Thursday, May 31, 2012

I am Miss Cranky-pants today

I had an old client who once called one of his clients "Mr. Cranky-pants" and I've been happily using that expression ever since.  There's nothing like seeing a well-educated, quiet, refined man call another man "Mr. Cranky-pants".  Regardless I am oddly very cranky today.  There could be a lot of reasons for that but I'm going to use the advice from my brother the Buddhist/therapist: It doesn't really matter why you feel that way, just acknowledge it and then let it run it's course and be what it is.  Although,  I imagine part of it is that I'm incredibly on-edge about all the violence in the city the last few months.  I'm thankful (beyond words) that we live in the boonies now, but disturbed that my husband still works five days a week in the city.  He told me to stop worrying though because today he is wearing his iron underpants.  Sigh.  I'm also on edge because Crazy Neighbor yelled profanities at me again the other day so I finally looked him straight in the eye and said that he needs to leave all of us and alone. His response was to just kept yelling profanities at me until I left.  Sigh.  Annoying horsefly person.  Really fucking annoying.  And it's raining and I was going to work in the garden all day.  Although rain usually doesn't make me cranky.  It's not PMS.  And although Toad was incredibly cranky yesterday I'm going to continue to assume that crankiness is not contagious.  Oh look at that ... I just tried to figure out what was making me cranky all in the same paragraph as quoting my brother's advice.  Oh well.

I tried to do a bit more of the Liberty work with Toad yesterday and at moments it went really well and at other times she got very confused and frustrated and I began to feel the same way too.  Then she was super grumpy in the cross ties while I was grooming her to get ready for training.  She nipped at me a few times which is unlike her.  I was so close to her that if she had actually wanted to bite and hurt me should would've done that, but still that kind of behavior of nipping at me is a challenge and should not go unmet.  Unfortunately, my first reaction was to poke her in the nose.  But Trainer K. showed me that all that ended up doing was starting a fight that began to resemble "Nip at mom - throw my head back really fast so she can't get me!"  Trainer K. showed me how to make my eyes really big and challenge her back by getting right in her face.  As soon as I did that she backed off and didn't try to nip at me anymore.  But she was still scowling - with the exact same expression my daughter gets when I tell her if she doesn't knock it off she's losing tv privileges.

What's funny about that whole challenging thing, is that I've seen my daughter do that before with other kids.  I remember two years ago when she first met I.F.  - a little boy her age that lives a few doors down that she is now great friends with - she made her eyes really big and got right up into his face until he backed away and said, "What are you doing?!" in an exasperated tone.  She started laughing - which then made him start laughing.  His mom asked me, "What IS she doing?" and I said, "If I didn't know better, I'd say she's showing him who is dominant."

So two things have helped to abate some of my crankiness - pilates class this morning and drinking coffee and writing in my blog.  I'm not sure I've written about it yet but it is not a typical pilates class. It is a class specifically for improving balance for riding (I believe riding dressage but there might be students from other disciplines too ... I've only heard so far of other students riding dressage).  It is taught by my friend who is not only a great instructor but a great rider.  It always kicks my butt but it feels good - like I'm really working hard at something.  And today when I couldn't do one of the exercises (the plank) because my wrists and hands are so mangled from a lifetime of rheumatoid arthritis it reminded me again that I live with a chronic illness and that if I can one day make it to riding in Prix St George then it will be a victory for every child diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA)!  I'd say riding in Grand Prix but I honestly don't think time is on my side to do that.  I can't ride and train for hours everyday and I am already in my mid-forties.  So, Prix St George is by far a lofty enough goal for me in my lifetime!

This photo definitely puts me in a better mood.  It is my daughter with her lesson horse, Tasha - who is every little girl's dream horse:



Monday, May 28, 2012

Liberty and beware the woo.

That title is two completely different subjects by the way that are completely unrelated.

First the woo (because that came up a day earlier than Liberty).  I consider myself a nice mix of embracing science and embracing fanciful ideas of "what could be".  That said, I draw the line at "just so out there and contrary to science that it could not actually happen".  Sure, that last sentence is used by many atheists (the ones who feel the need to "prove" they are right and make you admit they are right - as opposed to the ones who just don't believe in any kind of God) but I'm not actually talking about God or religion in this case.  I don't actually believe that the concept of there being a higher intelligence or "higher power" is contrary to science because there is no science that can actually address that.  Because if there is a spiritual being that is bigger than us and watches what we do - or even an entire race of those beings - we really have no way of knowing it so there is no science for it.  Just like saying, "There are no aliens anywhere at all - we are the only intelligent beings in all universes for infinity."  Yeah right.  Arrogant, much?  It's one thing to choose not believe in God or the religions that come with that concept.  It's another to say that you can prove there are no intelligent beings other than us in all universes.  Anyway,  I like believing in my own strange concept of God and it makes me happy.  And if it is just my imagination it is still working for me.

But there are certain things that just seem like they can't possibly coincide with rational thought.  The big one for me at the moment is "animal communicators".  You know, the people who tell you what your dog's favorite color is, and their happiest childhood (puppyhood?) memory and what your pet wishes they could tell you about what they need from you.  I checked out a book from the library yesterday about animal communication and I was hoping it would talk more about intuition as to what the animal wants and needs from a perspective that would come straight from the animal - not end up being translated into a human experience with human thoughts, memories and needs.  But the latter is just what it was.  Horse's talking about their emotional needs not being met in a completely human way as opposed to a horse's way.  Talking about their past and how it is negatively affecting their current relationships.  That sort of thing.

What I was hoping for was something more a long the lines of what I want to foster with myself and animals - which is an intuitive sense of what they need on *their* level.  Not reading their minds or psychically visualizing their past.  Since I grew up with dogs and was very attached to them as a kid, I can often tell what they are feeling and what they need - on a dog level.  But it is different than what a human feels or needs.  It's more in the moment, base-instinct, not a bunch of analyzing and rationalization going on.  Like when I met Girlfriend I immediately knew "She knows she's being shown to me for a possible new home and that's making her anxious.  Or at least she senses change and she's not happy about it."  (as opposed to "She's feeling betrayed and wondering why you don't love her ... she blames herself and wonders where she went wrong ... blah blah blah ...).

I think usually I'm a little too flighty and have too much on my mind to be as in tune with animals as much as I used to be and want to be.  So, I'm trying to get back to that.  Apparently, those are not popular books though - the whole "just being in tune with animals" through body language and one's own intuition.  It's more popular to write books on how you can read their minds and be an animal psychic and even tell the owner what the animal is thinking over the phone.  Sigh.

And segueing out of that rant into a cool new thing at the barn ... Trainer K. and MT went to a clinic with Sylvia Zerbini last weekend on Liberty (which I'm not actually sure what that term means but I keep hearing it) and Trainer K. tried to show me some of the stuff they learned during Toad's free lunging today.  It was the first time I've ever seen Trainer K. say "Ok, I don't really know what I'm doing," which was surprising.  And she seemed to be a natural for it.  Because after watching her for awhile and trying to get my brain to intellectually wrap around the concepts I said I wanted to try.  Which went horribly!  Poor Toad was completely befuddled by what I was asking her and at one point got frustrated enough to challenge me and stand directly in front of me and pin her ears.  Then when I tried to get her to move she reared and turned back to face me again and challenged me again.

What we were attempting to do is use our body language to convey to her what we wanted her to do.  My goal was to ask her to move out, then show her were to walk, then ask her to run, then ask her to come back to me and walk next to me.  The body language is conveyed through walking and stopping (walking is "putting pressure" or asking the horse to move) and stopping is the "release" or letting them know they are doing what you want).  Also, where your shoulders are facing in regard to the horse - facing directly toward the horse is pressure, facing away is release.  Also, pointing a certain way as to show movement forward (whereas pointing with the other hand cuts the horse off).  And making noises to keep the horses attention on you (like ssssshing or clucking) and making sure to keep eye contact so you know the horse is paying attention - or at least watching their ears to make sure they're listening.

Trainer K. came out and "saved" me the first time when Toad was getting confused and upset.  Then she left after five minutes and told me to try again.  Once again, Toad wanted to just stand next to me and got upset when I tried to push her away.  So I took a deep breath and instead of imagining myself and confused and novice I "puffed myself up" and just "felt confident" and "made myself big" and she instantly responded by listening to my cues.  She was a little confused and it was a little hard to get her to keep her attention on me.  But she did much better.  I had her walk out, then canter around the arena, then follow me until she was walking right next to me and then stop when I stopped and stand straight and still, waiting for my command.  As soon as we both stopped and she posed quietly, my friends who were watching in the stands clapped and I praised Toadie and gave her a big hug and I could feel how thrilled and proud of herself she was!  It was a wonderful feeling to see her look so proud and happy with herself!  It definitely gave me the bug to work on one day at least doing schooling shows with her so she can be in the spotlight and get praise and applause like she briefly had at the race track.

So, we have a lot to work on with that whole Liberty thing.  But I think it will really help our relationship together.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

And ... I'm going down ...

I fell off Toadie for the first time today. Which is probably a good thing because I haven't regularly ridden a 16.1 hh's horse in my adult life and I was worried it was so high up I could get hurt much worse than falling off a 14 or 15hh horse.  But it really wasn't any worse falling off a horse a few inches taller than the horses I have mostly ridden for the last few years.

I also need to make clear it was totally my fault and Toad didn't do anything "bad".  I was riding (just at a walk because she is was a little bit of a ding-a-ling and I was wearing jeans and no half chaps and felt kind of funky and discombobulated because of that ... because I'm sensitive ... like a Thoroughbred).  Anyway, we were doing really and she was listening well and I am starting to learn to communicate more effectively with her as I'm riding her more.  At one point we went past the open space above the front arena door and she saw a big white bird (an egret?) suddenly fly up in the air out by the woods, making a weird squawking sound, and it really worried her.  We changed direction soon after and walked past the open space in the outside arena door the opposite direction many times and she wasn't at all concerned.  We were kind of weaving all over the place because I was working on steering with her and working on having her walk down the middle of the arena without stopping or trying to go socialize with Trainer K. and G. who had been riding Misty but who was now hanging out in the middle talking to Trainer K.

So, we started to walk by the open arena door the same direction as when she'd gotten so worried about the bird, and she told me straight out in her horse-way, "Mom, I'm scared, I don't want to do this!"  and I said, "You're fine. Nothing to worry about, let's just go," and she said again, "No, Mom, really, this is too scary for me," and I said, "Just do it, Ok? Power through and you'll see it's fine."  Duh.  This is not at all how you deal with a Thoroughbred and I know it.  I just forgot it momentarily.  So, after her second plea for us to turn and not go toward the door she suddenly freaked and screamed, "Aaaargh! Mom! I can't do it! I told you I can't do it! It's too scaaaaaaary!" and she turned around and started to scoot really fast away from the door.  I managed to stay on and go with her, but the big problem was I was holding the blasted dressage whip and I'm still not used to holding one, so when I lost my balance a little when she turned and scooted, my hand went up, thus the dressage whip was no longer nicely down on my leg and it waved up in the air to the right of her head and then she freaked about the big monster coming to get her from the right and scooted to the side and next thing I knew I was heading off to the right and I knew that it would get much worse if I tried to stay on so I just let go of the reins and actually said out loud, "And ... I'm going down ..." and landed Thwack! on my butt/lower back, then my upper back slammed down on the ground and then my head slammed down on the ground.  Ooof.

I will tell you right now that helmets ROCK! I could feel how hard my head hit the ground and I could also feel how well padded and protected my head was in that helmet!  It definitely hurt and the back of my head is still sore (although amazingly I didn't get a lump) but I swear as my head slammed into the ground the thought raced through my head "Damn - this is a good helmet!"  The thought also raced through my head, "Wow. My butt hurts!" But I was wearing my eventing vest and my third thought was "Wow - nothing hurts where the eventing vest is - that's so cool!"  And it's true, nothing does hurt where the eventing vest was.  My butt is super sore, and my neck is sore from being jerked around, but that's it.  So, my eventing vest is now no longer my security blanket - it is my "Smart thing to do for middle-aged women with rheumatoid arthritis when they're riding young, green race horses!"

Toadie was standing next to me facing me and looking very worried so I stood up and started to brush myself off and was going to reach over and grab her reins and Trainer K.  was on her way across the arena and said, "No, don't get up!" to which I said, "What?" and she commanded, "Sit back down! You're not getting up yet!"  So, I dutifully sat back down thinking, "You know, I was just lying in the dirt, I'd really prefer not to sit back down in it."  Oh well.  Trainer K. came over and picked up Toad's reins and asked if I'd hit my head (I guess she hadn't seen me hit the ground because she was across the arena and on the other side of Toad).  I said "Yes, but not very hard," and she walked behind me to see if my helmet was crushed at all and said, "Yep. Your head hit the ground but your helmet isn't crushed."  Then she asked me if anything hurt and I said, "No, I feel totally fine" (which is true - yay adrenaline!) so she said, "You should get up then."

So I stood up, brushed myself off and she said, "Since you're fine I think you should get back on your horse."  I said, Ok, and as I sat up on her I said, "You know, I'm probably not as fine as I think, I'm probably just in shock," and she said, "Yes, I can guarantee you're in a little shock but you may as well ride around for a few minutes just for good measure."  I was definitely very shaky and poor Toad was still absolutely terrified.  When I asked her to go she put her head on Trainer K.'s chest and I could just hear her trying to say, "Oh god - don't let her back up there! She goes flying off and it really scares me when she does that! She might do it again!"  Trainer K. had to back away and hand me the dressage whip in order to get her to go and leave Trainer K. alone.  We walked around for maybe five minutes until Toad wasn't so visibly terrified and realized that I not going to just randomly go diving off her back (or walk her past the scary door again - at least not today).  Then my neck started to get sore so I got off.  Toad was definitely slinking along with her "Are you going to sell me? Am I in trouble? I'm really sorry! I really tried to be good!" look.  Poor little neurotic thing.

Speaking of neurotic things, this evening as I was reaching to put my foot in my flip flops I suddenly saw two distinct, bright yellow flashes of light out off to the side of my vision.  I practically stopped breathing and thought, "Oh crap! I injured my head worse than I thought! Should I tell someone or hope that was an anomaly and won't happen again?" Awhile later when I kicked off my flip flops back where I'd gotten them from by the bench in the entrance hall where we keep our shoes, one of them hit my daughter's Twinkle-toes sneakers and the little yellow lights flashed for a moment on them.  Phwew!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gardening

This weather changed has actually knocked me on my butt a little from the rheumatoid arthritis. I'm having a flare-up even though I took my Enbrel a couple days ago. It's making it a little hard to stay motivated but I'm trying to move around enough in the morning to loosen things up and hopefully get some energy back.  I may need to break down and take some ibuprofen which I've been trying not to do in order to spare my stomach.

Anyway, I'm still glad that summer is right around the corner. We've gotten some sunny days for work in the yard and inspiration for the sunny weather. And the reality is, this is perfect timing for rain this week because we bought a new tree (which I LOVE) for the front yard and it will help having rain to water it the first week instead of having to make sure we remember.  It's a Stewardia - which I'd never heard of. It's similar to a Dogwood but the flowers are a little smaller and they are an interesting orange/red color as opposed to pink or white. Plus, they are hardier in our climate and they are hardier in our growing conditions - which is non-draining clay soil that even if you amend it also makes a bowl of water around the amended soil when it rains a lot.

My spinach is starting to sprout in The Secret Garden (my garden on the side of the house that is surrounded by a super tall fence and most people don't even realize is there). Some of the bok choi I put out a few weeks ago is coming back well. My eye doctor (of all people!) who is an avid gardener said that bok choi and lettuce both like cold and wet so I actually may have put them out too late - whereas I thought I put them out too early. The peas of course are doing great.  Peas are super easy beginner plants around here.  I need to get out and plant some carrots and see hot that goes this year.  I have that optimistic delusion that this time my carrots will grow! I am planting them earlier than I usually do so maybe.  My mom says that carrots need a ton of water so I'll try that this year too.

Speaking of a ton of water, a month or so ago we got my daughter a Venus fly trap for her room. It is doing well - we keep it in her window which gets the south sunlight and we keep it really well watered (every day in fact).  The problem is, although it is small, it is not quite small enough to catch all the fruit flies it has attracted.  So, we decided to get it a friend and got a pitcher plant to put next to it. So far it has not eaten all of the fruit flies, but I have noticed they have left Venie (as my daughter named the plant) and are now hanging out on the outside of the pitcher plant.  And a few (yay!) have already gotten stuck and drowned in the pitcher plant.  Yep, we're building a whole ecosystem on my daughter's windowsill.  But no frogs. 

I still hold up to my "no frogs in the house" rule.  Although we are gearing up toward June and July when they take on plague like proportions outside. I am already seeing them every where when I go to work in the garden. The bunnies are all out too and see them especially at dusk lurking around the community garden behind our house.  I really need to get the rabbit fencing up around there before this weekend when the strawberries start to ripen because that's when they really descend.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Good god - I like a Lady Gaga song

I woke up to a panic attack last night after being asleep for about 45 minutes.  That always sucks.  It doesn't happen that often anymore (knock on wood) but it is still very unpleasant.  I woke up disoriented, sat up and turned on the light and felt out of my mind terrified: bathed in sweat, having trouble breathing, shaking really hard.  I got up and got a drink of water and went to the bathroom and my whole body was in panic-mode like I was about to die.  Meanwhile, in my head I was reminding myself to breathe and these symptoms would go away in a few minutes.  I sat down on the bed and told my half-asleep husband that I was having a horrible panic attack - in a completely normal voice which always amazes me that I am just sitting there with a normal sounding voice while I'm sweating, shaking and feeling like I need to get up and run as fast and far as I can away from the most terrifying thing in the world - that I can not identify because my body is just in a panic for no external reason.  Sucks. Sucks. Sucks.  My husband sleepily said, "They usually pass within fifteen minutes, remember," and sure enough I was back in bed and feeling like myself and falling asleep within fifteen minutes.

So, I looked up some resources on nocturnal panic attacks and found this helpful site.
I really like how this guy writes about the fears that one feels during a panic attack.  It's kind of light and funny and reminds me that panic attacks are in reality just little, annoying episodes, not life-threatening, psychosis-inducing catastrophes like they feel like.  They're like chihauhaus that bark at you like they're the biggest, meanest, vicious dogs in the world, when in reality they're the size of a squirrel and can be drop-kicked across the neighborhood if need be.

In happier news:  Toadie is doing great and is not only acting like a "normal" horse, but is acting like a very sweet horse with a propensity to be a babysitter when her mom is not riding as well as she could.  And we bought a new tree for our front yard - a Stewardia which is a lot like a Dogwood but hardier for our climate.  And my daughter did excellent at her riding lesson today and I was bursting with pride and "cuteness overload" while watching her.

Friday I took a riding lesson on Toad and I was very distracted, tired and extra clumsy for some reason.  I was a little hesitant to ride her for a full lesson when I wasn't feeling very on my game, but I put on my security-blanket eventing vest and did anyway because it would make my confidence worse if I didn't ride her in my lesson.   As it was she did very well.  Ok, she didn't want to go when I asked her and I had to carry a whip with me while riding otherwise she'd just stand there stubbornly, but that's just a typical, young green horse thing to do.  But I'm not used to riding with a dressage whip so I was thinking a lot about where I was holding and keeping the hand it was in steady.  I was also thinking a lot about trying to keep my new and improved posture (which was a little confusing for me because I felt like my center of gravity was different).  Add that to my brain being tired and not very competent and well ... you get the picture.

So, we were going along really well and Toad was doing a nice, steady trot and I was having trouble with my foot slipping in my right stirrup but I was worrying more about the whip in my left hand (our last ride a couple days before I accidentally let the whip swing to the left while we were walking and Toad started to take off at a scooting gallop for a couple steps.  I stopped her immediately just as Trainer K. yelled, "Drop your whip right now!" which I didn't have to do luckily because Toad calmed down immediately once I put the whip down on my lap).  Anyway, I was about to go up during the post and my right foot slipped out of the stirrup which completely knocked me off balance because I was pushing my body up just as my body started to fall to the right so I literally started tipping off of Toad to the right, but my left knee locked onto her side like a vice grip and for a split second I kind of suspended off to the right, then was able to scoot myself back into the center on her back.  Meanwhile I asked her to stop and she did.  She very politely stopped and stood still until I got myself back together.   In the midst of this Trainer K. yelled, "Wait - what are you doing?" to which I muttered - but I don't think she heard me - "Falling off!" Then I yelled back,  "I lost my stirrup," and something about losing everything else like my balance.  Then I started laughing at myself because it was such a dorky, clumsy thing to do.  I was just so impressed that through my lurching around up on her back, Toad just politely stopped and stood there until I composed myself.  She definitely took care of me there, whereas I think there are plenty of young, green horses who would've freaked about having someone flailing around on their back like that.

Meanwhile, I am watching Glee with my daughter and found out that one of her favorite songs (that I actually like) is a Lady Gaga song.  I honestly never thought I would like a Lady Gaga song.  I guess there is hope that I will be able to relate to my soon-to-be tween daughter as she gets older.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Day at the Races

I hadn't thought much about Toadie's past life as a race horse at Emerald Downs until recently.  After winning that day at the races with a race horse owner at the auction last weekend I've been thinking more about it.  Then a friend of mine posted this video on Facebook the other day and I've been watching it trying to imagine what it was like for Toad.  From the way she acts, it seems like she was taken out to run and led around but didn't have much "training" or much time to develop a relationship with anyone in particular. At least not a real "one on one" bonding time, really developing trust and learning how to politely interact relationship.  She's kind of like some of the kids at the fancy, "emergent" private school the boy I nanny for goes to.  Where they just let the kids run wild and don't give them much structure or guidance or education because they don't want to stifle their inner-essence.  So, she got to do her own thing and continue any kind of behavior - good or bad - and just be herself as she would be with no real structure or discipline to her day-to-day behavior.  And in her case it turned her into a high-strung, neurotic mess.  I think there are probably horse personalities that could handle that lifestyle just fine, but she is definitely not one of them.

I was marveling again today how just having a trusting relationship with someone and a consistent schedule and routine has made her a completely different horse.  I wanted to ride her in my lesson this morning but got there too late to do all that is necessary before a ride with her (ie: free lunge and then work on the lunge line) so I rode Misty in my lesson instead.  But after my lesson I went out to the paddocks to bring her in and I remembered being very nervous about that last August when I first bought her because she would try to race back to the barn.  Trainer K. warned me she does like to rush through the gate because she's afraid of the electric fence so to be prepared and not let her.  But she didn't even try to rush through.  I went into her paddock, she walked right up to me and ducked her head so I could put on her halter and I made a point to walk through so I was on the side of the gate where it opens so it was a little less scary for her, and she walked through very politely.  She started to rush when we got out toward the driveway to the barn and I asked her to stop and she not only stopped, but sighed and backed up so she was behind me and not in front of me anymore - without me even asking her to back up!  She is trying so hard to be a good girl! 

I was also marveling at how well she relaxed her hind legs today when I was doing her stretches that the vet showed me last week.  I was remembering the story that Trainer K. told me about how in winter of '10 when the teenager owned her Toad got mud fever on her back feet and nobody could touch her feet enough to actually scrub them with the medicated shampoo, or even dry them off enough for it to heal up quickly on it's own.   Trainer K. said even the vet pointed out that someone needed to start working with this horse or they'd have to sedate her for something as mundane as when she eventually got a cut on her leg and it needed to be cleaned.  Now she is so relaxed she just let me pick up her leg and move it in circles and stretch it forward and back - and she didn't just let me pick it up, she relaxed her leg and let me move it around to get a good stretch.  I'm hoping that will help her back which has been so tense and tight lately from all her working out.

Speaking of hind legs and large horses - my thoughts and prayers are with my friend, Pete today who is having surgery on his leg.  I saw his wife this morning and she didn't seem too worried so hopefully that means it will be a simple procedure and be the end of his problems.  Apparently, he was clipping his horse, Zeke's legs (Zeke is an 18 hh Belgian who weighs literally a ton) and something spooked Zeke, which knocked Pete over so he fell down and was lying on the ground.  Seeing his "daddy" lying on the ground after hearing a scary noise made Zeke going into a panic and he started dancing in the cross ties in a panic and managed to stomp all over Pete.  His wife took him to the hospital and nothing was broken, but now a week or so later something has been bleeding in his leg because it apparently swelled up and turned black.  Ugh.  So, they're going in today to drain it and find out what happened.  Zeke was kind of a mess today and I think could tell something was wrong.  That will definitely not convince my husband that people with horses aren't crazy.

Here is a picture from a few months ago of Pete and Zeke.  For scale reference Pete is 6'3".


Sunday, May 13, 2012

I am definitely a mom.

Fifteen years ago I went to my doctor and said I thought I should have my tubes tied because I didn't want kids.  She wisely said she thought that was a bad idea because I was still young (thirty years old) and still might change my mind.  The truth was, it's not that I didn't want to have kids, it's that I thought I would be a horrible parent so I wanted to make sure I didn't accidentally get pregnant and then either have to give the child up for adoption (which would be horrible because what if the adoptive parents were awful?) or be a parent myself (which I was sure I would fail horribly at and it's the one thing in life I could not live with myself failing horribly at).  Around that same time an acquaintance did get accidentally pregnant and was debating keeping the child or giving it up for adoption, and when my first thought was "I'll adopt the baby!" I realized that I did want kids, I just knew I'd be an awful parent.  Thus ensued a bit of a period of depression then I decided I'd better get it together just in case the opportunity presented itself.

That seems like a really long time ago and a different person ago.  Being a parent for the last eight years has actually been really easy compared to what I had feared.  I think it helps that the fates decided to bless me with the best daughter in the world (as a baby I called her "the easy, beginner model").  Other than the first two weeks after she was born I've been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to be a parent for me.  Well, other than the first two weeks when I would wake up in the middle of the night for no reason other than to think in a panic, "Who's going to raise this baby because surely I am going to screw this up!"

There are still a lot of kids I don't like but I'm finding that is not that uncommon.  I do not like disrespectful kids and I do not like dull-minded kids.  And by the latter I do not mean developmentally disabled or with learning disabilities, I mean kids who have not been given the opportunity to use their brains and spend the majority of their free time watching cartoons and playing video games.  I like clear-eyed, smart, curious, aware kids and that's about it.   Which includes some kids I know with autism.  The stuff I dislike is definitely linked to neglectful, lax parenting that involves parking the kid in front of a screen and giving them everything they demand. I don't like kids who have been raised with no discipline and lack respect for themselves and others.   When kids like that are at my house they quickly learn that here there are rules and behavior that you abide by and any disrespect or rudeness has consequences.  What's weird is those kids seem to always want to come over again even though in my head I'm thinking, "God no! I can't stand you!" I'm sure I'd like them if they learned to be respectful because it's not so much them but the behavior.  But that would take moving in with me and ... no way.  Thankfully, my daughter's little group of close friends all have very actively involved parents and are neat kids to have around.  And all the little boys she "falls in love with" are always really nice kids.

So on the flipside when I volunteer at school and my daughter's friends run up to hug me and say hi, or when my daughter has friends over and we all hang out together and do projects like art or making jewelry and they talk to me about their lives and what they think about - I just love it!  I think it would be fun to have a big house full of kids or our own.  But my husband only wants one and with our lifestyle (with the horses and all that) I think that is a wise choice on his part.  He's a good person to be partners with to rein me in on all my whims.

Last night I went to an action to benefit S.A.F.E. and had a little "mom experience".  There was an auction item in the live auction I wanted - spend a day shadowing a race horse owner at Emerald Downs as they get the horses ready, watch the races from the owner's booth and go to the winner's circle if his horse wins.  When they started the bidding a little teenage girl jumped up and bid at the first bid.  I bid a couple times against her but I saw how badly she wanted it so I stopped bidding and said to M. "I can't bid against her.  She really wants it."  No sooner had I said that then someone in the back bid against her.  She bid maybe a couple more times but the person in back was bidding too high for her so she stopped and looked terribly upset and disappointed.  I was shocked someone else had actually outbid her!  Everyone else was just casually raising their paddle to bid and she literally jumped up and waved hers like crazy when she bid to the point the auctioneer actually said to her, "You really want this don't you?"  I thought for sure that would get the person in back to stop bidding - but no! They still outbid her!  So, while I was fuming about this the auctioneer was saying, "Do I hear $350? $350? No? So it's $325 ... going once ... g ..." and I just got really pissed off and raised my paddle.  The person in back outbid me and I snarled under my breath to M. "This is bullshit! I'm going to win this thing and take that little girl!"  The person in back and I bid against each other and I finally got it (for waaaaaaaaay more money than I had said I'd spend!) and I jumped up and went over to the girl and introduced myself and said I would take her with me.  Originally, I was going to just tell them at the track she was my daughter so she could go but as I was walking over the M.C. said into the microphone, "You can take up to three friends!" So, that worked out well.  The girl told me she'd been saving up all her money for that auction item and it was her big dream to go and meet the owners and the horses because she follows all the races.  So, I'm glad I ended up winning it and not whoever in back thought it was ok to outbid a 14 year old who obviously wanted it to badly.  That's when I realized I definitely am a "mom" because I felt so protective over a child I've never even met before.  But I'm excited now.  I think it's going to be a lot of fun and who better to go with than a teenager whose excitement reminds me of myself when I was that age?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How did it get so far?

It's been over a year since we moved into our no-longer-so-new house and half our garage is still full of boxes we never unpacked and storage stuff that is just stuffed on top of piles of other storage stuff.  There are a lot of things we'd like to do with our garage (other than store cars and kayak and lots of junk).  One of them is to set up the grow light and try to grow ghost peppers so my neighbor, S.F. and I can try to make ghost pepper jelly (since the jelly we got from Eastern WA was so good until we realized that the "hot" in it was also radioactive "hot" ... sigh ...).  We'd also like to set up space for art and painting and we'd like to make space to hang the heavy bag so that we can both get back into kickboxing.  Most of the afternoon I've been out there cleaning up and I did actually get enough junk out to get find the heavy bag.  It's an arduous process though and I crashed and needed a coffee break before I go back and continue.

It looks like I put my bok choi starts out way too early last weekend.  It was really nice out (just like this weekend) but then the temperatures dropped into the low 30's for a few nights last week and the frost killed off those starts.  The bean starts aren't looking too good but I haven't given up on them yet.  My peas are doing fine.  And my spinach hasn't sprouted.  The strawberry plants in the community garden behind our house have come back really well and I need to get up the bunny fencing before the strawberries come out and they eat all of them.

Last year we got some of the vacant area behind our house cleared out for the raised beds and this year we're going to try and clean up more of the lot to make it more hospitable and user friendly.  I think it's going to be a few year process.  Eventually, I'd like to have an actual walking path through there and have it be surrounded by flowers and plants instead of overgrown weeds.  Last year there was a big to-do and someone at the city freaked out and said, "I know this land belongs to your HOA and I know we originally said you can do whatever you want on it - but now we're freaking out and we think you shouldn't do anything because what if there is an emergency or something and huge trucks have to come through and get to the protected wetlands behind this property?"  This was in an email, so I emailed back saying that there is a driveway easement that goes straight past our house to the protected wetlands and that was the agreed upon route for city workers to take their trucks down if they need to.  But no! What if they can't get down that gravel road easement? What then? They'll have to drive through the vacant land and if we actually use it for something they can't.  That makes about as much sense as telling all the neighbors they have to leave their backyards open for city trucks to drive through in case the road is not accessible for some reason.  Anyway, in the end I decided email wasn't working so I called and left a message for the public works manager saying I wanted to meet with him in person and go over what I was allowed to do (on our land) that would be acceptable to them without them freaking out and emailing me in a panic and he never called me back.  So, we take that as a "we have free rein to plant gardens on our HOA land!"  Still haven't gotten any neighbors to come out and plant stuff (not many gardeners in the neighborhood) but when stuff starts coming up and getting ready to be picked I think I'll send out a flyer telling people to come help themselves.   That might get up some more interest.  Plus, my husband is talking about putting down pavers around the raised beds to make it more easily walked along for those who do not do as well with the current vacant lot feel.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stronger

This is the song of the day.  It's not completely appropriate for the situation because it's a break-up song and there was no relationship of any sort in today's situation that is stressing me.  But it's a happier song (and more morally correct and legal) than this song.   Crazy Neighbor is already threatening to sue us for defamation of character for our court statements when they were requested of us during the domestic violence hearing.   His harassment of us has ramped up too (screaming profanities at us in public, driving aggressively when we run across him).  Sigh.  It's really annoying.  Today's visualization is that he is akin to a horsefly - that's how big he is in my world.  Buzzing around being really annoying and I just want to pick up a fly swatter and swat him but I know that in this case it is illegal to swat this particular horse fly.  So, although on an animal level it seems unnatural to let something keep annoying me like that without swatting it, on a human level I know that it is wrong and I must just ignore it.  So, I remember it's just an small annoyance in the grand scheme of things and it's not going to last forever and eventually it's going to fly out the window and then I will shut the screen so it can't come back in.  And that's as much power as I'm going to let this situation have over me.

So that first song is one of my daughter's favorite songs.  In fact, most of the pop songs these days are my daughter's favorite song.  Except Justin Bieber who for some reason (thank god) she says, "Justin Bieber? (with a sneer) Who even likes him? Yuck!"  I'm really enjoying that she is introducing me to all sorts of pop music and I like some of it.  Not really enough to listen to it by myself because it's not my style, but I have fun listening to it with her.  That was something my mom and I couldn't share until I was an adult so I'm glad that my daughter and I have more of the same taste.  Of course, I like pretty much all music except "smooth jazz" really bad soft rock (but I like "good soft rock" like Barry Manilow - maybe that's "camp soft rock"?).

Music is a really big deal to me - apparently more of a big deal than to most people.  When I hear a song that really speaks to me or that I just really love I want to share it with everyone and I want them to actually listen to it - to the beat, the words, the melodies, the harmonies.  I'm noticing a lot of people just aren't interested in listening that closely to music.  When I say I want to play a song for someone they usually listen to the first couple lines and start talking - whereas I'm wanting them to listening intently and be listening for changes in key, changes in rhythm, dissecting which instruments are doing what.  So, it's nice that my daughter seems to have a similar reaction to music as I do.  Especially since I'm learning that expecting people to be as obsessed with the details of music is about as realistic as expecting people to be as obsessed with horses as I am.  And if I want to keep my friends I need to allow them to not have to dive so deep down into my obsessions with me and still have that be ok.  Of course, I do have my friends like M. (Gemini & Favio's owner) and Trainer K. who will obsess all day long with me about horses! Yay.  My brother will obsess over music with me but I never see him anymore because he's so caught up in his career and traveling the world and all that completely-different-from-my-life stuff.

On a completely different note my husband and my 10-year anniversary trip to Mt. Rainier was awesome.  It was beautiful and we saw some pretty cool wild animals (my favorite part!).  I went tromping around in the woods behind the cabin with the pitbull the morning before we came home and it did occur to me that I had no idea what one does if one is out with one's dog and runs into a bear - especially one that just woke up from hibernation and was hungry.  Do bears go after prey that is barking at them? I'm assuming not but it did kind of freak me out after we got back there that maybe I shouldn't be out there with my city dog because I didn't want her to be breakfast for some bear.  My husband liked it so much out there that after taking the dog for a long walk he came back with some land for sale he wanted us to look into.  I would love to have a cabin out there but I wonder if it really is a wise move to buy land at the base of an active volcano.  Hmmm .... Anyway, here's one little guy we saw when we were driving up to Paradise.




Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Horses, rants ... what's new

Trainer K.'s old "back in the wild days" friend, Gigi, is back in her life and comes to hang out in the mornings at the barn before her riding lesson on Wednesdays now.  This has brought a whole new level of fun to Wednesdays training.  I feel like she and Trainer K. are my horse-girl-kid-clique for my second childhood.  I am still getting over "the second worst cold I've ever had" so I wasn't planning on doing much for training today.  But I was inspired to ride Toad for the last ten minutes of her training despite that I was sure I would be too fatigued (haven't been sleeping well for coughing).  Trainer K. and Gigi were very sweet and tried to get photos of me and Toad from their phones but Toad was not complying with posing nicely and I'm wearing many layers so I look very ... Jabba-the-Hut on a pretty Thoroughbred.  But I'm just glad to have more pictures of me and my girl.

Meanwhile, in a phlegm induced fit of poor judgment I got into a debate with a guy on Facebook who is a member of Occupy Seattle and is one of the "anarchists" who were running around downtown Seattle yesterday breaking windows in building and smashing up people's cars downtown.  One person even spray painted a big Anarchy A on someone's Porsche (they probably thought they were so cool for that).  What do I think about that? I think it's stupid and the people doing it are a bunch of loser bozos who want to get caught up in the excitement and let loose and be violent and then try to justify it by saying it's for a good cause.  Well, gee, here's a thought - how about I break into your crappy, dingy little apartment, smash your bong on the floor and spray paint "Grow the fuck up!" across your Mexican woven blanket on your futon?  I think that is justified too.  Will it work to get you to grow up and go to therapy and stop wasting everyone's time and our tax money on having to fix the windows in the Federal Building and extra police forces to come out and try and keep the peace because some toddlers masquerading as adults are throwing a huge tantrum?

Now you might thing that I don't agree with what these immature bozos want.  The truth is I agree with the little bit of semi-coherent crap that they actually managed to spew out in between lots of screaming and hysterics that really just make me think they need to be medicated.  This is after all one of my favorite songs.  My mother is a "fallen Republican" (she started going liberal around the time of the first elder Bush presidency) and a couple years when I asked my dad if he was still affiliated as a Democrat he said he'd more describe himself as a "social revolutionary".  I'm somewhere along the lines of supporting a socialist democracy with complete religious freedom.  Sweden but with more acceptance of all religions (even the crazy ones).   I would love to dismantle our incredibly corrupt government and I believe the corruption is on both the parties sides.  I think we need some sort of massive change to make this country sustainable and to make life better for all our citizen.  Like stop corporate greed and as one of my favorite sayings going around the internet says "I'll accept corporations have just as many rights as humans once Texas executes one!"

But, I draw the line at violence just for the sake of violence.  And then to make matters worse, running away, hiding your face, trying not to get caught.  Would Martin Luther King Jr. do that? Did he throw rocks then run and hide and refuse to take responsibility? No! He stood up and said what he wanted to say stood by his words and actions.  And when I told bozo-anarchy-boy this his response was (and I paraphrase) "Times are different now and you can't do that anymore" blah blah blah ... something psychotic sounding about conspiracy theories and people disappearing.  Oh, times are different, huh?  Because things worked out so well for MLK Jr. because times back then were so much better?  I told him that was a cop-out and there is no honor or heroics in committing violence and then running away to hide with your tail between your legs like a little kid who's trying not to get caught.  His response was that there is no heroics in letting yourself get trampled by the immense violence and corruption in our government and our horrible government has justified guerilla tactics (ie: throw rocks and run and hide) ... blah blah fucking blah.  I considered saying that is exactly the same way Al Queada thinks but I didn't want him to think that I remotely thought he had as much powers as a giant terrorist group - he might actually think that was cool.  So, I just let it drop because I figured that it is ridiculous to fight with a 12-year old.  Until I looked at his Facebook page and saw that he is the same age as me and worse - has a little kid of his own! Good lord.

Look people - this country is fucked up with immense amounts of corruption. Bechtel, Haliburton, companies like that are war machines and our politicians make money by keeping wars going as long as they have connections with companies like that.  Our tax money goes to bail out giant banks yet practically half the country does not have access to appropriate health care.  People are not educated in school about financial management or how credit works and are inundated daily by advertisements and credit card offers telling them that they need to go into debt to build "good credit" so that the average person can be in debt and completely helpless by the age of 30 if things go as the corporate credit card companies have planned.

But is this a reason to be violent and stupid? No - it is not! Education, education, education - these are ways to make change.  What - do you think you're going to break some windows in a government building and everything is going to change? What are you going to do if you manage to actually overthrow the government and disassemble it?  Then what are you going to do when the rich guys REALLY start fucking you over because there are now zero restrictions and no unions and nothing to hold them back?  Do you think then you can just go strong-arm your way in and live in their mansions because there are no laws and everything will be grand?  Well, until someone bigger than you with more weapons than you decides they want that mansion and you are now "the man" so you suck.  Really - what is your plan and how is smashing people's car windows going to achieve less corruption in our government.  That's like going out and killing tiny little toads at a pond and saying, "It has to be done because there is a cougar on the loose killing people's livestock! So, if we kill these toads we are actually doing something!  If you don't want me to kill these toads then you must either approve of the cougar eating the livestock or you are just afraid of the cougar.  If you weren't afraid of the cougar you would be killing toads too!"

Do I have the answer? No, I don't.  I am constantly searching for it though.  I read as much as I can, I discuss it with friends and people more educated than me in the matters of U.S. law, the Constitution and politics.  And I try to educate others whenever I can on the reality of the corruption.  But I refuse to go out and kill a bunch of toads and then to make matter worse pretend it wasn't me.

Ok, rant over (for now).
Here is a picture of me and my darling Toadette today after training.  Not a very good photo of me or Toad but at least we're together.