Wednesday, December 11, 2013


It's not really a secret that I want to do something else. Or something more. 
I have wanted it for a long time. The problem I have is I don't know exactly what I want to do. I know what I like to do, I certainly know what I love to do, and I know what I am good at,  but figuring out how to make that into work -- gainful employment -- is baffling me.

I've considered additional schooling for a long, long time. A doctoral degree in health care, a master's degree in some other related field, bachelor's or master's degrees in completely new fields...I haven't been able to decide. Part of what stops me is a set of practical matters: I have three kids, a full, rich life, and my husband is already in school. And I work a day job. Also, the money. And the potential lack of a paying job afterward.

But the other part that stops me is the feeling that I cannot decide, there are too many interesting things to study and become. My life, no matter how long it is, is too short.

Regardless of the length of my life and the vast number of fascinating things to study and become, I have a feeling making a change is going to require some kind of leap, and leaping is not something I am good at, generally speaking. I mean, the kind of leaping required to cast off, even partially, the 'old' and head into the 'new'. It's at these times that I wonder if I am about to make an error that will have me bound to it for years and years, effectively screwing up the future for myself and/ or my family.

I try not to be so fatalistic all the time, really, I do. 

But I guess the time has come to at least make a start, explore, devote some energy to adding in those things that might end up becoming something more down the line. If I don't ever DO the things I love, then nothing will ever come of those things. Also, this:


Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Bird

Today is Wren's eighth birthday. Seven pounds, seven ounces at seven in the evening on December ninth, 2005.

It's been a heck of a ride ever since.

I think the best part of parenting this little girl is seeing the incredible creativity and energy that pours out of every fiber of her being. Sometimes it's like lassoing a tornado, and the challenge inherent in not stifling the best parts of her while guiding her on the path she is on is a huge one, but we'll make it. Pressure creates diamonds, right?

Well, this one is going to sparkle with the fire of a thousand suns.

I think she already does.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


When I was younger, it was all about the dancing. I would not survive without the ability to dance, would not live fully without the music in my head and the daily grind of classes and rehearsals. I never, ever in a million years thought the necessity of -- or the ability for -- dancing would fall away from me. I realize that the need has transmuted itself into something wasn't *just* about dancing, although since that was what I did, so intensely, that is what I needed.

What it really was about was the need to create.

Now I work with my hands, and not so much with my entire body. There's really almost nothing I haven't tried in the realm of creative activity, and there are some things that speak to me more than anything else. Working with fabric is precise, tactile, colorful, and I can turn a two-dimensional piece of cloth into something that has shape and definition.

With metals and enamels, I revel in the physical aspects of the work -- pounding, sawing, cutting -- and getting my hands dirty.

And hot is mesmerizing and mystical and dangerous, and I find my mental focus is sharper when I do this work than at any other time. Probably because the possibility of setting myself on fire is real.

I write. I bake. I've recently started carving my own print blocks and rubber stamps.I'm an occasional knitter. Some days, the creative work absolutely pours out of me, like water pouring out of a broken dam, but other days, I am too quiet. I haven't found the balance point.

But I know what I need....and this is it.... I need to make things. I need to think about how to get from point A to point Q. I need to take the raw materials and turn them into something that has never been seen before. I need to synthesize everything that I know and then create something new.

Sometimes, I just need to play with the raw materials until something happens. Sometimes nothing happens. And sometimes the unexpected happens.

I never realize how far from myself I have gotten, when in the chaos and business of Daily Life, I gradually cease to fill the small spaces with creative action. Then one day I feel it, like a lead weight in my soul, and I don;t know who I am anymore, and I can't figure out what I love or want or see in front of me, and I find myself reaching for a scrap of fabric, or searching the files (or the internet) for ideas....and then I just go and do it. And I'm off to the races, then, because after so long away, the ideas tumble over each other, and suddenly, my hands find their rhythm, and one project after another, one idea after another, gets started, worked on, finished.

And I am myself again.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Perseverance is getting back on after falling off.

It's getting up and going out even though it's raining, or cold, or hotter than hell. It's knowing what you want, and wanting to get there, and staying on the path even though it would be easier to just turn around and go home. It's knowing that no matter what your goal is, it's gonna take a while to get there.

Perseverance is doing it even though you are scared.

Perseverance is knowing that a break in the action will mean it's harder to get going again, but going and doing it anyway.

I've been sick, and I've been busy, and I've been inconsistent in my riding for a few months. This afternoon, oh, it showed, but oh, it was so nice to be back in the saddle again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


For Christmas last year, I got a tattoo. I have wanted one for a long time, and originally intended to get one on the occasion of my fortieth birthday, but getting artwork permanently inked on one's skin requires a certain level of commitment and surety in the artwork chosen. I had a hard time choosing a design I loved and would want for the rest of my life.

Last year, Travis, unbeknownst to me, found some artwork online that he thought I'd love. He commissioned a ceramic mug from a friend, and had her carve the artwork into the side of the mug. Christmas morning, I was beyond thrilled with a beautiful new vessel for my morning coffee, and LOVED his choice of artwork. So much so, that he told me he thought maybe that was also my tattoo art. I agreed.

Here is the mug:
Made by Barbarah Robertson, of Dragonfly Arts

The day after Christmas, we dropped the kids off with friends, and drove to a tattoo shop down near Petersburg, near where he works. The tattoo shop was pretty much empty, save for the four artists hanging out and talking. I admit to being slightly intimidated; a middle-aged couple aren't exactly typical tattoo-shop denizens, but we showed the art to one of them, who said he could do it, no problem. Unsurprisingly, he was well-inked himself.

I assured him I would not faint, scream, flail around, or do anything unexpected. I didn't. Heck, I didn't even feel the need to hold my husband's hand, even though some parts of that drawing HURT like unholy HELL.

But after about an hour, I had this:

Inked in henna brown, on the outside of my right leg, just over my ankle. I love it.

I'm thinking I want another one, but as before, finding the right artwork is key. One of these days, I'll get my next one. I was warned they would be addictive, but I don't see that happening to me. I don't really like the overly-inked look, so maybe one more in some not-terribly-obvious location will be about it. And it has to be some kind of artwork that has meaning. The horse, the spirals, the Celtic/Norse feel of my ink all appeals to me as an artist and as a person. I would like some version of the Tree of Life for my next one, I think.

But nothing ever on my face, or neck, or hands.

Monday, December 2, 2013

One of my big things to do this fall was a research project for the docent group I am a part of at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I've been a docent there for about a year and a half, not counting the year I spent in training there, and I have grown to love deeply the teaching, research, and learning I have been doing in order to give tours of the permanent art collection. For this project, I researched a German Gothic altarpiece and today and this evening, I presented the results of my research in a talk for the docents.

Teaching has always been something I have enjoyed, but it has been especially gratifying to teach in the context of a museum -- at a time when arts and humanities are marginalized in favor of more objectively-evaluated subjects. I'm on a mission to get people into the museums and see what's there, and see how it relates to their lives and the world around them.

I love research. I love to look things up, find out information I didn't know, and then relate that to other thins I *do* know, and put it all together into something coherent. I think as much as I love to write, I maybe love the research more. Funny, I never used to enjoy it at all, but now, I see it as a fascinating process.

And I am a maker, a creator of things, and ideas, and objects. I am in my element when I am manipulating fabric, or hot glass, or metals into the visions I see in my head, creating objects of adornment, or clothing, or visual expressions of inner thoughts. I need to make things, like I need water and air.

Teaching, learning, research, and creating. All the most essential aspects of what makes me feel whole and human.

How can I turn this into my life's work?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Of Mice and Men

I see that I have not updated this blog since the end of September. Wow. I love to write, and I hate that I have not been writing. Well, I *have* been writing, just for various other outlets and requirements.

The autumn season at our home has been the exemplification of "the best laid plans....".

I had hoped the spend the fall working, and riding, and making things. Getting into a routine of daily life that was, if not predictable, at least regular enough so as to be manageable. Doing research on a sculpture in the museum that I was going to be giving a talk to the docents about. Planning Halloween costumes, and getting Christmas shopping done early.



School started, and while Noah had a completely seamless transition into the rigors of full-time public school, complete with bus-riding and cafeteria lunches, Wren struggled mightily. Still is struggling. Kira, on the other had, had the best-ever beginning of school -- making A's in five of her seven classes, getting her work done and on time, answering my daily "How was school?" question with "It was great!" more often than not. A *major* change for her, just major. We even attended an admissions evening event for her first-choice college -- The Savannah College of Art & Design -- and the admissions administrator, an animator by training, loved her work. Amazing.

Then, about mid-October, the hard-won joy and progress was shifted when Kira was the victim of ridiculous policies of the high school and the school system. I don't want to go into it here, because we are still in the process of making the issues known, and I'm sorry for being vague. Suffice it to say, the next six weeks were among the most stressful I have experienced in the last ten years. Filled with emotion, and discussion, and meetings, and decision-making. It affected everything about my life from that day to just about this one. It ruined her hard-fought grades, and shifted her motivation.

I thought about turning to my blog, to air my grievances, talk, write, and get it all out of my head. But I wish to move cautiously, judiciously, in matters concerning my daughter -- all my children -- and thus, left it out of this corner of cyberspace. I know you understand.

We celebrated Noah's sixth birthday earlier in November. I'm a convert to having kids' birthday parties outside the home, now, after several years of throwing two parties almost back to back, two weeks before Christmas.

I still cannot believe my sweet baby boy is six years old. And an elementary school kid.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we were so thrilled to be able to celebrate it (on Wednesday night, as is our custom) with my Dad! I think it's been at least ten years since I have been able to share food around the table at the holiday with either of my parents, Kira's schedule with her father being what it has been. The table was full, our hearts were overflowing, and the food, as always, was spectacular.

I even found linen napkins the perfect shade of gold to go with my inherited (from Travis' grandmother) china. We have been pretty happily eating leftovers for the past few days.

I can't believe it's December already, either. Wren's birthday is up next, with a party at the Richmond SPCA. Tomorrow I am giving a talk at the museum in the docent's training session about a beautiful German Gothic sculpture. I'm really looking forward to it for a number of reasons, and the act of doing the research and learning the things I needed to learn has sparked many trains of thought for me. Sharing that is a separate post, I think.

I have not been riding nearly as much as I had hoped. Not even weekly, which disappoints me and makes me sad. It can't be helped, though, as I have so much work to do, and the additional issues this fall just prevented me from making it out to the barn regularly. I hope I can remedy that this winter into next spring. Same with running, which has been as irregular as ever since the summer. It's been hard not being able to throw myself into these pursuits, but other things have had to take priority, unfortunately.

My goal is a horse trials in the early spring, and possibly the Disney Wine & Dine Half-Marathon in the fall of 2014. We'll see.

Of course, I had a riding lesson scheduled for this morning, but I managed to get sick over the weekend, and riding in the below-freezing temps before a week of critical work is probably not a great idea. Sometimes being a responsible adult really does suck. You know? I'm staying home, instead, while Travis takes Wren to the barn for her lesson this afternoon. I think I'll probably sew, and study my paper for tomorrow's talk.

And relax. I need it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

On the subject of women's clothing

This post is not about a big update on my family and the life of the Brandels. Nope. Sorry. Come back later for that.

No, today's post is about Clothing for Middle-Aged Women. Specifically, jeans.

Ok, so, low-rise jeans manufacturers: Stop it. Just stop.My pants feel like they are falling down all the time and dragging my underwear with them. And I expect pockets deep enough to *actually put my hands in* (shocking, I know). And I don't wear jeans with heels on a daily basis, so stop telling me these are "short" sized jeans, because then I will buy them thinking they will not drag on the floor like they currently are. Also? Back pockets halfway down your thighs are not flattering.

See, once the weather starts getting cooler, I live in my jeans. I wear them pretty much every single day. I wear them to the store, to stuff at the kids' schools, to work at the office (because I can), and absolutely I wear them to do barn chores, work in the yard, go play in the woods, and all kinds of outdoor-related activities. I usually have at least one "dress" pair, that aren't for play, and get worn with decent shoes and a top to go out someplace casual, but nicer. I haven't set foot in a nightclub in years and years.

I don't understand two things (well, more than two, but for the purposes of this discussion....).
Those things are:

1. WTH is up with the low rise? I mean, a three-inch zipper fly? Why even bother with a zipper?
2. WHY do people assume all older women (all who are past, say, late thirties) want to look like teenagers? Do we? I sure as hell don't. I haven't been shaped like a teenager since I was one.

I mean, really, what the hell do you jeans manufacturers think I DO with jeans on? Go to a nightclub? Go shopping for expensive clothes? Sit around and look pretty all day? *snort*

I need my jeans to handle the demands of my life, and by the way, I'd like them to be made out of real denim, please. The heavyweight kind that doesn't wear out in the crotch inside of a year of near-daily wear. Yeah, that kind. I know jeans used to be made out of that fabric, I still have a couple pairs from that time. MEN'S jeans are made out of that fabric, for Pete's sake! I know it's a heavy fabric, but these pansy jeans I have on right now won't last through the winter. I have never worn out the crotch of my jeans before a few years ago. It used to be that I would wear out the fabric below the back pockets first, from sitting on horses, and fences, and on the ground. I could make jeans last for a couple of years because the fabric was heavy, the construction was at least decent, and the style was pretty basic, but flattering. I wouldn't have to wear a belt, because the jeans would hit me right above the hipbone, so my fairly-generous hips would keep my pants from falling down, but the waistband would not touch my bra.

That seems to be the only option lately: a waistband so low, you risk mooning everyone with every step, or a waistband that actually touches the band of your bra when you sit down. I think the latter are termed "mom jeans", but those are no good either.

Now, I'm relegated to wearing jeans that do not fit or flatter me in any real sense. Right now, as I type this, my entire lower back up to the literal crack of my ass is exposed as I sit up straight in my desk chair. I could pack a sandwich in the space between my skin and the inside of the jeans back there -- a hallmark of poor fit. The back pockets are under my butt, not on the back of it (of course not, there's no place to put them at the moment!). And I can't even fit my phone into the front pocket!

Seriously, people. This has got to stop. I do not want to look like my 15 year old daughter, beautiful as she is, nor do I want to be mistaken for a teenager, flattering as that may seem to be (it's not). I want jeans to wear for work (not in the office) and play, and I want them to be constructed of quality fabric, with a fit that actually FITS. I don't think copying the fashion trends of the much-younger is the way to go for someone who has given birth three times, has spent a lifetime being active, and who doesn't shy away from hard, outdoor work. I want to be comfortable, not look like I'm wearing a denim sack, and not be a slave to trends.

Why is that so hard?

Sigh. Time to get on with my day. Pardon me, while I go hike up my pants again, lest you see my boring cotton mom underwear.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

She's fifteen now

Today, the child who caused my transition from woman to mother, turned fifteen years old.

It wasn't always easy -- it still isn't -- but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I can hardly remember my life before her.

I'm so proud and privileged to have such a wonderful child who is growing to be a wonderful young woman. I hope she knows just how very much I love her and how important and special she is to me. I hope she doesn't always find her journey through life difficult, and I hope that everything she dreams about that is good, comes true for her. Mostly, I just hope she knows. Happy birthday, Kira. I love you so much.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The summer will be over in less than two weeks, and the kids will be back to school and the Brandel household will resume its typical nine-months-out-of-the-year schedule.

This part of the year causes me much angst, sometimes, as I want the summers to be full of fun experiences and relaxing good times for our family, but most of the time, I feel like I fall short. I work at home/from home, and I have been very, very busy for several months. This did not abate into the summer months, and try as I did to lighten the work schedule, it just wasn't happening.

We spent a lot of time near computers, but we also visited the library often. We watched movies, but we also went to the pool several times a week (unless it was raining!).

I taught Wren to ride a two-wheeler recently, so we rode bikes, but not as much as we could have. We didn't travel, really. There was quite a lot of running back and forth to the office, but also quite a lot of running back and forth to the barn. I much preferred the barn running.

Wren AND Noah both rode in horse shows, and we did get to the drive-in at least once this season.

Kira has had a few happy weekends home, this last just so full of bubbly teenager life that I hated for her to leave. She's at the beach in Maryland now, hopefully enjoying time on the beach with her cousin and riding her bike all over the place.

I thought, this afternoon when we went to the pool for a little while, that it actually has been a pretty good summer. Yes, my work was relentless and took up way more time than I wanted it to, and no, we didn't travel or do a whole lot of big-deal things, but we spent time with friends, relaxed as much as possible, and did have fun! That's really what it's about, anyway.

And thanks to my mom, Travis and I got to run away to the mountains for two nights and go camping and canoe eleven miles down a section of the Shenandoah River. That was fantastic (and worth an entirely separate blog post).

I'm really looking forward to the kids starting back to school -- this is my first year where they all are in public school -- but the summer has been fun and pretty much what a summer should be like.

I do need some solitude and quiet, though. And the ability to work without constantly being interrupted. Soon.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday things

We're going camping!!

...well, Travis and I are.....

Three weeks left of summer vacation. I know the teenager is OH so thrilled about that. Three more years, and she is done with required schooling, although *I* require she continue her education in some way.

Today will likely involve some shopping for school supplies. Kindergarten and second grade this year, and tenth, but I have learned never to buy everything on the list for grades above 6th. They never use all the supplies, and Kira prefers her own methods of organizing, no matter how inefficient I think they are.


The kids probably need some clothes, too. And shoes. I'm contemplating letting Kira loose at the mall with some money and her best friend, and instructions to buy a few pairs of jeans and a couple tops. She hates clothes shopping as much as I do.

I feel like I am in a holding pattern of some type, waiting for some kind of avalanche or epic event. My head feels too full and my hands feel tied, and forward progress is either nonexistent, or infinitesimally slow. End of summer? The period of time that precedes change? That frustrating plateau that you live on right before you make the next great big leap?

Who knows?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Some days, I just wish I had my own horse so bad, I can't stand it.

I feel like I've waiting long enough -- isn't fourteen years, several job changes, a divorce and remarriage, moving to a new city, two more kids, and salary increases enough? Patience is not a virtue that I have in this situation. I'm worried I will be fiftysomething before my horse comes into my life for real.

Maybe I will be. Not that there's anything wrong with being fiftysomething, no more than there is anything wrong with being fortysomething.


"Someday" seems a long way away, still.


Next week, for a couple of days, Travis and I are going on our first solo overnight trip in eight years. We are going camping up in Page County, near Luray. We've been to this outfitters' place before and loved it, so we are going again. We're planning on spending a day canoeing the Shenandoah River, tent camping for two nights, and even going to Luray Caverns. I am so looking forward to it, I can hardly wait. I don't even care if it rains, to be honest. A fire in the firebowl each night, peace and quiet, hopefully a full night's sleep, stargazing, spending time out on the river, and getting to do stuff WE want to's going to be heaven, even if it rains (which the forecast says it isn't going to).

We even got a new tent (which leaks at the seams, but that's what seam sealant is for).

I've got to dig out all our old camping gear -- the Coleman stove, the coffee pot, lanterns, things we haven't used or needed since 2004. It's going to be so much fun! And oh boy, do we need this trip. Thanks so much to my awesome Mom, who is coming down to ringmaster this circus for a little while for us.


In other news, my super-wonderful boss is leaving the company. I am supremely sad, and kind of worried what 'work' is going to look like after he's gone. Oh, I'll say all the positive stuff -- "It's gonna be FINE!", "Not much will change!", "There's nothing to worry about!" -- but I am still wary. And slightly cynical. But I'm adopting a wait-and-see attitude, and plan to just keep doing my thing and hope for the best.

And now, a gratuitous horse picture.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Other people's horses...

Horses are expensive, and can be unpredictable, dangerous, and expensive (did I say that already??). But they are such noble, beautiful, majestic creatures, that I can't help myself loving them so much. Any kind, all kinds (well, except maybe the ones who clearly would like to kill me....but even then...).

I have always wanted one, all my life, even as other things took precedence, and the horse-craziness seemed to fade. It never did. Even though my dad recently told my middle (horse-crazy) daughter that, "Your mom was crazy for horses, too, when she was your age, but it went away after a while".

(haha, not so much, Dad!)

I've never NOT wanted to ride, to have a horse of my own, but I wanted other things, too, so horses just lurked on the edges of my passions for a long time. I've never really had a horse of my very own, not even when I married into a family with horses. I wasn't allowed to have my own, when there were already horses there for me to ride.

Me, and Alwasmi Dancer, 1995 or 1996
She was the closest I had to 'mine', a 4 year old OTTB. My riding skills were not quite up to her at the time.

And by "my own", I mean a horse that really suited me, in temperament, in skills, in work ethic and talent to do the kinds of things I wanted to do. And who was forgiving enough to put up with my (many) beginner mistakes.

I've been a beginner rider for a very, very long time. I'm still a beginner rider, sadly.

I cannot explain the odd mix of frustration and longing and cautious joy that comes from loving other people's horses. There have been so many that I have loved, from Orion and Swaps, who took me across the hunting territory of the Genesee Valley Hunt when I was in college, to Marquesa, my ex-husband's prized Trakhener mare, and to Floriana, the little chestnut mare who would have been perfect for me, except I couldn't buy her.

Me, and Marquesa, at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, VA
Novice Level, 1996

Now there's Turk, a horse I will probably never ride with ANY sort of regularity, he being of 18 hands and given to walking and trotting, mostly. But he and my (formerly terrified of horses) husband have developed such a fabulous and special bond over the last year, and it's so thrilling and wonderful to watch Travis work with Turkey. The big gelding even comes running when Travis goes out to the pasture to visit. We chip in to have Turk's feet trimmed, I bought him a flymask for keeping the bugs out of his ears, and we supply him with all the treats and hand-grazing and love we've got. I shaved his unruly, heavy mane off this summer to make him more comfortable, and Travis gave him a bath a week ago.

I admit I want this horse more than I want one for myself at this point. I already know how we'd costume him for medieval games and take silly family photos with him at Christmas. He's big, but he's the gentlest big horse I've ever met. I wish with all my heart that he was ours.

Turk's family doesn't come to visit really often, they are not "horse people" really, they just really like owning a horse. But last weekend, they came out to visit, just as we were finishing up and leaving the barn. Because we are paranoid, all we could think was that they were going to tell our trainer that they were going to move Turkey to another, or their own, barn, or that they were going to sell him, or otherwise make him unavailable to us anymore. It turned out that Travis and I were just nutty, and Turk's family had no such plans to take him anywhere. BIG sigh.

Loving Other People's Horses means having that occasional worry that something will happen and "your" horse (that isn't really yours and that you really have no claim over) will no longer be there. You want to, and sometimes you do, buy halters and grooming tools, and saddle pads in your riding colors, and bring treats and love to Not-Your-Horse, but you have only so much say as the actual owner says you can have. You have to work around riding schedules, and show schedules, and there might be differences of opinion about equipment choices and nutrition, and really, you can't always win those discussions. It's not your horse.

Someday, though, someday, in the hopefully not too distant future, there will be a farm. And it will be ours, and we will fill the pastures with Our Horses, and we will be looking for horsesitters, and mucking stalls, and arranging for hay and sawdust deliveries, and picking up grain from the feed store....and we will be thrilled, even at 3am when one of Our Horses needs the vet and several hours of continuous handwalking to avoid a colic. I am looking forward to it (except the part about the colic...), even as now it seems like only a dream on the far horizon.

For now, though, if I had to choose between having no horses, or loving Other People's Horses, I think it's pretty clear which way I'd lean.

On Turkey.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Just unloading

As Wren gets better and more confident, I get less and less so, even as I know I have gotten stronger. Sometimes I think, what with the new Pony Club chapter and everything, it would just be easier and better for me to devote myself to helping Wren and the kids ride, and skip focusing on my own riding for a while. It certainly would save me heartbreak and frustration, and having to re-learn and un-learn everything I thought I knew about riding. But that would feel like quitting, and I waited SO LONG -- fourteen years! -- to be in a position to ride again that I just don't want to let it go.

I'm confused about everything -- my body position, how to use my aids, equipment choices for the horse I am riding, even some horsemanship choices. I don't know if what I remember from riding and having horses is actually correct, or if I am misunderstanding or misremembering what I used to know. Sometimes I feel as though I am doing everything wrong, because it feels like a conflict between what I used to know, and what I am supposed to do now.

Is it my saddle? Am I too fat now? Am I just out of shape? Are the horse and I not getting along? Are we not a good match? Is this a "mare thing" rearing it's head? Is it really an equipment issue that I am too uneducated to realize?

Worse, am I too impatient (probably)? Is this just the way it goes, and was I incredibly spoiled by my previous horses (also likely)?

I don't like being frustrated. It's not that I want to quit, it's that I want to FIX. Solve the problem, be sure I am on the right track, even if all the pieces of the puzzle are still in the box. I'm most competitive with myself, especially now, and I just want to get better at this. I was not a fabulous rider before, but I would like to at least be fairly competent. But I have this awful feeling of a lack of myself and my horse, in my ability, in the process, in whether or not I am progressing the way I want to go.

I guess I just need to sit with it and be patient.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Post-Show Glow

The little schooling horse show we took the kids to on Tuesday night turned out to be an awesome experience.
Champ and Lily and Gabby

We did get there with plenty of time to spare, and got a good parking spot right near the ring. Lots of time to unload and tack up, do a little schooling, and relax before heading into the ring. Hooray! Just the way I like it!

The Hunter's Ridge kids and ponies!

Noah took his first blue ribbon in the leadline class (and so did the other six kids, but hey, it's leadline!). The look on his face was absolutely priceless when the 'ribbon girl' came to hand him his very own horse show ribbon! "And it's the color I wanted, too!"

He had a hard time waiting outside the ring for people to finish schooling so the class could start, and he declared, "I don't wanna ride! You wanted me to ride!" We all laughed and reminded him that he cried at the last show because he could not ride in it. Upon entering the ring, though, he stretched up tall, held the reins, and looked around...."Ooh! I *like* this!"

Wren...well, she had a lesson that morning, and was spectacular. She was determined to trot, and she did, bolstered by her incredible performance on Sunday (which I did not yet write about) that included trot circles and taking her pony over the tiny cross-rail in the indoor ring. Such bravery as I have not seen from that child in a long time.

But it got better.

At the show, I had registered her to participate in the leadline class, and the walk/two-point class only. No trotting, as she was not solid yet in getting her correct diagonal, and also had not even trotted her pony all the way around the ring at our trainer's barn. Given that you should show your horse at a level below that which you school at home, it was a good idea not to push her. The ring at Summerhill is huge, and there is lots of space for an energetic show pony to get wild ideas about going faster.

But after the walk/two-point class (she placed third of five), she was DETERMINED to enter in the walk/trot class. She begged. She swore she could do it. Kathy and I relented. She went in. Travis took up his spot on the rail and took pictures.

We held our breath. Wild Wings the Show Pony definitely knew her job. She got a little quick at the trot in one spot, but Wren was on it, and things were under control. She didn't always have her correct diagonal when posting, and she didn't use and maintain her space in the ring well, but she accomplished something HUGE.

She decided being afraid of this was for other people.

Now she's making little jump courses for her play horses, and talking about all the fences she will do once she can canter. I may have encouraged the creation of a monster, but I don't care. She told me after her lesson on Tuesday morning that she wished she could just keep riding and didn't have to go in.

I am so proud of her.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Will she ever stop talking about horses?



Seriously, I can't help myself. And I adore that my family has all gotten into something I love so much, so it's easy to spend so much blog space talking about it. It makes up a decent portion of our family activities, of course.

Wren AND Noah are getting ready for a horse show this week. Tonight, in fact. It's part of the same show series as the one we did back in June, at the same farm. This time, Noah is joining his sister in the leadline class, and Wren will do an additional walk/2 point class. Noah will ride Champ in the ring, and Wren will stick with her trusty pony mare, Gabby. I'll probably lead one kid or the other.

And we WILL be on time this time. My plan for that includes washing that pony, and loading up every single bit of tack, equipment, and tools, right after the morning lessons. Including haynets for all three animals. Nothing will be left but to hook up the truck and load those ponies.

In other horse-related news, I am definitely going to be half-leasing Promise come September first. I . Am. So. Excited!! I don't even want to speculate on all the possibilities, because I don't want to jinx our partnership, but I am really really hoping some solid dressage work is in my future. And new riding boots. Mine are completely trashed.

In other, other horse-related news, I am the DC of the River City Pony Club.

We just got started, we don't even have actual registered members yet, but we are approved by the USPC and are ready to get going as soon as the 'official' notice comes through. We definitely are accepting new members, so let me know if you have (or know) a horse crazy kid ages 5 through 25 who wants to join!

Travis is more in love with Turkey every day, and the feeling is mutual. Turk even got a nice bubble bath Sunday afternoon, which Travis handled all by himself.

He sure is gorgeous, and he seems to love the attention.

And on that note, I am off to the barn.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


When you are a dancer, you work closely with your partner, getting to know the choreography and each other so closely that the movement partnership you both create seems as one liquid entity sliding through space and time accompanied by music. There is danger in the underdeveloped partnership, a risk for falls and injury, a risk of not creating the necessary magic that makes two humans seem like one. With a good partner, forging a good partnership, the seamless transition takes place. Communication, movement, respiration, even cognition, become effortless and synchronized. The dancers become the dance.

It's like that with riding, too.

I have been riding for a little over a year now, after a fourteen year break. In that time, I've ridden maybe seven different horses. One, I thought would become my partner -- Champ -- but ultimately, he and I have parted ways. A good decision, I think, if only because "working together" was increasingly becoming "fighting together", and whatever the reason for it, it definitely was not good. He gave me confidence to jump again, and took me through a beginner's horse trials without dumping me off, even though I rode like an idiot because I was so nervous. After that, the potential partnership just drifted away. We (I) struggled. He and I did not seem to want the same things anymore, so I let him go.

I had a lesson the other night, and one of the girls Wren rides with rode Champ in the lesson. He was not nearly as argumentative with her as he had been with me, but his sour stubbornness was definitely there.

I, however, rode Promise again. This time, my husband was there and he took some pictures. It was not a spectacularly great lesson -- not as awesome as the one I had last week in the indoor ring -- but nonetheless, it was good.

I did kind of lose it at the canter, though. Too far forward, and off balance. My brain (and my trainer) was going "sit down, sit down, sit down and RELAX" and my body was all "Oh holy shit! This is a racehorse!". Those pictures are not so great. Also remind me to never wear that shirt again while it's so humid. I think that thing stretched like three sizes.

Regardless, it was a lot of fun. I already know what Promise and I would practice, if I had practice time on her. Lots of bending. Lots of circles. Lots of transitions. And straightness. Halt at X seems more like a suggestion lately. But I feel better overall, riding her. Jumping? Is a little nerve-wracking, although she seems to really enjoy it, doesn't rush the fences, doesn't refuse. I just need to get over myself and LET her jump. She only schools 2' 6", which is perfect, because so do I!

Yep.....must adjust stirrups before we try that again! At least until I can handle the dressage-length stirrups at the canter (and by that I mean, sit on my butt like I'm supposed to and relax into it!).

And the kids HAD to ride, too, especially when Travis took Turkey out of the pasture for some attention and grooming.

Wren was ready to break out the vaulting surcingle, but we opted for her pony saddle and the leadline. Noah was kind of nervous up there, but he handled it. Turk is such a great guy, so very gentle, and patient.

I'm going to get him a bridle and bit so that Travis can ride him. Then we are going to try to find an Australian stock saddle for him to ride in. And then, maybe some medieval games!

Promise is still available for half lease, and the company that I have been doing some writing for has asked me to take on a few more hours, so my "horse money" has increased slightly. I so badly want to ride more regularly, but I also know that this last month of summer will not include enough time for me to do that, with the kids being around all day. The probability is fairly high that I will go ahead with the lease on Promise starting at the beginning of September. Once the kids are back in school, and are both gone til later in the afternoon, I think it would be more feasible. I can be disciplined enough to get my work done, the house stuff done, and get out to the barn at least three days a week to ride by myself.

For now, I'm hanging out in the holding pattern. It's working so far, and I am much happier than I was a couple of months ago.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


He is small, but growing, into a little boy with the colt-like legs and the rough and tumble way of moving from one place to another that occasionally results in a faceplant on the floor.

Still little enough to hold my hand everywhere we go, he hangs on to me at night, telling me stories about his day, or random bits of information he feels a burning need to communicate. "But I have so much to tell you, Mommy!"

He stepped into a new preschool halfway through  last year, with just about no hesitation and no negative thought. None of the girls' worry -- will they like me? Will I have friends? Will I be okay all day?
He has never been that self-assured before, ever.

Last week, I put him on the school bus for his first 'big-school' experience -- a summer school-readiness program for rising kindergarteners.

After three children, this I know is true: once they enter school, the years flip by with increasing speed, blurring from one to the next like a time-lapse video. One day, you are snapping a shot of a shiny new kindergartener proudly wearing his backpack and carrying a new lunchbox, and then like magic, you look through the lens of your camera to find a young man in a cap and gown.

He is fascinated by the way things work. He identified the mechanics of a car seatbelt buckle when he was four, and has created large Rube-Goldberg-esque machines in the living room that he pretends can make coffee, or ice cream, or dispense any manner of toys or books or other trinkets.

He is starting to read. He can do some simple math. He questions everything, and wants to know how all the machines work. He is constantly chasing, and failing to catch, his big sisters.

He wants so badly to be big.

But he climbs into my lap when I sit on the couch, or the porch, and he slips into my bed in the dark early-morning and pets my arm or touches my cheek. He wants to be with me wherever we go, or he wants to go nowhere and stay at home all day.

He is my last, my baby, and the little boy I didn't know I wanted so much.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I'm having one of those days where everything seems fraught with issues, and those Really Good Ideas I thought really were good ones are starting to look less and less so.

Sometimes I listen to my analytical mind too much -- you know, the mind that says "It's too expensive, it's a waste of time, it's pointless, you'll wish you hadn't done that, it's going to put you in a bad spot later..."

Yeah, that one. If only I had listened to that mind back in, oh, 1994-95.

But I digress.

I've been kicking around the idea of going back to school for a long time, now. Several years, in fact. I thought, back when I was doing more clinical speech pathology, I would go get my Ph.D. in Health Related Sciences, and I wanted to study dementia and end of life choices related to tube-feeding (and the ethics thereof). I was not admitted to the program, unfortunately. Then, when I started my work at the museum, I thought I would go back and study art history and focus on the history of glasswork and glassmaking, something I have always loved and been interested in.

But an ugly problem reared it's head. The potential for having to write a thesis. Dun-dun-dunnnnn.

I have this problem occasionally, when faced with Really Interesting Stuff:

As you can imagine, that's difficult to deal with when faced with having to focus for a LONG TIME on a particular teeny-tiny aspect of a larger subject. I don't know if I can do it. My favorite thing about doing a research project and writing a paper, though, is....doing the research! I love to look for stuff and find new sources and read them, and have that lead to more new stuff, over and over....
Plus, I work in management of information for my day job, which also includes research and writing in the health care field.

So, I thought, maybe I should give some consideration to something my mom said I should do, years ago.

Go to library school and get an MLS.

I've been kicking this idea around for a year or more, doing some research into available online grad programs, and figuring out where I could get the biggest bang for the buck, and trying to figure out what I want to specialize in. I don't exactly know where I'd like to end up...ideally, I think working in archives would be the most interesting, or in a university library or medical library, but it's all up in the air, since I don't even feel like I have a complete grasp on all the possibilities contained within having a degree in library science.

So I am considering three particular programs, and figuring out how to afford it, and which specialization(s) to take...and then I see this, online. The Best and Worst Master's Degrees for Jobs in Forbes magazine. And guess what is listed at the top worst Master's degree? You got it. Library Science.

I also found this infographic. Although I can't put much faith in an infographic that can't get basic grammar usage correct, it was both heartening and disheartening to read:

A Librarian's Worth

So, nothing like making things more indecisive for me. I guess I'll kick this idea around a little longer, while I try to decide 1.) if it's worth it, and 2.) what I really want to do.

In the meantime, I will keep at the day job, and ride horses. The other Really Good Idea that maybe isn't is for another blog post. This one's already too long!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Getting Schooled

Tuesday was an epic level of horseness. I had thought we both had lessons in the morning, but it was just me. Wren was getting ready for a local schooling show that was being held in the evening, and we had to clean that WHITE pony up.

And it was hotter than Hades, and insanely humid. Ugh.

Out to the barn early in the day, ride, ride, ride, groom that pony, bathe, apply fly spray and hope she doesn't roll in the next few hours. Pack the trailer, then go home and pack the people stuff. I was exhausted by 3pm, and the show was at 6.

Arrived back to the barn at 5, on time, expecting to load the horses and get down the road to the show by 5:20 or so, realistically....except...time turned into a fluid concept all of a sudden, and we didn't leave the farm until a quarter to six.

Now. Let me tell you about my obsessive compulsion for being early to things like this -- horse shows, events in which I have to play a role, or do some specific thing. I cannot stand to be late, and I DO NOT like to rush. Not at all. Not even a little. Show starts at 6? Need to be onsite by 5:30 at the VERY latest.

In this case, Wren was riding in the leadline and the walk/2 point classes. She is not especially confident riding in groups, and this was to be something she could handle and even step up to a little, as her previous off-farm show experience was only a leadline class. As with most shows, the most basic classes go first. Her classes were first and second, and the show was scheduled to start at 6.

Warming up before going in the ring

We arrived at 6, and had to park way on the other side of the ring. You see the problem already, don't you? Consequently, Wren did not get to ride in either of her scheduled classes, as one had already started when we arrived, and had only one child in it. The next class we missed because we were late and didn't get tacked up in time. We barely made it into the third class, which was Pre-Short Stirrup Walk/Trot, which we hadn't intended on having them do, but it was the only choice left. I thought Wren was going to cry, it was insanely hot and humid, but I sent her into the ring anyway.

 Little horse, big horse

Looking good, Wild Wings (Gabby) and Wren!

They did great! Although it was walk/trot, she didn't trot at all because she was very anxious about Gabby taking off (she wouldn't -- Gabby is a Show Pony -- but Wren doesn't trust that yet). One person was eliminated for getting off her horse to slap a horsefly off (who does that in the middle of a class??), and so Wren and Gabby ended up with a ribbon anyway. Fifth place out of six, even with no trotting. She did do a great job of staying relaxed, keeping her position, and steering, and following the directions to reverse and line up and all of that.
Lining up for the judge

Fifth place!!

Overall, it was not bad for Wren -- she went in a class, and got a ribbon, and got show experience, all good things. However, the issue of being late will not happen again. Next time, *I* will be wearing a watch, and *I* will be hustling the getting-off-the-farm machinations so that we can get to a show that is ten minutes away with thirty minutes to spare before the first class. I can't deal with lateness like this even a little bit.

I would point out that I should have known better, seeing as how my dressage test for the March horse trials was at 9:00am (absolutely canNOT be late for a scheduled test!) and we didn't get to the event (FIFTEEN minutes away) until twenty minutes before my test was to begin. No stress there (NOT!)!

It is soooooo hot, Mom.

So, aside from that, I am currently ordering a pair of breeches for Noah, who cried yesterday morning because he wasn't going to be able to ride in the horse show like Wren. Good thing there is a big tent sale coming up at one of the local tack shops. He needs his own helmet, too.

 Wren and Cassidy walk their mounts. Yep, that's Champ. He was pretty good, even when he tried to leave the ring while the class was in progress. "Meh," says Champ.