Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A loss of light and clarity

Maya Angelou passed into the next life this morning after battling health issues recently. I find myself unexpectedly moved by the loss of her spirit and her determination. We shall not see her like again, I am sure, and I am grateful she was possessed of both her voice and her cognition until the last.

I followed her Facebook page, and loved to read her insights, quotations of her work, and perspective on the human condition. More often than not, I found something to think about over the course of my day. That, to me, is the best kind of writing, that which makes you think, or inspires you to more.

Years and years ago, I read the poem below, and my perspective on myself was altered. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that all of it applies to the way I carry myself through this life, but I'd like to think most of it does, or at least, that is what I am striving for.

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.

I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.

I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.

I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.

I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I think it's time to go back and re-read her writings at this stage of my life. She will be so very missed.

Monday, May 26, 2014

SO Much Awesome

Last weekend, Wren participated in the county's club archery tournament at the end f the indoor archery season. She's been struggling with even hitting the target at her distance (I think 18m), not to mention handling the bow and getting the correct shooting posture and sequence. It doesn't help that she is literally the smallest kid in her club, either. She started the season trying to shoot the recurve bow like her big sister, but was convinced by the archery coaches that going with a Genesis Mini compound bow would be a better choice at this point. There were lots of tears and some stomping around about that, but once she hit the target a couple of times, I think she was convinced.

 So when she entered the warmup phase of the tournament, and failed to hit the target with any of the eight arrows she shot....well, the disappointment was evident on her face. However, she has never once thrown a fit or gotten overwhelmingly upset about her difficulty, not the entire season. It's odd to me, since I know she is very aware of what the other kids are doing, and she is definitely the type of kid to want what others have. My job, though, was to stay supportive, tell her I knew she was doing her best, and....just tell her how much I loved watching her shoot. The more I thought about it, and watched her, the more I realized just how amazing she was....not getting upset, just hanging in there and getting back up to the shooting line, time after time after time. Being happy for her small successes ("hey! It bounced off the ground and hit the target!"), and just enjoying the activity. I didn't teach her that, I don't think. She just came to it, enjoying an activity she has wanted to do since she saw the movie, 'Brave'.

It was impressive to watch that afternoon, her 'try'. And she was handsomely rewarded for it, with this:

A bullseye. Amazing. 

Her reaction was priceless (STUNNED!!), and even the parents around us cheered for her. Just a wonderful end to the archery season for her.
 Wren's coach, Melody, takes her picture with the bullseye shot!

And Wren happily tells her scoring partner that, yes, she DID shoot that arrow!

She also managed to earn her 'archer' rank patch, and that really motivated her to keep going. I'm so proud of her, not for the bullseye, although that was great, but for the quiet persistence she showed even in the face of failure. For repeatedly getting her bow and arrows and stepping up to take another shot, for assimilating as much coaching help as she was able to (which wasn't always much, she's 8 after all), and for trying to apply it to the next shot. For not getting frustrated, or wanting to quit. I'm so proud of her for all of that. I admit I didn't expect it, and I am thrilled to see that this orientation exists in her.

It's an understatement that sometimes your kids surprise you.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Yesterday, I rode Silver's Destiny in a schooling dressage show. It was held at the barn where I am riding and boarding Cinnamon, Saddlebrook Stables, which was wonderful, since I had all my stuff there and didn't have to trailer anywhere, and I already knew most of the people.

Starting the show day off with mimosas and a toast to friends, horses, and our instructor is pretty cool, too.

I rode the Introductory Level tests A and B, and while I was not totally thrilled with my performance, it wasn't bad. I did better earlier in the week in my lessons and practices. I was slightly nervous, but not horribly so, and it was nice to ride in my "home" ring. Easier still, my instructor called the tests for me, so I really didn't have to remember them myself. I had hoped for better than low 60's scores, mostly because I know I am riding a pony with really good skills, and I felt a bit of pressure to at least ride her as well as her owner does, but I just didn't get there this time. One of my very favorite things about dressage, though, is that you actually get a score for your efforts, and while the judge may change at each show you ride in, you can gauge your progress by your test scores. I love me some data. And I always like getting a ribbon or two.

Travis took pictures, which makes me happy, and also makes me sad. I never, ever look in photographs like what I think look like in my own head. Somehow, my own image surprises me every time. "Really?? Do I really look like that??" Of course, event and dressage riders can all agree that the requisite white breeches for showing never do anyone any favors, and especially not the much-bigger-than-a-stick people. And I've had three kids, and I'm well over forty, and that belly pooch is just. not. going. away. But in the pictures, I look too chunky for that pony, even though everyone assures me I am not.

 "Does this pony make my ass look big??" 

I can't focus on the lovely straight line from the bit to my elbow, or my upright, balanced position, I only see all the pudge below my ribcage, and my dancer's turned-out toes, and the boots whose tops are way too wide for my muscular, but hefty, calves.

I can ride her well, I know I do, I trust my instructor and Destiny's owner not to lie to me -- they have no reason to. And there has been an unexpected benefit to the shorter, smaller equine -- my left hip (that has been killing me off and on since last summer) has bothered me hardly at all since I started riding her only eight weeks ago, and even though I have worked hard at lessons and on my position, I have been sore, but not crippled, afterward. A benefit and a relief.

A couple of days ago, I was saying to myself that even though I weigh more than I'd like, I felt strong and capable while riding this horse, I felt like I was getting the job done most of the time, and definitely had improved my balance and my position in the past two months. I can tell -- she's more responsive and smoother to ride, and I'm beginning to have control over aspects of the ride that I didn't before. I tried to convince myself that I preferred strong and slightly bigger,but gets the job done, to thin and incapable, but really I just wish I could still look like this:

The annoying part is I remember how much I hated myself then for not being thin enough. At seventeen years old, 5' 2" and 115 pounds, I thought I was grotesquely fat for a dancer. It was a constant battle, and I don't remember ever thinking I was good enough or thin enough. Ugh, SO much wasted emotional energy over something that was so ridiculous!! I hate that there are still remnants of that thought process left in my brain, almost thirty years later, and I know it's still ridiculous. I'll get over myself, eventually. I love to ride, so I'm certainly not going to stop doing that just because I think I'm a mess. My family thinks I'm beautiful, and that matters quite a lot.

I wish I could go and ride today, but Wren is shooting in an archery tournament this afternoon, and that takes precedence. If I focus at work, I might be able to sneak four rides in this week, which would be fantastic. I know from my test comments yesterday that I have a good bit to work on, and so I will. Bend, rhythm, straightness...the basics.

And I'm shopping for better-fitting white breeches and a black show coat.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Friday, the end of a busy week, and the start of a busy weekend.

I haven't run at all this week, partially because I rode twice, partially because I had a hard time finding time to get it done, and partially because I have been thinking about a well-regarded therapist and department head in our company who ran a half marathon on Sunday, and passed away Monday evening after suffering a major heart attack at the end of the race.

She left her husband and two small children behind. I did not know her well, as she worked in a building a couple of hours from here, and we mostly interacted (when we did) by email. I've read lots of her therapy documentation, though, and she was a good physical therapist. I'm so sorry for her family; I have heard she was an avid runner, trained for this event, and had run track in high school. So it wasn't like she just up and decided to "go the distance", so to speak; she knew what she was doing, as well as any of us who take on a project like that and train on our own. She was younger than me, not even forty. I can't stop thinking about her and the end of her race, which finished, more than likely, with a cluster of emergency personnel frantically trying to restart her heart and get the blood moving to her brain again.

I know all the platitudes that apply here...."you never know when it's your time"....."at least she died doing something she enjoyed"....."there was nothing that could have been done differently"....."sometimes these things just happen"....

None of that is particularly comforting. I don't love to run. I don't want to die doing that. I don't want to die in some horse-related accident, either, even though I do LOVE riding. So I am reconsidering the running these days, particularly in light of the fact that I have been struggling with running in general lately -- pain, fatigue, difficulty getting into a comfortable pace. I have not ever had real trouble breathing, or felt bad in a cardiopulmonary way, while running, but it's the unknown that gets me. What if? What if there is something about me that could be a factor, and I don't know it? I'm sure I'd be fine, but I'm not sure enough to risk it.

And yes, I do know, and realize, that risk is a part of a life well-lived. I voluntarily sit on the backs of 1000+ pound animals and ask them to do things that *I* say they need to do.

And there is another thing....what kind of god loves his people so much that he would deprive some of them of one of them THEY love so much? Come on, my fervent believers, explain this one. And do it without giving me the "God needed her in Heaven more", or "Her time on this earth was done". That's crap. Her time was not done, she had a family to raise and a husband to love, and who loved her, for years to come. Her friends, her colleagues, her extended family....they were not done with her life. Why was she? Is it simply that her biological life was over, as short as it was? Or do we explain this by saying there was a higher purpose of some kind? I'm not buying it. How can that be? Going 'home' to her "reward"? I cannot imagine a greater reward than being able to stay with her family, see her kids grow up, play sports, take Prom pictures, go to graduations, weddings, maybe have grandchildren someday.

The whole thing just sucks. And I have to review some of her therapy documentation today, so I can write an appeal letter for a case she worked on, and I don't want to. But I'm going to, it's my job. Wish she was still working at hers.