Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A good decision

We made the decision to buy one of the pony school horse's for my daughter a few days ago.  He went up for sale and I just could not pass up buying him.  This means I need to sell Maiden which makes me very sad, but I think it's for the best.  Geir, the horse we bought, has an extremely safe temperament and is very sweet and is a horse both me, my daughter and my husband can safely ride.

Our first ride with him was Monday after school.  He was definitely a little "beginner lesson sour" and has learned to ignore aids for his own sanity (imagine trying to figure out what someone was saying if they just kept making garbling gibberish noises to you while making it clear they expected you to follow their specific instructions.  You would eventually stop listening to keep yourself sane.  Because he's wide and sweet and bigger than the ponies he's been used for the bigger kids who have horrible balance and thus it's been easier for him just to follow the other horses and ignore the rider.

But he wants to do what's right so after awhile he and I started to form some communication and he started to listen to me.  I had to pull out the dressage whip and after two whacks each time the minute he spun to go the other direction to follow a horse, he stopped trying to spin and go a different way or run off to talk to a horse standing on the other side of the arena fence, and he actually relaxed and started listening to me.  My daughter had a difficult time getting him to listen to her but she says she still wants him and still really likes him.  Since the school is closed this week some of the other instructors were there exercising horses and one of them worked with my daughter (after assessing the situation and correctly assuming kids listen to other instructors better than their parents) and she told her the same thing I just explained, that Geir just needs to be reminded to listen to his rider and have some positive rides where he sees it is ok to listen to your rider and it will be easier. 

I didn't ride him yesterday as planned because I was getting over an acute RA flare-up that apparently came on when I overdid it riding one of the other instructor's horses.  He's a big guy and a very big mover and has a very bouncy trot and like a dork I wanted to experience his canter too, which was better but also pretty bouncy compared to what I'm used to.  Apparently, I need to be careful not to bounce like that because it messed me up for a day.  Ooops.  He was such a fun horse though I didn't use good judgement and wanted to keep riding him.

So, today I went back to see Geir and went a little early compared to the other instructors so we could have some time doing some ground work together.  First he impressed me by coming right up to me in the field even though he had only been turned out about ten minutes previously and was happily eating grass.  Then he impressed me by trying to do everything I asked him to on the lunge line.  He had been trained to turn and walk in toward his person I think because he kept doing that with every "Whoa" but after I showed him how I wanted him to stop without turning in, he got it quickly and then was thrilled when I told him what a good boy he was.

Our ride was much better today although I was concerned about his back and whether or not it was sore so I was riding him at a trot in my two-point (which I'm out of practice) and having another instructor watch him trot for me when he decided to pull one of his "spin around to follow the other horse" moves and I'm a little shocked I didn't go flying off of him!  But I didn't so yay me.  After our ride I gave him a hug around his neck and he reciprocated by nuzzling his head on my shoulder and chest.  I think he's going to enjoy being someone's special family pony!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Riding Horses is Supposed to be Fun

At one of my classes recently a new student asked at her second class, "Do you still want me to relax this week or are we done with that?"  She was totally serious but I couldn't help but laugh.  Not at her, but at our culture and how so much of what we do is supposed to be focused on "achieving results for an external image" as opposed to learning and having fun.  What else can you do but laugh?  Anyway, I told her I will always want her to relax and said that one of my other older students had joked that by the time she's done with a session with me she'll be sleeping on her horse.  Ok, I don't want anyone sleeping on their horse because you need to be actively riding at all times in order to be safe, but this bracing and posturing that is pushed in so much of our society just doesn't fly with riding horses.  Can you imagine two ballroom dancers if both of them were bracing themselves in a specific posture while they were trying to dance?  It's the same with riding horses, it is very much like dancing and you the rider are the lead - you're moving with your partner and directing and physically supporting their body movements.  Imagine if Fred Astaire was constantly pulling his shoulders back and positioning his body while trying to dance at the same time!

I love the discipline of dressage and I will be training in it as long as I can to go as far as I can, but I have to admit that there are plenty of trainers in our discipline who really perpetuate this braced, hard, posed way of riding.  Well, they do it in all disciplines so I may just see it more because this is the one I'm most involved in.  It's so sad because in reality dressage is about training both you and your horse to use your bodies correctly to receive your best results for "dancing together" when you're riding.  And the last thing that's going to help is the rider bracing and holding tension in their body. 
Here's an example of relaxed riding (by a cowboy nonetheless!) with contact on the reins, but not pulling on the horses face.  This is something that I feel like I'm constantly harping on is that dressage is NOT pulling on a horse's face and that you should NOT pull on a horse's face if you are riding properly.  Not only do I have to constantly tell that to beginner English riders, but the other riders with no experience with dressage who believe that is how we control our horses - yanking on their head and that is it.  Anyway- relaxed cowboy (with legs more forward than I would ride but that's a reining seat which is done differently than my dressage seat)

Here's another example of relaxed riding.  These are some of the best riders in the world who train every single day for decades on end to become the riders they are.  One thing you do not see is any of them bracing their bodies, pushing their heels down, or pulling on their horse's faces.  They have firm contact with the horse's mouth, but if they let go of the reins the horse will still be able to hold his head in that position because if he couldn't he would not be conditioned enough to do these moves correctly.  And you'll see that in some Grand Prix tests (sadly) where the rider is yanking the horse's head down but the horse has not been trained or conditioned enough for proper confirmation but not at the Spanish Riding School.

I can understand how people can look at that and think "They're barely moving and the horse's movements are so exact - they must be holding themselves so rigidly!"  But back to dancing, you are not going to look quiet and still and like it is easy if you are holding a lot of tension in your body.  And as you can see in the second video nobody's heels were down.  Hmmm ... blasphemous! But then these riders have learned to relax their leg and in much of the ride they were using their heel to give cues to the horse on how to move his body so having their heels pushed down hard would've kept them from being able to do that.  For me, riding is a lifelong education on how to have a relaxed body with support and control by certain muscles (especially my core), but not have tension and bracing.

In short, most everything we do with our bodies is better executed and a lot more fun if we are relaxed and not braced.  Riding horses is the same way. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

pilates is a cruel mistress ... and why I don't want you to put your heels down

I think it's been a month since I've been to pilates so today was painful.  I felt very marshmellow.  After a half hour I had one of those moments where I looked at the clock and thought, "Oh no, I can't make it another half hour!"  I made it through though and felt actually proud of myself for that.  My daughter's piano teacher said she had never tried pilates but it sounded interesting so I described some of the moves (like the plank on the exercise ball where you put your calves on the ball - with your back on the floor - lift yourself up into a plank and then gently bend your arms at your elbow and lift them off the ground).  She looked horrified and said "That's intense." To which all I could say was "Yes. Yes it is."  But it definitely helps my riding.  And my posture.

Something has been coming up with some of my older students that I've been thinking about a lot.  When I had my few years off from riding and couldn't remember much of anything when I came back to it, the one thing I still remembered was "keep your heels down".  It's like the holy grail of riding this whole "your heels have to be down". 

When I ride with stirrups my heels are naturally down because my leg is hanging there with my toe propped up in my stirrup so of course my heel goes down.  If your heel is up in your stirrups then your balance/seat is off or you are gripping with your legs or your stirrups are super long and you are reaching your toe down to touch it - which in that case you just need to either not ride with stirrups or put your stirrups higher.  So, I can see why an instructor seeing your heel down would help them to recognize that things are going fairly well with your seat - although as I've been learning I'm realizing you have to look at far more than just what the heels doing.  You need to look at how the pelvis is situated, the tension being held in the leg, etc.  And that's not even getting into what's going on above the waist! 

For me the big thing I've started looking for is bracing and tension because that is what I don't want to see.  I especially see it when my students are riding bareback and they are bracing their leg to force their heels down.  So, I've had to tell them when they're bareback to forget about their heels.  I want to see relaxed legs moving with their horse and heels be damned (Ok - I don't say that last part cause they're kids but you know what I mean).  One of my students I even yelled out during my instructions to her "Relax your leg! Deep breath! I don't want to see that heel down!"   She looked at me like I just told her "Go murder that kitten over there!"  But she did it and I was super proud of how well she did once she relaxed!

Ironically, recently the school director said she didn't think she'd asked me some of the interview questions last Spring and told me what they were, one of which was something like - what are the two most important aspects of riding you focus on (or something like that) and I said "Balance and light hands" and she said something in different wording that was about the same.  Then she added, "If someone says "heels down" that is a red flag for me." 

And because "keep your heels down" was such a huge deal when I was a kid too I've been thinking about it a lot.  I finally told Trainer K. how I felt blasphemous for telling my bareback riders to have a relaxed leg more than forcing their heel down and flexing their foot and asked her "Why do people focus so much on just putting your heels down when flexing your foot and forcing your heels down doesn't help your riding?"  And she explained that it's one of those things - like a myth - that gets passed down from generation to generation.  In the ideal leg position your leg is relaxed and your toe is in the stirrup and your heel drops down - just like if you relaxed your leg with a toe resting on a step and your heel automatically drops down.  But somewhere along the line some people forgot to add in the theory behind why your heel drops down in the stirrup and started just focusing on pushing your heel down whether you are riding with stirrups or not.

So now my kids are hearing a lot more about "relax your leg" and less about "put your heels down" and it still feels blasphemous.  But it also feels like an allegory for society - how the real reasons behind an action are often lost and the useless surface image is what is pushed to be passed on.  And with that I must cut this short and go give a pony a massage.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New challenges

This session at pony school we're teaching  Western riding complete with neck reining.  Seeing as I have never actually ridden Western and don't know a thing about it I was pretty worried.  Obviously I've ridden in Western saddles - I even had a lovely one for trail riding at one point.  But I was justified in that fear when I went out on a horse with no knowledge but a Western saddle, Western bridle and reins and all I knew was "hold the reins in one hand instead of two and otherwise it's the same".  So of course it was a train wreck.  I was holding the reins in one hand the same way I would hold dressage reins (only with one hand instead of two), and turning my body in this tiny, barely perceivable movements one does in dressage (which you can get away with because you have this tiny, thin, little slip of leather saddle and the horse can feel every tiny movement and twitch of your muscles).  And I was using dressage leg aids which were going nowhere except to confuse the horse.  I was so frustrated I was ready to quit my job because there's no way I'm going to teach something I can't do myself.

Luckily, the school director offered to give me a lesson before I had to teach my little kids.  I was surprised at how different it is.  Same concepts but quite a different presentation.  For one thing, when you first get on the horse if you've ridden English for years it is very disconcerting to only be able to feel really thick leather under your butt instead of the horse's back.  But after a few minutes of riding I realized that you actually can feel the movement of the horse, just in a different way than I'm used to.  And the leg aids are different.  Instead of using an inside leg on the turn as a pivot point for the horse to bend around and the outside leg being the supporting leg, you are focusing more on the outside leg to support and push the shoulder into the turn and the inside leg is the supporting leg.  And the body turns are much bigger. This "did you actually turn  -  I couldn't see it" stuff doesn't fly in that kind of saddle.  Also, you keep your arm straight and rest your hand on the mane which is also completely different.  It was a big learning curve for my body to do something different but I started to get it by the end and that was really cool.  I need a lot more practice before I try riding like that without the school director there to instruct me but it's really fun to learn something new. 

Maiden has a new lease on life now that she has shoes on her front feet.  It used to be really hard to get her moving on the lunge line or get her to do an energetic transition to a trot under saddle but now the minute she gets out in the arena she's all excited and as soon as I send her out on the circle she takes off at a fast trot and I have to let her trot it out for a few minutes before I'd even think of getting a walk out of her.  She's also not so pissy about doing the lateral work and working on bending a little to loosen and strengthen her topline muscles.  I'm actually a bit surprised how much her front feet and the soreness were bothering her.  I knew they were sore but I'm really seeing the extent of it now.  So, I'm happy for that.  And massage has really helped to loosen up her loin area.  It's still far too tight and her illiopsoas and TFL are still like hard, concrete bands (which is impeding her ability to really use impulsion from her hind end) but they are better than they were a month ago before I started really working on them once a week.

BuddyCat is amazingly still alive and continues to forge ahead toward his 19th birthday coming up in February.  Last week he was not eating and was very weak for two days and we were sure he would need to be put down, but we held off because he was social and purring when we were near him.  He bounced back a little (again) and is eating again, but he's still weaker than he has been.  But he's happy.  He's also totally skin and bones but there's not much we can do at this point for that.  He can eat one kind of food and that's it, all others send his stomach off into a very bad place which would kill him faster than being so skinny.  We're just keeping an eye on him and the minute he seems unhappy and is not eating we're going to put him down so he doesn't suffer.  But he's awfully tough and he's still enjoying life.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Watching Buck Brannaman and Charlotte's Web

No, I did not watch Charlotte's Web and the Buck Brannaman clinic at the same time.  That would be weird.

A couple night's ago my daughter chose the live-action film of Charlotte's Web as our Friday evening movie. It was very true to the first movie and the book - both of which were favorites of mine.  It reminds me again that I want the rest of EJ's childhood to be being raised on a farm.  Or at least a small piece of land with more gardens and livestock.

But it didn't endear me to spiders as I assume was supposed to be the case.  The commuter animated Charlotte was super creepy and seemed like it belonged in Arachnophobia (although apparently they only used real spiders in that).  Which to segue reminds me of a story I saw on Hollywood animal wranglers about getting Jeff Daniels to agree to have spiders walk on him.  The wrangler said it's all in how you present the animal.  It works a lot better if you introduce the spider as "Charlie will be crawling across your shoulder, please be careful with him, he's delicate," as opposed to, "This is Death Rides a White Horse.  He's going to crawl on you." (I paraphrase because I saw that show 18 years ago)

Friday during the day I went with Miss T. from work to the Buck Brannaman clinic in Spanaway.  I was looking forward to hopefully learning a little something but I also was looking forward to seeing a friend from Chehalis ride in the clinic.  Unfortunately, Miss T. had a bad cold and I had a headache-bordering-on-migraine-level-pain so we went a little late and left a little early.  I saw his assistant, Nathan out and about a couple times and thought about saying hi after we had such a good talk last year at the Cle Elum clinic, but he didn't initially recognize me and I just didn't have a lot of energy and didn't feel like doing much except hunching up under my two jackets and talking to Miss T.

This clinic had a much smaller spectator base and the arena was smaller so we were closer to the riders and Buck which was nice because we could actually hear some of the questions the riders asked.  Buck usually paraphrases the question in the answer but it was still nice to be able to hear all of it.  And, as a happy surprise to me, the audience was open to asking questions.  So, I got to ask him a question I've wondered about since the last clinic.

I almost didn't ask it though because just down the bleachers from us a strange little woman with fashionable blond hair and a beautiful, expensive winter jacket asked, "When doing the piaffe in dressage how do you ..." then some sort of "WTF did she just say question?"  I said to Miss T. "That question was over my head," to which she agreed.  Buck looked a little perplexed at the question too and answered in a way that made sense to me although I can't remember what it was - in a nutshell a horse can't do those moves until they're strong enough and understand impulsion. Then she asked something about the passage and should a horse really do such and such during a passage and how do you get them to do such and such correctly.  I can't remember exactly what she said but I realized "She doesn't know what she's talking about and just wants to sound impressive.  She asked about one more dressage move and Buck looked perplexed and answered again with standard Buck-theory (which is the same as Classical theory) that a horse needs strength and impulsion and it's not as simple as moving just one leg, etc.  Then she said, "What about the Levade?" and I accidentally let out a snort of derision (which luckily neither she nor Buck heard) and Miss T.  asked, "What's a Levade?" and I said, "It's an Airs Above Ground move and it's rarely taught because very few horses truly have the natural physical ability to do it well and without hurting themselves."  I loved Buck's answer which was, "You know, I'm not really interested in that.  I mean, when am I going to use that when I'm out on the range with my cattle?"  then he followed up with, "And that's not something all horses can do," and the woman actually said, "Really? Because I've seen your horses on video and they look like they could ..."  That's when I swear I felt a giant word bubble appear above the heads of all the spectators that said, "Shut the hell up, Lady! Let's just go on with the clinic!"  (I asked Miss T. if she felt that too and she said "Oh yes,").

I can't remember what got her to shut up (possibly her companions asking her to) but I had that moment of "Now I don't want to ask my question because everyone will wish all the questions were just over!"  But Buck asked, "Anymore questions?" and my hand flew up and I asked, "You look so light and balanced when you ride, what do you suggest for those of us who struggle with balance and a light seat?" (I didn't want to say "suggest for the people I know or students I may have in the future with unbalanced and heavy seats but I'm fine" which would sound pompous).  First, he looked right at me to answer me which surprisingly made me feel a little starstruck and flustered.  I had expected him to tell me exercises like he has for suppling and helping horses move but instead he said he has chosen not to talk about equitation because he wants people to learn their own balance and way of being on a horse.  He said "When your horse looks good, you will look good," and I said, "I'm not worried about looking good, I'm worried about hurting the horse," and he looked right at me and Miss T. and said, "Oh, I wouldn't worry about that if I were you."  Then went on to tell a Ray Hunt story that I liked about being yourself.  If we had been alone or in a small group and talking and not at a clinic I would've said "It's not me I'm worried about," since he was looking at me who weighs 150 pounds and he correctly assumes is riding at least a 1,000 pound horse and Miss T. who is quite a bit skinnier than me - no we're not probably going to hurt our full size horses much.  But I was thinking about riders who are 200+ lbs who are riding really unbalanced and heavy and I've seen the effects on horses who are not working cow horses with super strong toplines.  But a clinic is not the place to discuss that and suggest he add that to his repertoire of light hands, light aids never pull on their face with the reins, etc.  Still, one thing he said was very helpful to "stay out of the horse's way and don't limit their movement".  I decided that was a really good phrase to use with my students when explaining why I wanted them to find good balance.  Not only was it for their own good to say on the horse but also to help the horse by not restricting movement.

Yesterday was back to my full day of work complete with 13 Girl Scouts in the late afternoon for a pony party.  It was an exceptionally fun day actually and although my weird-bad-headache was still trying to linger.  The kids just continue to entertain me and inspire me.  My friend who I've known for years who used to work there stopped by and asked how it was going working there and I couldn't really explain to her how much more at home I felt there than any of my previous jobs.  I said, "I think it's my calling," but that just sounded hollow and cheesy compared to how I feel.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Biding my time

I'm sitting in front of our fireplace hoping my jeans will dry before I have to leave to go grocery shopping, take care of my horse and volunteer at my daughter's school.  November weather has hit our region and this morning was one big dump of rain.  The bus was late so all the kids were huddled under two umbrellas with the pitbull trying to squeeze in under one of the them, so I just put my raincoat hood up and sucked it up.

Then suddenly a little fluffy, white dog came tearing out of the yard of the house across the street from the bus stop that has been empty since we moved here (it was foreclosed and then just never sold).  The poor little dog had no clue about cars and froze right in the middle of the road where cars were stopping and trying to go around it and one car which was driving way too fast and not paying attention almost hit it.  The kids were traumatized but what could I do when I've got my two dogs?  And there was not way I was handing the pitbull's leash to one of the little kids in case the stupid neighbor with the big black dog walked by (the one who won't cross the street when the pitbull goes crazy and insists on walking right by us anyway - because our dogs fighting in the middle of group of little children is no big fucking deal? Aaaagh).

After the kids got on the bus I took my dogs up and "herded" the little dog back to his house.  This of course was a challenge because he'd made it across the street and decided in all his fluffy, ten-pound glory he was going to take down my pitbull and ran at us barking and snarling in his little high pitched voice which sent the pitbull into an "I'm going to eat you frenzy" of lunging, barking and snarling.  Luckily, this is what the little dog needed to convince him to cross the street and after making sure no cars were coming I took my dogs closer to him to encourage him to run back across the street to his house.  Luckily, that worked and he ended up running circles in his front yard and barking like crazy.  There was a trailer and big truck in the driveway and a ton of boxes in the front room so I knocked on the door and sure enough a man with two identical little fluffy dogs answered (both of whom also wanted to kill the pitbull) and he came out and retrieved his little dog before he got run over.  Phwew!  Of course, during all this it was pouring down rain and when I got home my jeans were as soaking as if I'd taken a shower in them.

Lots of houses are selling in my neighborhood.  So this is probably a good time to sell our house and buy a farm.  We just haven't found the right one.  I found a wonderful one in our price range down in Enumclaw just a couple miles from Donida Farm but I don't think I can convince my husband to move South.  It reminds me of the farm my Godmother lived on that we'd go visit in Enumclaw when I was a kid.  I loved that farm! This one even has a silo.  Not that I know what to do with a silo but I could learn.  My husband asked "A missile silo????"  and I said, "Yes, the CIA is downsizing Shield's program and it was secretly one of their bases."  He'd buy it in a second if that were true.

My pants aren't even remotely dry but I need to head out and get started on my errands.  Sigh.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

(Mis)adventures in cooking

Despite my life long claim of "I don't know how to cook" I've managed to pull off some fairly good easy Indian dishes thanks to my two friends from India.  My favorite is one of their stand-by easy "Indian-equivalent of tuna casserole" type dish where you cook up some red rice, then saute some vegetables with some kind of meet, then mix in plain yogurt, cumin, tumeric, coriander, and ginger along with something hot - I've been using Siracha sauce which is my new favorite thing for everything.   Apparently, food here in the U.S. is painfully bland for my friends from India, even when we all went out to a Mexican restaurant the other day (with our friend from Nigeria in tow who also prefers spice).  I knew my friends from India were too polite so I asked the waiter to throw a little hot sauce on their enchiladas.  He looked confused and I said, "Like Siracha sauce?" and he said, "Oh!" and came back with a bowl of hot sauce (which actually wasn't as hot as I expected) for us to add.  I ended up adding it to mine too.  They're a bad influence on me because now I want everything to be spicy and have gotten addicted to among other things Mama Lil's Kick Butt peppers on my sandwiches and salads.

Anyway, I tried to make home made mac & cheese last night since that's a popular kid meal in these parts and Kraft puts a lot of nasty shit in theirs.  Unfortunately, the recipe I tried had too much flour in it so it was kind of gritty and I made a mistake of putting garlic in it when I cooked it so my daughter didn't like it.  She likes some spices and she does like hot red peppers (like in Andouille sausage) but she doesn't like garlic or oregano.  Basil is ok as is thyme.  So, I need to remember not to fill up dishes with garlic until I've taken out her portion.  So, no garlic, less flour.  And I need to get some soy milk because goat milk is expensive to use in mac & cheese! And now that I'm old I can't drink milk anymore (or eat anything with a dairy cream base).  The recipe with my changes is really simple:

8 oz. store bought macaroni noodles (so far I'm a big failure at trying to make my own pasta)
1.5 cups some sort of milk type thing - it's tastier if you can drink cow milk to make the .5 cream
2 cups shredded cheese
2 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
salt to taste (which in my case is always a lot)
(if you're not cooking for my daughter, add in sauted garlic onion, and black pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper)   Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add flour and stir until melted, add milk and stir at boiling for a couple minutes, then turn the heat down and let it cook (not at an active boil) for about 10 minutes, stirring constanty.  Slowly add cheese and stir constantly until melted.  Let sit for a few minutes then stir in pre-cooked macaroni. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes in a buttered casserole dish.

It's not gourmet but it's yummy.  If you're not my daughter or I don't add any spices.  Next I'm going to try it with bacon.

I also came up with a good flax seed bread recipe finally after tweaking together a bunch of different bread recipes.  Of course it's a bread machine recipe since kneading bread is not such an easy thing for me (I know - we all forget I have RA except in certain situations like kneading bread where it's a reminder that I have severe joint damage and fit the "disabled" bill.  Luckily, those times of remembering that are few and far between!).

In other news, I watched Cesear Milan for the first time ever last night.  I've read articles here and there by him and I think he sounds like he knows what he's doing and I'm pretty much on board with his theories.  But I've been having trouble with the pitbull lately when we're out for walks and although I'm generally really good with dogs this problem is out of my league.  She's always been defensive when she's out on a leash when it comes to other dogs or people who are in the least bit "sketchy" with their energy.  But it's gotten a lot worse now because she's out with my daughter a lot more now and she's super protective of her.  And it's even worse when we're up at the bus stop in the morning and she has a whole group of kids to protect.

The first time I really saw the full carnage of it was a three years ago when I worked in Pioneer Square.  I took the pitbull to work with me so she wouldn't be home alone all day and on school holidays I would take my daughter to work with me too.  At that time she was about six years old.  One day I let her hold the leash to walk the pitbull and we were passing through the cobblestone square area where all the homeless drunk guys hang out between 1st & 3rd Ave and Main and Yesler.  All was well until a really drunk guy stood up and started staggering toward us and I'm pretty sure he was so drunk he just didn't see my daughter and the pitbull and he almost ran right into her and next thing I knew the pitbull had launched herself at him with the most vicious snarling I'd ever heard from her and if I hadn't been standing right there and instantly reached over and grabbed the leash to pull her back, I'm certain she would've mauled the guy.  I had to drag her away snarling and lunging at the guy, who had fallen over and was muttering, "What's going on?"

Apparently, I am the alpha in the house and around the yard, but not when she's on the leash.  So, today we started a new thing where she always has to walk next to or behind me and is not allowed to walk in front of me.  And when she tried to snarl at a dog in a neighbor's yard I stepped in front of her to her attention and backed her up the same way we back up horses to show them we're in charge and she actually submitted to me.  She wanted to bark and snarl and made these little high-pitched "please let me snarl!" noises as we walked by the yard, but she didn't bark or snarl.  So, now we just need to do this every time we take walks from now on.  Sigh.

Bread Maker Flax Seed Bread recipe that I've finally perfected to my liking:
3/4 cup room temperature water
1 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1 tbsp dry milk powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup sugar (brown sugar is better for this recipe but regular sugar works too)
(don't substitute sugar with a fruit product or leave it out because you're worried about sugar - the yeast needs sugar to activate (and fruit won't provide enough) and sugar really isn't as evil as people make it out to be)
1 3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsp active yeast
(if you've never made bread in a bread maker before, put the liquid in first and the dry ingredients second, and make a little indentation in the flour to pour the yeast in as the last ingredient so that it doesn't contact the liquid until the mixing process)
Use the "Basic" setting on most bread machines.

My two girls at Ocean Shores last year.  My daughter and her pitbull:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why I don't need to look like Maria Kang

I posted this on Facebook a couple weeks ago but then I thought I'd repost it in my blog.  Especially after seeing so many of the comments on Maria Kang's Facebook page.  In case you were lucky enough to miss that momentary blip in shallow news, she made it into national news after she posted a photo of herself in a bikini with her three children with the caption "What's Your Excuse?"  That was just another post by a shallow, narcissistic woman by itself, but what was horrifying were all the comments (literally 10's of thousands) by men saying stuff like "I'd hit that - twice!" and "Fatties are just jealous!" and lots of women telling her how empowered she is that she's able to be hot despite having three kids.

Wait? WTF?  A woman is empowered because she makes how she looks her main focus? I admit, I do primp and I do worry about bad hair days like everyone who's human, but there is a lot more in my life to focus on than looking like some sort of bullshit American consumerism ideal of airbrushed.  And to hold someone up as hero because they spend as much energy as they can achieving that ideal and then putting down other women because they don't bother doing wasting their lives on it is offensive.  And then to say that Maria "takes such good care of herself" - another WTF?  She was a bulimic beauty pageant contestant and now instead of being bulimic she compulsively exercises (and most likely diets) and is still obsessed with "looking better than you"  - how is that "taking care of yourself"?

Anyway, this is what I posted in response to that on Facebook:

This is in response to Maria Kang's "What's Your Excuse" debacle on Facebook. I'm a 46 year old mother of one tween girl. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and have had it since I was 12 years old. I'm 10 pounds overweight according to the BMI (but too healthy to need to lose any weight according to my family physician). I am 40 pounds over what the fashion industry says I should be. I eat healthy, have a very active lifestyle and my husband thinks I'm super hot. So, why would I waste my energy trying to lose weight to look like Maria Kang? My excuse for not looking like her? I have no excuse cause I'm totally not interested.

Here's my question - what's your excuse for not following what's truly in your heart? I am extremely lucky that my husband can financially afford to support our family so that earlier this year I could have a "mid-life crisis" and quit for good my career in the accounting field and devote my time to following my dream of working with horses. Not everyone is that lucky but we can all find out what our true heart's dream is. I can guarantee your heart's true dream is not to be the hottest girl who looks like what plastic surgeons, diet companies and gyms tell you you need to look like so you'll buy their product. That might be your insecurity's true dream, but not your heart.

I challenge all women to start today - if you don't already know - allowing yourself to imagine what is your biggest dream for yourself in your heart (not in your insecurity!). Maybe today you don't have the resources to drop everything and jump into it, but once you realize what that is, give yourself a few minutes a day to cultivate that dream, even if that just means daydreaming or writing down what the impossible would look like. And please, don't have that dream be about how you look. Have it be about creativity and passion, whether that is working with animals, art, science, math, history, being the best Mom to your kids, or even something that
sounds crazy to your friends like being a mortician or owning your own janitorial service. What does your heart want you to be doing instead of wasting your time worrying about how you look and whether your clothes are fashionable enough?

I had an eating disorder (anorexia) when I was in my teens and twenties. Many people have said over the years "I wish I could be anorexic". No, no you don't. Anorexia is not about being "beautiful" it is about sitting in a dark room chain smoking cigarettes and cutting yourself because you are so hateful of your body and so ashamed that you broke down and ate half a piece of bread. Anorexia is about crying yourself to sleep because you can't get out of this hideous body that gained two pounds (despite being 20 pounds underweight). It's about self-hatred and has nothing to do with "taking care of yourself". Advertisers have bastardized that phrase to mean putting all your energy into how you look and try to sell "self care" as making yourself look better. That's not what it is at all and if you've bought into that mindset it's time to separate yourself from it.

There is nothing healthy about thinking you are ugly. No matter what weight you are or what your features look like, thinking you are ugly does nothing, and having someone tell you you're not good enough as you are does nothing and does not promote self-care. If you truly want to "take care of yourself" be kind to yourself. Eat healthy foods without a lot of additive and preservatives (ie: no Cheetos or Coke), find something active you enjoy doing. I used to like to lift weights but let's be honest - most people don't. So don't do it if you don't like it. Find something you enjoy doing that is active. Now I get my exercise mucking stalls, wrangling horses and doing chores I enjoy. Find a sport or chore you enjoy and get active doing that. And find your heart's passion. 

So I'll end with this question - what's your excuse for ignoring your heart and focusing on being something that large corporations tell you you have to be in order to sell you stuff? Think about it.