supposed to snow tomorrow and the next day.  I foresaw myself going through horse withdrawal.

My new lunge whip turned out to be awesome.  I showed it to Trainer K. and she picked it up and said, "Ooooh ... this is nice!" which is always fun to have someone else realize why something completely random to 95% of the people I know but is super cool to me.  Toad was apparently looney-tunes this morning in turn-out, so as I expected she was very mellow when I took her out to work.  She stood nicely and quietly while I groomed her and when I took her out to free lunge she rolled a couple times, did a few bucks and quicks turns around the arena at a gallop, and then settled right into doing her circles around me with walk/trot transitions to voice commands.  She was a little on-edge though because it had started snowing again and every now and then a little bit of falling snow would get blown in through an open space in the arena walls and she would act like it was going to kill her if it touched her.  Then T. showed up with a friend and Toadie pranced up to the arena door to get some attention from them.  I thought she would feel more secure on the lunge line and she seemed to.  It was easier to get her attention back when the snow would blow in so she wouldn't go off on her spiral of "Snow will KILL ME!!! AAAAGH!"  She did freak out a couple times and at one somebody outside dropped something and snow blew in at her at the same time and she bucked as far up in the air with her back legs as she could, put her head down and started galloping wildly across the arena.  I dug my heals into the ground and held on while saying, "You're fine. Knock it off. Slooooow down. Slooooow down," and she managed to actually drag me a couple feet like I was waterskiing.  Then the pressure of me hanging on freaked her out and she did a super-sharp turn and her legs started to fly out from under her and I said, "You're going to tip over if you keep this up.  Wouldn't you rather calm down?" and she came to her senses and started trotting again.  Of course, once T. came in with Temple, Toad calmed down even more because there was another horse and that horse is completely unphased by silly things like snow and wind and flying branches and bombs going off and nuclear explosions.  Another reason why I think Temple probably has a lot of Mustang because she's so freakishly calm.

The National Weather Service claims we will get a lot more snow tonight and tomorrow and Wednesday, but they said we were going to get more snow today too so I'm not sure that will happen.  I guess if it does snow again I'll have to head out tomorrow and try to snowboard again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snowpocalypse ... sort of

The media was all abuzz about Snowpocalypse finally coming to our region.  The National Weather Service predicted a chance of 2-4 inches in our neighborhood.  Sadly when we got up it was just a dusting.  It is snowing now though and very pretty.  My daughter is outside measuring it as we speak.  I, personally, am hoping it snows enough that my husband gets an enforced snow day tomorrow.  Well, my daughter just came back in and she reports "0 inches for the driveway and the road, but 1 centimeter for the driveway and 1.5 centimeters for the road," and "I'll check it in a half hour. Now I'm going to go record my findings."  Ah ... the science of weather.  She's also really into telling me what kind of clouds are in the sky and what they mean.

M. at the barn (who owns the Lipazzans who I think look like squinkies) and I finally got to go hang out outside the barn together yesterday.  We went to lunch at a local diner and then went to a tack store in Bellevue so I could look for breeches and check out their dressage saddles and because she needed to return something.  I was looking for new breeches because the two pair I got four years ago are cotton and one pair is already falling apart, so I was looking for a higher quality pair that will last a long time and that has a full seat for when I'm riding Toad I can feel a little bit more secure.  You know, seeing as they don't make velcro seats.

Actually, I was marveling yesterday how much trust, respect and really solid communication has developed between and Toad in just the four months I've had her.  When I first met her it was like she had no idea that I was even there and I was like an annoying fly that was there to tell not to crowd me, run away from me, or get in my space.  Then it was like I was some big presence that told her what to do but she was still unsure and insecure and worried she wouldn't do something right.  Now she is my little pocket pony who comes over to me and lays her head against my chest and lets out big, relaxed sighs when I get to the barn to see her and she is much more tuned in to me and when she starts to freak and I'm there and I *remind* her I'm there, I can tell that having me there to give her direction is a relief to her.  Yesterday I let her free lunge then actually got her to do walk/trot transitions in a circle around me (without the lunge line).  She was trying to so hard to listen to me and do what I asked and she did a really good job.  She got lots of snuggles, kisses and treats after that!  She also played really hard beforehand though, so she was completely ensconced in billowing clouds of steam when were done.  Trainer K. loaned me her cooler (a big wool blanket that lays loosely over their back ... which I should never touch without my gloves because I'm allergic to wool and I had to immediately wash my hands because they started to turn red and inch when I took it off her ... duh.) and I walked her around the arena for about 40 minutes.  We're working on walking on the lead line and listening to me instead of just rushing ahead until I demand she stops.  She's doing great in the arena and barn but we still have a lot of work to do outside the barn walking down the street or out to the back pastures because she gets so excited and has never *had* to walk nicely out there until me so there's a learning curve.

Trainer K. came out to lunge her horse - a big goofy Warmblood named Madios - and warned me that Maddy was waiting for any excuse to explode because he hadn't been out in the pasture because it was too icy.  He did blow up a couple times and try to run off on the lunge line and did some bucks and bolts.  Toad reacted the first time and started to scoot right into me (I should've used better judgement and led her with me between her and Maddy) but as soon as I said, "Hey, you're fine. Knock it off," and pushed back when she scooted toward me, she calmed down and looked at me like "Protect me, Mama!" which is a huge improvement for her from the old days of just ignoring people around her and continuing to freak out.  The next time Maddy had a little explosion and started bucking and bolting we were farther away in the arena and I said immediately, "Be your own horse. Remember - you are your own horse! Let's keep walking," and Toadie had her ears back and was on high alert but just continued to walk with me.  She's growing up, my girl is!

I turned Girlfriend out in the arena when no one else was in there and she rolled a lot but her legs are still too stiff and sore to even trot, let alone canter or gallop.  She pranced a little and threw her head to get some energy out, but even she knew that trotting or cantering was too hard on her legs (which is huge for her - when I got her she loved to run so much that she would've probably tried to run with a broken leg).  So, we spent a lot of time walking around the arena.  She's such a sweet girl that I didn't even have to put her lead rope on, she'd just follow me around everywhere I went as though I had a lead rope.  When I wanted her to stop I'd say "Whoa" and I put my arm out in front of her chest and she'd stop immediately.  She's such an amazing girl!  And she's so cute next to Toad because she's so little and cute and right now she's super fuzzy and Toad is so tall and skinny.

Back to hanging out with M.  We were at the tack store and I said I really needed a better lunge whip because the one I got last year is super cheap and too short.  I found one that is just like Trainer K.'s and it was definitely better quality and long enough, but then I saw a bright magenta/pink whip and pulled it out to look at.  It was not only super pretty but much lighter and "bouncier".  There are a lot of times I can put the lunge whip under my arm with Toad, like when we're doing spirals or she's super amped up, but there are also times that I have to have the whip out all the time if she's feeling super lazy and keeps trying to stop and roll.  And with Trainer K.'s whip, if I'm holding it out a lot over fifteen minutes it starts to stress out my really bad arthritic wrist joints.  And Trainer K.'s whip is stiff, whereas this new whip has some bounce to it which also makes it feel lighter.  I was holding it in the store, practicing flicking it like I was flicking it at Toad's back feet and said to M. "I'm really interested in the physics as to why the fact that it is bouncier makes it feel lighter and the distribution of the movement over the surface of the whip changes the perception of weight,"  then paused and said, "Physics is kind of a hobby of mine," waiting for her to do what 90% of the people I meet do which is to screw up their face in confusion and say, "Really? Uh ... that's ... um ... nice?"  Instead she said, "Oh, that's cool," to which I said, "You don't think that's weird?" and she said, "Not at all," and I said with relief, "Oh good! I need more friends who don't think that's weird!"  It's totally fine for good friends to think it's weird as long as we still like each other - it's just a relief when they also think it's interesting.  One of my new friends up here is actually a physics major in college but I can't quite keep up with her yet.

Ok, off to help my daughter record and graph the results of her snow measurements.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Toad's first meltdown with me.

Well, that's not true that it was her first meltdown with me - more like her first meltdown with me riding her.  I think a big part of it was my riding mojo was just way off today.  I was having trouble relaxing my legs and getting a comfortable seat.  I was thinking waaaay too hard about everything I've been reading in this book Centered Riding while forgetting the most important part "you can't force yourself to relax or force your legs to hang loosely", etc.  But also, as Trainer K. put it "Toad seems to think her quarter has expired."

The first warning was that she was not wanting to steer correctly when I asked her to trot.  She balked and just drifted into the middle of the arena like being on the wall would just kill her.  Then I got her back on the wall, asked her to trot and she kicked out behind with both back feet like I had just been super mean to her (which I hadn't - I asked her to trot the same way I always do and usually it works better).  She still wouldn't trot and was throwing her head and instead of using soft legs like I was supposed to, I got frustrated and got her with my right heal in the belly.  Not super-hard but I gave her a little jab.  That was the final straw and she turned away from my right leg in a little butt flying to the right half circle and I'm not really sure what else she did.  I just know that we were not facing the same direction and it seemed like her butt went down a little and there was some fancy footwork going on to move to the right in a sideways manner.   We got our bearings back and Trainer K. said, "Now straighten her out and make her trot but use soft legs," which I did and surprisingly, Toad went straight into a trot.  Then she did a lot better with her transitions from trot to walk to trot.

After my lesson was over I said I felt like I really screwed up back when she blew up at me, and Trainer K. said, "Not really.  You stayed on and got her back to work," and I said, "Yeah, but I did something wrong to prompt her to do that," and Trainer K. said, "Perhaps, but after you got her with your heel she did start listening to you so it worked out.  Plus you stayed on." To which I said that I never actually felt like I was going to fall off.  I have definitely had times with Girlfriend where I didn't fall off but I *felt* like I was going to (when trotting or cantering without stirrups)  But Trainer K. said, "Oh, there was a moment there where I thought "Crap, she's coming off!"  Well, I'm glad it didn't feel as bad up where I was.  I never had that "I'm now at the mercy of gravity" feeling where it's a crapshoot if I'm going to right myself or if I'm too far off and am just going to keep falling.  Luckily, Toad moved in a way I'm used to with Girlfriend so I could flow with it.   And this folks, is why old ladies like me wear an eventing vest when riding young, green horses like Toad.

The last part of our lesson went well though. She listened a lot better.  She was definitely stiff and sore today and we made her work her brain a lot too.  Hopefully, tomorrow she will be in better spirits and less cranky about work. Although, honestly I was out of sorts today too.  I woke up with an arthritis flare-up coming on because I haven't taken my Enbrel again for about a month, between having a cold and then having a stomach bug.  I need to start taking that again because this morning my hands were so stiff it was hard to bend my fingers when I first woke up.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Take me down to the paradise city ...

I am feeling like I need a vacation.  Last night my mom said that at the end of the month my cousin is flying down with their new puppy for two days and I said I wanted to come just for a vacation.  Just to spend a couple days as a grown-up who is not taking care of animals, children or other people.  My mom said it was too expensive for such a short time and our family would be coming down in April anyway.  But I want a vacation now!  Sigh.

Meanwhile, I am getting some time off this morning from everything and getting my Guns-n-Roses fix.  I realized just now that I am officially "old" because I start stories with "I remember when ..."  Good lord.  "Well, Sonny ... I remember when I got this tattoo with a pin wrapped in thread and Indian ink.  It was the day after I overdosed on heroin and we were listening to Guns & Roses second album and wondering how Duffy got so successful ..."  Yep. The good old days.  I really have a hard time imaging that was me at this point.  Oh wait ... my mother reads this blog.  That never happened!

I also want different weather.  Either snow or sun and warmth.  I was looking at the weather report the other day and it really felt not like it was going rain and be in the low 40's for the rest of the week, but for the rest of my life.  If it's going to not be warm and sunny it at least should be snowing! I bet it's nicer in Mandeville.

Toadie was quite wound up yesterday.  I had about twenty minutes to lunge her in the afternoon before going to pick up my daughter after school.  Nothing really spectacular was going on.  One of the teens was there with her horse and M. and Trainer K. were meeting with a saddle fitter to get the right saddle for her new horse, Favio.  But I went into the arena to lunge Toad, as I turned to close the arena door she reared up, twirled around and galloped off, which yanked the lunge line out of my hand as it also yanked my arm really hard for the split second I foolishly thought I could keep a hold on it.  Luckily, I had been told years ago to NEVER wrap the lunge line around your hand exactly because of something like that.  It has never happened to me and I guess I figured it never would but I just kept following that rule.  Now I am glad I did!!!

I walked down to the other side of the arena and told her to whoa and to calm down but before I could get close to the lunge line she took off again, galloping and bucking full speed around the arena with the lunge line flying behind her.  Ok, I admit that I wasn't totally calm.  At one point I yelled, "Goddamnit! You dumbass! Knock it off!"  But then I remembered I had to be calm and firm, not angry.  So, I firmly said "Whoa. Easy." and she finally decided to stop (on her own accord - having nothing to do with what I was asking her).  When she finally stopped the lunge line was wrapped around her back leg so I had to tell her to back up for a ways until she stepped out of it.  I was actually impressed that I didn't even have to touch her, I just walked toward her and said, "Back ...back ..." and she kept backing up until her foot came out of the tangle.

I gathered up the lunge line and took her over to the other side of the arena to lunge and she walked in one circle, started rearing, then tried to gallop away again.  This time I had a better hold on the line and my feet planted and I kept hold of the line even though she dragged me a little ways across the arena.   The pressure made her angry so she reared again right as M., Trainer K. and the saddle fitter wanted to come in to use the arena.  I asked them to hold off a moment until she at least stopped rearing because I was worried about her running them over and I know that M. is tentative about horses out of control (Trainer K. could care less - nothing scares her).  I saw Trainer K. coming to the front by the gate to come see what was going on and help, but thankfully by then Toad had calmed down enough for me to feel like she wouldn't get away from me.

Of course, then she started trying to gallop and on Trainer K.'s instruction I pulled her in to the smallest circle I could to me and she was literally cantering as fast as she could just a few feet away from me which meant that I was literally spinning around in order to keep hold of the lunge line.  Finally I got her to stop and I was so dizzy I could not move.  I had to just stand there while the room spun around me and I felt like up was down and down was up.  I said, "I'm so dizzy I can't move," and Trainer K. started to walk over to help, but thankfully by then Toad was just standing with her head down, not doing anything and looking disturbed herself.  Trainer K. said, "She's dizzy too," to which I said, "Really?" and she said, "No, you're not going to get that lucky."

After a couple minutes when the dizziness passed enough that I could move without falling over I changed the direction of the lunge line on Toad's bridle and asked her to just walk (mostly so I could continue to get my bearings!).  She did pretty well, but she would not go all the way out on the circle - like she wanted to be as close to me as possible.  I commented that she is not a chihauhau and is a strong, empowered horse and didn't need to get in my lap but it didn't help (obviously).  Then I noticed that every 30 seconds or minute or so she would make this high-pitched squeaking sound and look freaked out each time she made the noise.  Finally I called over to Trainer K. and asked what was wrong with her and at first she said she might be holding her breath because she's so wound up.  Then she watched her a moment and laughed and said, "She gave herself the hiccups!"  I had no idea that horses could get the hiccups!  It was the funniest thing - especially the look on her face every time she hiccuped and that the noise was so squeaky and high-pitched for such a large, noble animal!

Later I was texting with Trainer K. about how inept I felt and how embarrassing it was to have that happen in front of the saddle fitter (who unlike many horse-folks was not a casual redneck professional, but was one of those perfectly dressed, chiseled features, well-groomed types - the type I will never be).  Trainer K. said not to worry because he's a 3-day eventer and actually commented that Toadie acts a lot like his Thoroughbred.  Plus, oddly enough, Trainer K. said I did a good job with her.  I guess I should not worry so much what strangers think when I know nothing about them!