Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Soul-Filling Work

Doesn't everyone wish for a job that fills their soul? I mean, really, if you HAVE TO work, don't you want it to be something that not only makes you happy, but makes you feel dedicated to it, and to life?

I know I do.

I always wanted to be the person who loved their work so much, they couldn't wait to get there in the morning, and didn't want to leave in the evening. Maybe the fact that that never happened to me, even when I was working in a clinic or school, should have been an indication all those years ago, but I missed the signals. Even after undergrad, and looking through a university catalog (no internet back then), perusing the course offerings in such programs as Interior Design and History, I didn't take my side interests as being representative of something I should *actually* pursue.

But now I'm older and much wiser (one would hope). I have grown into a woman of many talents (ha!), and people ask me all the time how I have the time to do everything. Little do they know, (until I say it) that I don't have time for everything. I don't DO all the things I am good at, or love to do, all in one day or one week, or even one month. It's been a couple weeks since I lit my glass torch, and I haven't done as much sewing as I like to, but I managed a little bit of painting, and some needlefelting. It's been too damn cold to work metal in the freezing garage, or do any enameling.

But that's okay, because I have been riding weekly, and working at my day job a lot (to pay for the riding, natch!). I've also been seriously in love with my work at the museum, and THAT is where my soul is filled. Providing tours and information and stories about the wonderful art and artists who are part of the permanent collection at the VMFA. It's a job I never thought I'd do, and one that surprises me with just how much I love it. I love to teach, and while I know I would make a terrible high school teacher, I'm a really good storyteller and tour guide. Last night, we had a training session on making the  artworks accessible to those with low vision and blindness. It was incredibly fascinating, and the fact that the presenter talked about some linguistic theory in discussing congenitally blind people and their cognitive-linguistic concepts for things they have never seen, was amazing. Really wonderful stuff, and now I am all excited about doing tours for "special populations", including those folks with Alzheimer's and other dementia-related conditions.

I've got several really fun and interesting tours coming up, too -- a tour focusing on writing skills this Thursday (fourth graders), and one next week focusing on Greek art and The Odyssey (I need to re-read that), and then one in April on symbolism in Medieval/Renaissance/Baroque art (graduate students in art therapy). I know my creative urges are being really satisfied with the museum work, and that is making me more productive in other ways and places.

Riding has also been a kind of work, too, in that I am learning this horse, and how to make him go the way he needs to for the job he has. Right now, that's 'school horse and lower-level event horse'. Every time I go out to the barn to ride, something else happens that makes the path I am on with this guy unfold a little bit more in front of me. Today we had some small breakthroughs in dressage, and I could feel myself getting more secure in the saddle. The canter transitions weren't fabulous, but the canter, once we got it, was smooth and beautiful and we made perfect 20-meter circles in the ring. The connection from my hands to his mouth and back, and my seat and legs to his legs and back was solid. There's nothing like riding like that.

 He halted perfectly square at least twice, and at least once, I was able to correct a not-square halt TO square with tiny rein movements. I gave him lots of grooming time before our ride, brushing his thick mane out all shiny and smooth, talking to him, brushing him with the least-annoying body brush I could find. And he loves it when I talk to him. He's such a sensitive guy, but I swear, I *swear* he put his head down for me to put on his bridle. Awesome.

I wish I could have stayed longer at the barn. It was chilly, but I loved listening to the sound of the rain on the metal roof, and the horses in their stalls, munching hay. I need to clean tack and get things organized, and honestly, I miss the daily barn chores.

I guess I'd better get working on the tour I am doing on Thursday, and start making my packing and equipment lists for the horse trials. I think it's going to be great.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Basking in the Joy

Wren and Keepsake

There is something so incredibly beautiful about any little girl and her pony, but this is MY little girl, and the first pony she ever rode. She's been riding Keepsake again, working on getting some confidence back after a couple of not-so-fun falls off of Champ this winter. Travis captured this photo of Wren tacking up her beloved Keepsake this afternoon before her lesson.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I have a plan!

I believe I have hit upon the perfect method for completing the upcoming horse trials happily, relaxed, and with a number not a letter.

I will do my dressage test (because that's the phase I have the least worry about) at the appointed time.
And then.....

I will drink a bottle of this:

And then I will go and do my stadium round, and then my cross-country round, and I will not care how I get to the end of each round, just that I will. And I will be so relaxed that I will probably stay in the saddle because I will be plastered, literally and figuratively, to it.

Never mind that it will probably be 9:00 in the morning, oh no, I will drink the beer and be happy. And completely without a care.

(that beer is Dogfish Head's Sah'Tea, one of the Ancient Ale lines, redacted from the ancient recipes for  various cultures' fermented beverages. Midas Touch is my absolute favorite.)

Oh my god, this beer is so good, it's like my favorite ever. I would drink a case of it, if I thought I could stand up after. I'm drinking enough of it now to float my back teeth.

Have I mentioned how much I love beer? Well, I do. I'd rather drink beer than hard liquor any day, except for maybe a gin and tonic at a fancy party where I have to look like an intelligent, sophisticated woman. Not that I don't, drinking a good Belgian white ale, but still. Occasionally a gin and tonic is needed.

This is probably not a good plan, though, since, as the the oldest member of the riding team that is attending these horse trials, I should set a good example for the two teenagers and the nine-year-old who will be with me.

But it would be more fun if I had a beer.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The next lesson

In the absence of the ability to write cogently about life at the moment, I will tell you more horse stories. Not because there is anything bad going on, but because I can't do justice to what I want to say right now. It needs to percolate some more before the words fall together to tell my story.

But I can tell you about my lesson, and about other horse stuff.

Thursday morning was my lesson, with Allison, one of the older teens who rides at the barn. It was exactly the kind of weather I don't love to ride in -- very cold, very windy, very bright sunshine with a cloudless blue sky. Deep down, I fight with my inner chicken nearly every time I get on a horse. Why? Because when I can silence that damned fowl cackling away, a partnership with a horse is beyond like flying, beyond magic, beyond power, beyond description. And so as I groomed and tacked up Mr. Princess (that would be Champ, such a sensitive guy), I felt the cold chicken-y fear in the pit of my stomach.

"Today is not a good day to jump."
"Today is too cold and too windy, and what if he gets away from you?"
"Today is a good day to ride on the flat and work on your seat."
"Today is not a good day to jump. What if you jump him as badly as last time? What if it's worse?"

I know, I'm my own worst damn enemy some days.

Champ was actually pretty good in the cross-ties, he only kicked out once when I brushed his belly, and that was kind of halfhearted, and not really directed at me. I switched to a neoprene girth to see if that made him any more comfortable, and decided against my spurs. Not with this wind. I had a feeling he'd be dancing all over the place.

Allison had big Beau, who was definitely ready to go. In the ring, Champ was really walking out nicely. We took our time, and he didn't really give me any grief. His free walk was the nicest I think I've ever had the privilege to ride, and he only made a lame attempt at opening the gate and leaving one time.

I rode three of the best dressage tests I've done with him so far. HUGE confidence boost. And I only needed to let him have it with my leg like once or twice before we got started. He certainly is no whiz at dressage at the moment (which is at least partly my fault, I'm sure), but I feel slightly closer to figuring out which buttons to push, so to speak, to get the results I am looking for. 

I also told my trainer I wanted to work on my stability and security in the saddle -- my seat. So, I spent ten agonizing minutes riding without stirrups at the posting and sitting trot. Ugh. good for me, but I know I will be hurting. I'm already hurting. Ow.

There was one halt, where one leg, Champ's left front, was slightly out of place, a little forward of square, and Kathy, my trainer, said "Squeeze your left rein."  I did, and his leg moved back, into the perfect position for a square halt. Breathe. Relax. Settle.


We eventually did some cavaletti at the trot, which I felt pretty good about, and then I switched horses with Allison so she could jump Champ for me. 

Beau is a BIG guy. Kira loves to ride him, and I never have. Even Wren likes to ride him. Champ, at 15 hands, has nearly cured me of the desire to ride a big horse.

Also, Champ is CUTE as HELL when he jumps! I had no idea!

I think I might be okay for this horse trials. Kathy says I can come to the barn and ride at least one other day besides my lesson during the week, and that goes a long way toward making me feel more confident. Half my problem is that I *know* I don't ride enough to really be secure in the saddle for this event. But now I can fix that.

I'm borrowing a show coat from a friend and sending in my registration next week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winter Fun, and Also A Run

I finally got my ass in gear and ran for the first time in two weeks. It was raining, and I have run in the rain so much this winter that I just couldn't face going outside, so I ran on the (hated) treadmill (dreadmill). There is definitely something wrong with the calibration on the 'mill, because I know my pace really well, and there is NO WAY I only ran 2 miles in 31 minutes. Seriously. That's like a 14 min/mile pace. No. Way.

Anyway, I did it, yay, and now I feel like I did something good. If only I could stop mainlining carbohydrates, that would be an improvement.


I took the kids ice skating on Monday, since there was no school. Kira used to take lessons, and of course I have been ice skating since I was a little girl, but the little kids had never been. We had a great time! It was a lucky thing I saved Kira's old figure skates, because one pair fit Wren, and the other, smaller pair actually fit Noah. I had my own skates from college, and Kira got rentals.

Noah was not sure about this skating thing, but Wren went right to it, especially after she found a friend from her school was there practicing her program.

Kira remembered how to skate, and she was off and having fun.

Halfway through the session, we got to watch the zamboni resurface the ice. Totally fascinating! And super-smooth ice afterward!

Back on the ice, Wren got brave and decided to go out sans buckets.

She really did well for her first try at it! Noah saw his sister try, and so HE had to try, too:

My boy is determined, but not as reckless as his sister. He liked to skate, but he did NOT like falling down.

Kira got a picture of me on the ice, and then we had to take a self-portrait.

We went home after about two hours of skating, and made soft pretzels, a winter school-holiday tradition. It was a fun afternoon, and we definitely want to go back!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Random Monday Musings

The dogs' water dish on the deck this morning.
I'm glad it's not a 50 gallon livestock tank.
I don't know if it's just the point in the winter where I am tired of the same old routine, or if there is something to this funk, but I feel a little like a hamster on the wheel, endlessly turning and going nowhere. Everything feels stagnant and unproductive, a constant effort of management, rearranging, scheduling with no end in sight. I am pretty sure it is not the cold weather, because I do like the cold, and there have been quite a few days of brilliant sunshine and clear, impossibly blue skies. There's plenty to look forward to, but managing the myriad details of life feels like too much of a task to even contemplate sometimes. Restlessness is definitely a component.

And so, in that vein, some random (and some not-so-random) thoughts:

  • Valentine's Day was a fun, low-key holiday. Candy for the kids, heart-shaped pepperoni in the baked pasta dinner, brownies for dessert. Flowers from the best husband ever. 

  • My dad has been visiting, and since he has sold his house in Miami, his living room furniture is now mine. Yay for couches that do not hold pet hair! He also brought some things I forgot he    had, like this 50's vintage milkshake mixer we used to use when I was a kid (and it was 30 years old even then!). I love how the stainless steel mixing cup can fit on the mixer and stay there:

  • I have been working on the Paper Horse (but now Fabric Horse) Project a little bit. The idea is firmly in my head, but the execution has not happened the way I want it to, yet. This is muslin, gesso, acrylics, and cotton quilt batting. I'm not in love with how heavy the legs are, but this is a pony, so I can stand a little extra heft in a pony. I guess. 

  • I really wish I was a better painter.
  • I get to go to a party Tuesday night for staff and volunteers at the museum to celebrate the Chihuly exhibition (it broke attendance records)! 
  • The season finale of 'Downton Abbey' sucked and I hated it. I might not be watching it when the next season rolls around. 
  • Winter light is very blue. And very difficult to mitigate in photo editing.
  • I'm back to thinking I am going to do that horse trials in March. Yikes.
  • It's been two weeks since my last run. I'm bored with running, I think. Not sure what else I would do, though, and I'm too old and too arthritic to skip exercising altogether, otherwise I'll be fat and in pain all the time.
  • Motivation is lacking, however.
  • I think I'm just bored with a lot of stuff. Not sure what to do with myself.
Kids are home from school for Presidents' Day. They are playing the Wii, and I am going to try to do some work. I think movies, making some homemade soft pretzels, and maybe a trip out to go ice skating might be in the works. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Worse to (Much) Better

It's funny how sometimes the worst day is followed by one of the best.

This morning, I was scheduled to give two tours at the museum on ancient Greece, Rome, and Mali to two classes of third-grade students from a local elementary school. I didn't do an excessive amount of preparation, because I have given this particular tour a zillion times already this school year, but I got to the museum about 45 minutes before opening so I could run through the possibilities with the other docents scheduled at the same time. We all agreed on our routes, and then, when the kids arrived, we split up our groups and off we went.

I don't think I've given a better set of tours this year. It was fantastic! I was in full-on storytelling mode, asking good questions, engaging these kids in the myths of the Greeks, the technology of the Romans, and the culture of Mali. My students were great listeners, extremely well-behaved, interested in what I had to say, and asked really insightful questions. It was wonderful, and I felt terrific. I really, really love this work. What a great morning!

After the sushi lunch I didn't get to have yesterday, I went to work for a little while. Well, THAT was as it has been recently: frustrating. I did get a few things done, and I did get my new printer hooked up in my cube, so that's something, at least. Yay for not having to walk across the office to the printer in the kitchen!

Later in the afternoon, it was time to go out to the barn for Wren and Kira's lessons. We brought my Dad along, who is visiting this week, because with the weather shifting tomorrow, we aren't sure if Sunday's show will be held, and I wanted him to be able to see the girls ride.

Wren was excited to ride her old friend, Keepsake, who was the very first pony she rode, and who is retired now, but was feeling well enough for a confidence-building ride today. She was nervous and anxious about grooming Keep, who barely moves a muscle while standing in the cross-ties. She was nervous after she got into the ring, and she didn't want to trot at all, but she managed to stay on and keep herself together for the length of her lesson. Afterward, it was like nothing had happened; Wren was grooming her pony independently, picking the hooves, brushing and hugging her, and it was really great to see her more confident.

Kira did a fantastic job riding Beau, and she really looked like she was having a great time, all smiles and confidence, as she trotted around the ring on the big Belgian.

Travis took both of the above pictures with a Canon Rebel T2 that he borrowed from a friend for his photography class. After seeing the pictures he took with only a few minutes' fooling around with the instructions, I have decided we definitely need a DSLR. And I need him to come to one of my lessons so he can shoot pictures of me jumping Champ. I really want to know what that looks like, even if it's ugly as hell.

On the subject of jumping Champ.....a friend of mine had some really good insight and inspiration for me on the subject of my favorite school horse. She said, "It seems that if it makes you that miserable that this isn't meant to be, it might just be a timing thing. Maybe he needs you. Remember that horses are a mirror to our soul, and they will show us everything about ourselves....When I had those [bad] days it always hit me, [my horse] wasn't just put into my life for nothing."

Champ had kind of a nutty owner before he came to be our trainer's school horse this past fall, someone who moved barns every year, and who apparently yelled at him a lot, and kept him blanketed and covered up in boots and sheets and all kinds of equipment. Maybe he's scared, or just not confident. Maybe he doesn't understand his job, or what I am asking him to do, and maybe he wants to do his job, but we aren't communicating well. Honestly, I think sometimes when he's being a total putz and not moving forward, he's telling me he needs a longer time to warm up before we really start working. Or maybe he only feels warmed up after we jump a few fences, and THEN he's ready to do some forward-moving dressage practice. Or maybe, like me, he just wants to get out of this %$#@#@! riding ring and go for a trail ride!

Maybe I just need to relax and listen to him a little while longer.

I mentioned to my trainer that maybe I wasn't ready for that horse trials next month, and she scoffed. "You don't have to look pretty, you have to stay on and finish. And you stay on."

I don't know. It's a lot of equipment (mostly show clothes) I still need, and a lot more practice. I guess I can give it another week's lesson and see what happens. Yesterday was the first time I had jumped a near-complete course of stadium fences in....sixteen years. Holy.....has it really been that long?

Probably I should cut myself some slack.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I had my lesson today, and since the morning didn't go very smoothly, I had high hopes for a happiness infusion by riding Champ after everyone got off to school and work. The good news was he was super, super quiet. No dancing around in the cross-ties and no attitude about grooming. He got lots of treats. The bad news is he was so quiet, it was like trying to drag a bag of cement through the World's Most Boring Dressage Test. Nothing I could do would get this horse moving forward with anything that appeared to be like rhythm. Ugh.

Then we started working on jumping. I was hopeful for a good practice, because I had been doing really well in the indoor ring with the one cross-rail, and I had jumped a hunter course of four or five fences a few weeks ago pretty successfully. Not today, though. Seven and eight fences, with tight turns. All set at 18" and 2', so you'd think this would be no big deal, but one of my old crappy habits reasserted itself and I barely managed to hang on past the third fence. I have no idea why, but I am dropping my shoulders over the fences, and it's causing me to lose what little balance I have, and causing Champ to jump too early, and to stumble. It was a mess. Totally ugly. I lost a stirrup over the fence, slid sideways in the saddle, landed hard and tweaked my back, jammed my knee because my foot was out of the stirrup, and then it got shoved back in, and could not, could not, could NOT get myself to sit back to slow him down. I must have looked ridiculous. I know I felt totally ridiculous, all floppy and flailing. Sheer force of will kept me on the horse. And then I could feel myself getting nervous, and starting to quietly wish for the lesson to be over. I remarked to my trainer how fast Champ seemed to be going, and she said "Wait til you take him cross-country!", and I knew there was no way I could take him to the horse trials and feel good about it.

I feel really unhappy about my riding, and my crumbled confidence at the moment. I know it's part of riding, and I know blah blah blah good days and bad days blah blah, and I know I can only expect so much, riding once a week, after a fourteen year break. It'll be fine, it's just that one bad day seems like a monument to personal suckage. I just have to get it right in my head that I can't expect too much from myself. But I also think I am not going to compete this year. Maybe I should just stick to dressage.

It's Valentine's Day, and I was going to treat myself to sushi for lunch, but I couldn't get food and pick up Noah in the time I had left after leaving the barn, so I am home, having had no lunch, and then Noah told me I was supposed to be at school for his Valentine's party this morning (which I didn't realize parents were supposed to go). I'm frustrated, and sad, and I don't want to do anything. I'm not going to run in the Monument 10K, and I'm not going to do the horse trials. I briefly thought I'd just let Wren have my lesson slot and stop altogether, but that was a moment's despair that I am over now.

I'm going to bake a double batch of brownies and get dinner started. Maybe chocolate will help.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I have really been struggling with motivation to run, to control how much I eat, to make disciplined decisions about fitness, work, personal boundaries, and other life stuff. I have not failed to get myself to the barn for my weekly lesson, though. I'm sure that says something.

While I love running in the cooler temperatures, the cold makes me want to hole up in the house with a book and some tea and some art materials and just hibernate. But I know in July, when it's a hundred degrees in the shade, I will wish for 45 and cloudy for my eight mile run or whatever. It's been a struggle to get myself out of the house. Even my recent awesome results with running with music have not been encouraging enough, mostly because I hurt my knee doing that. Boo.

Riding has been going fairly well, although I definitely would still classify myself as a beginner rider. I can easily do a 2' course, but my dressage on Champ is messier than I'd like, and that's mainly a lack of practice. My trainer suggested I do the Calais Horse Trials this March, with the two teens at the barn and one of the girls Wren rides with. Three of us would go at the Introductory level. I *can* do it, but I am having a hard time deciding if I *want* to do it. Horse trials have gotten more expensive in the last 15 years, and for this one in particular, I would need a show coat, and a protective vest, and white breeches, none of which I have right now. And all of which are not particularly cheap. Plus, I think, trailering fees, coaching fees, and likely some $ for the use of a school horse. Could be a lot. The other factor is I don't feel like I can do both a horse trials AND the Monument Avenue 10K. They don't conflict in date or anything, but I don't feel like I can focus on both, and I certainly don't want to pay for both. The other factor here is I desperately need a new pair of running shoes, if I want to keep running without hurting myself, and that is at least $75 to $100, easily.

It always comes down to time and money, doesn't it? Well, I guess not always, but often enough.

I wish I could decide if I really want to go out for that horse trials or not. Part of me wants to be brave, part of me feels like I don't have near enough riding under my belt at this stage to go do a three-phase event, even if it IS only a few fences at two feet, and a 2 minute walk-trot dressage test.

And part of me feels a little burned out on other aspects of my life, which is making it more difficult to do even some of the fun stuff. Blah.

Probably I should not make decisions when I haven't had sufficient sleep to not be overwhelmed by stuff. Probably I should also check Travis' Saturday school schedule, because if he has school on the horse trials date, then my decision is made for me.

I guess I should stop thinking and get some work done. Right after I referee a fight between the little kids over who gets to sit on the new ottoman that has wheels.

**EDITED to add: HAHA! Travis does NOT have school on the day of the horse trials, but DOES have school on the day of the Monument 10K! Hmm...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Falling and getting back on

Wren fell from Champ yesterday, during her lesson. It's about the third or fourth fall she's had in the past few months, and the second or third fall from Champ since Thanksgiving. She's not hurt, but I think Champ scares her a little. Yesterday's fall was in the kind of weather that makes the horses nutty -- cloudless blue sky, very gusty winds, and crisp temperatures. It's weather *I* don't like to ride in, because the unpredictablity factor of a horse gets higher. There was an air of the crazy in the barn when we got there, as the geldings had taken down one of the fences between their pastures, and they were all in the wrong fields, all looking guilty and confused and upset.

In the cross-ties, Champ and Beau were very restless, pacing, pawing, looking around, and neighing with high-pitched screams that scared my hater-of-loud-noises daughter. I did most of the grooming because I wasn't sure how much Wren was going to be able to stay out of his way and whether his ticklish spots were activated. He didn't kick out at all, but he sure was antsy.

Had I less of a sense of discipline, I would have said, look, today is not a good day for a ride. Or, maybe I would have asked if they could ride in the indoor ring instead. In retrospect, the indoor ring would have been best. Champ actually goes pretty well in there.

Of the three girls in the lesson, only one managed to stay on. Wren knows the "no shrieking on Champ" rule, but when five geldings come barrelling up alongside the ring at a gallop, encouraging the other equines to follow suit, it's hard not to shriek. A couple trot steps, then a couple canter strides, and although Wren sat back and tried to whoa, the reins were too long, the other horses were galloping outside the ring, and it was all too much. He went faster, and off she went, 15 hands down onto her left side. She cried a lot, of course, and although she wasn't hurt, she was terrified in that moment. Right after Champ went nutty, Lily also got a wild hair and dumped Cassidy. Meanwhile, big Beau just stood there, with Janna up, mid-dressage test. Lots of neighing and sobbing and parents running. And ponies running.

It took a good bit of coaxing and encouragement to get Wren back on Champ. I promised she would only walk with him, and that I would walk alongside and have a hand ready on the reins. It took even more encouragement to keep her in the saddle, assure her she was fine and Champ was fine and that I was there, but eventually, she walked around the big ring, and then went into the indoor for some more walking and stepping over poles. After a while, she gave Champ to one of the other little girls to ride for a while, and we gathered our things and went home. In the car, we talked about not giving up, and we coached her thinking toward resilience and trying again and positive thinking. When we got home,  I pampered her a little bit, getting her some comfy sweatpants to wear, and letting her take a nice, long, hot bath at bedtime to soak her sore muscles. Lots of hugs, too. She was fine all afternoon and evening, talked a little about the ride and the fall and went to bed fairly easily.

Travis told me he doesn't like Champ, that he thinks he is too unpredictable, too sketchy to handle, and he thinks Wren is afraid of him now. That makes me sad, because it's probably true. But there is no other pony in the barn who is rock-solid bombproof that Wren can learn on. I don't know how to find the balance between her being bored to death on a pony that has NO get-up and go, and riding a pony that can go fast sometimes and maybe be a little scary to her. And it's not as simple as buying a pony for her, either, because that costs money we don't have, and there are tons of unknowns in that scenario that I am not prepared to undertake at the moment -- unscrupulous sellers with ponies they manipulate into looking like the perfect pony, the risks inherent in owning a pony that can be different in different settings, or secretly ill, or lame, or any other issue that can come with owning a pony. I'm not sure what to do now, except wait and talk to our trainer.

Of course, Wren just got up, and we are looking at video of the canter and gallop in slow motion, so Wren can see why "it feels like jumping" when Champ takes off. She seems totally over it, and acknowledges she "CAN canter, but isn't ready for it, really", and that it scares her a little. Sometimes I think parents make more of these things than the kids do. She seems relatively unscathed, and says nothing about NOT going back to ride. Now I just need to get my anxiety under control and all will be well.

Maybe if I can just do what I told her to do yesterday -- take a deep breath and relax -- I can come to a better place of peace. Riding for myself is hard and scary sometimes; it's worse as a parent of a kid who rides. But I'll get over it. Wren really loves horses and I know she does want to do this. It will get better.

But I think we are going to replace her purple schooling helmet and buy her a really, really good helmet.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rescue Me

It's been a busy, stressful week with lots of confusion and frustration (for me, mostly). Ugh. It just all sucks. But, nothing makes a day better than some time spent riding in the brilliant afternoon sunshine with one of my favorite people. Kira and I took a riding lesson this afternoon. I rode my beloved Champ, and she rode her favorite Belgian, Beau. I discovered yet another interesting tidbit about Champ -- he's actually a princess. He hates to go in the sloppy, puddly post-deluge ring and get his legs and belly all wet and dirty! That weenie! He didn't give me trouble, just acted all put out every time we had to ride through the wet (which was oh, constantly). He minced his way through every puddle, wet spot, and water-filled hoofprint, and found a way to go rightnexttothefence on higher ground so he didn't have to get his feet wet. Oh, good lord, horse, do you know we are going to be doing some eventing this year?

I felt crummy when we collected our riding stuff and got in the car, almost canceled out of our lesson just out of general gloominess, but we went on to the barn, and I was glad we did. It was like a weight lifted off me, and I felt so much better. My ride wasn't particularly fantastic, nor did I do anything great, in fact, I don't feel like I really rode that well at all, but I guess I needed some "horse time". After riding, then driving Kira to her dad's, then driving back home, and putting the little kids to bed while Travis worked, I am beat. But there was a big glass of Hardywood Park's Coffee Stout, and two copies of 'Dressage Today' waiting for me, and an episode of 'Arrow'. It was a pretty decent evening, but now I am going to pass right the heck out. Back to the barn in the morning for Wren's lesson.

***So, my trainer suggested I try the Calais Horse Trials this year as my first back-in-the-saddle event. Introductory level, where the dressage test is so boring, it's brain-numbing (and doesn't get up to a canter), but the fences are a low two feet, even for cross country.

I haven't decided if I'm up for it yet, but if I do go for it, I will need a show coat and white breeches, and a safety vest. Oh, and a medical armband.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A reminder, and art projects

I was having the kind of morning that made me wonder if I will ever have a clean, organized house and nice things. And then I wonder if I'd be willing to give up any of the best parts of living my life in order to make that happen.

In order for my house to meet the fantasy standard in my head-- organized, completely decorated, everything in its place -- I would have to have a serious daily cleaning and picking up routine. Not to mention about 1200 more square feet of space to keep all of the stuff that doesn't get put away because there is no place to put it. It's not going to happen, not until we move to another house. I'd have to give up working at the museum, making art regularly (or at least limit myself to one art form -- the horror!), riding weekly and spending any significant time at the barn. No. Way.

 A couple of years ago, I got sucked into reading some 'Mommyblogs', most of whom I came to realize were written by stay-at-home Mormon moms who apparently live vicariously through their children. Impeccable homes, homeschooled children (four, five, even six or more kids!), homemade meals, all of that. At least, the ones *I* was reading were like that. Not *all* SAHM blogs are like that, to be sure.

It's enough to drive someone crazy, though, what with all the perfect.

But you know, I've given up on most of that kind of perfection, and my life is made so much easier. Happier, too. It's amazing how much better you can feel when you stop worrying about whether you measure up as a parent/spouse/friend/whomever, and just be happy with what you have and who you are. Anyway, sometimes I need to remind myself that I don't need to be better than I am at any of this. Sometimes life feels so overwhelming, and some days I can't believe the level of responsibility I signed on for, but I can handle it, and I do it well enough. My kids love me, my marriage is rock-solid and fantastic, we have everything we really need, and we are a pretty darn fun and interesting family who place a high value on creativity, geekery, history, and the arts. It's like living in an artist's colony 24/7/365.

I'll keep it.


On the subject of art, I have been working on a few new ideas.

The Paper Horse Project was born out of a desire to find stencils of horses to use in other projects. I can't draw a decent horse to save my life, and I haven't yet developed "my own" drawing of a horse that I like, so I use stencils made from other images. Anyway, I spent most of yesterday afternoon cutting out paper horses while my kids played with homemade silly putty.

Liquid starch and white glue makes a goopy, sticky putty that is fun for all ages! It's even fun to make silly mustaches with!

My nutty children played with this stuff for hours yesterday. It was really fun to watch, and I was glad to see Kira get away from her Xbox even for a little while and hang out with her brother and sister.

I finished cutting out all the cardboard and paper horses, but then I got An Idea, and I have taken off on that for the time being. It involves the horses, but in fabric. I'll post about it when I get the New Idea to a place where it looks like something.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Yesterday was supposed to be our barn's monthly fun schooling show, which my trainer puts on mostly for the little kids to get some experience riding in front of people and understanding the horse show environment. It's usually about eight little girls, and then maybe one or two of the teenagers riding in the jumper classes. Occasionally, one of the moms or other adult students will come and ride, too. I am usually the show secretary, handling the entries, tracking the class placings from the judge, and organizing the ribbons, so I don't tend to ride in the show. Our January show was canceled by winter weather. Yesterday, our February show was rescheduled because of snow.

Wren is the only kid I know who cries when I tell her it's going to snow. "But I wanted to ride in the horse show!!", she wails, "I don't want it to snow!!"

Since it is Sunday, and my trainer has a small indoor arena, she will usually go ahead with lessons if the show cancels, so the kids can ride anyway. After a stop at Southern States and Wal-Mart to get some chemical handwarmer packets and some horse treats, and then a Starbucks' run for fortification for the grownups, we headed out to the barn in the snow.

It turned out to be a terrific day. And the kids didn't even have to ride indoors, since the weather was totally weird, and got warm(er) and sunny after a while, which thawed out the frozen riding ring enough to allow them to ride outside.

I don't know what the deal was with our beloved Champ, but he was in a GREAT mood yesterday! He wasn't ticklish, he didn't pin his ears back during grooming, he even lowered his head for Wren to put on the bridle, and he let me hug his head and neck without flipping my arms off him. No dancing in the cross-ties, no nervous chewing on the end of the ties....it was wonderful! We fed him treats and loved him even more.

I think salty pretzels might be his favorite.

Wren did a great job riding him, even though she declined to trot very much, and certainly did not want to do anything that might result in his cantering anywhere. But he worked well for her, especially once she got a crop in her hand, and they even did some work over cavaletti poles without any incidents. She worked on two-point position while Travis took a bunch of pictures for his photography class.

Even though it was cold, and the weather was changeable, it was the kind of day that just makes you tired but soul-satisfied. I love to watch Wren ride just as much as I like to ride.