An old friend of mine messaged me earlier this week to ask if I knew anything about the death of a mutual acquaintance we knew from college.  Another friend of ours had been in touch with the news of his passing, which she’d seen in our class notes.

This was all news to me.  The friend in question is someone I deliberately cut out of my life about 10 years ago when it became clear to me that he was not going to overcome his mental health issues on my watch.  And that’s all I could do – watch him disintegrate and obsess and transform into someone I didn’t even recognize.

I loved him a little.  Then I became frustrated with his constant need to argue with and antagonize me and others.  Eventually, he stopped leaving the house entirely.  When he came to believe that the NSA had staked out his parents’ house to monitor his activities (especially his Wikipedia edit wars), I knew things were pretty bad.  It was exhausting talking to him and I was exhausted.  So I stopped, periodically wondering if he was maybe doing better.  Maybe someone else was helping him.  Maybe his family.  Maybe a therapist.  Maybe not.

I hunted down that class notes update and discovered that although it was posted this year, he actually died last summer.  Whomever sent in the update waited a whole year.  There’s no information that I could find about his death.  No obituary, no articles.  It’s like he never existed.  I found an old thread on the school’s CS forum with his email and found his FB page (which I’d also blocked), but I didn’t know any of the people who had posted there, and the most recent posts were for his birthday – two or more years ago.  How well did those people know him?  Well enough to know that something was wrong?  I’m hesitant to message any of them and be the bearer of bad news.  But, still I wonder if any of them knows what happened.

The night before I’d heard about any of this, I had a dream about him – not anything that brought back any good memories (I do have some), but one that just emphasized how fucked up things were between us when we stopped talking.  When I stopped talking.  It’s a weird coincidence.  Not related to his actual death, clearly, since he died last year, but to this announcement.  I feel a little haunted by all of it.

I don’t know if there’s any good way to die when you’re still young enough to crawl out of whatever dark pit you’ve been lost in.  I hope he did make it out.  I’m not sure it matters.  It’s tragic if he did and then lost his life, and tragic if he didn’t because he failed to find it.  Maybe not knowing what happened is better.


Dangers of Naps

I fell asleep this afternoon, wrapped in half my comforter to keep the chill off my bare feet and have been waking up every 20 minutes or so without being able to peel myself out of bed. Then the last dream successfully ousted me by being That creepy.


I dream I live in a house that shares its driveway with the property next door. I have been working in my garden most of the morning and there are two little girls visiting the elderly woman who lives beside me. The girls have been rather noisy all morning and I’m looking forward to going inside. They’re watching me and making all kinds of wondering questioning comments about me that I’m not supposed to be able to hear. As I pull open my door, the cat they’ve been playing with slips into my house and takes off running. I worry a little that she’s gone to investigate my rabbits – and she has, but they aren’t scared of her. All the animals are happily romping around together. While my back was turned, however, one of the girls, too, has made her way inside. I usher her out again, telling her now is not the time for visitors. Then, when I’ve closed the door, I’m back to deal with the cat and rabbit circus. They’re all peaceful and I decide I don’t need to do anything immediately, except maybe nap. I lay down on the couch, and the bunnies join me, allowing me to snuggle them close, while the cat jumps up and sprawls out on my back. I can hear the sounds of TV and my house guest quietly moving around in the background. I sleep. When I wake up the first time, I stretch and release the rabbits, who go bounding about their bunny business. The cat on my back stretches, too, and starts kneading with her feet. It’s slightly prickly sharp through the fabric of my shirt and I think it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if someone trimmed her nails. I call out to my friend, staying with me, asking her if she’ll bring me some nail scissors, directing her to the pair in the bathroom. I fall asleep, though, before any materialize. When I awake again, I recall the scissors and call out again. No one comes. I start to move to get up and the cat on my back kneads with her feet again, but with more pressure. Her left paw reaches down to my side and presses rather hard. I fall asleep again. The third time I awaken, I think that it’s strange that neither rabbits nor house guest have appeared. As soon as I start to move, calling their names, the cat on my back presses down. HARD. I feel her paw on my side and the needle she presses into it. There’s a numbed, but aching spot that responds to the pressure and I realize I’m being drugged as my consciousness slips away from me.

Which is when I shoot up out of bed for reals and make sure there are no needles, cats, or other beings keeping me asleep. I am done with you, nap.

Good morning!

It’s 4am and I am wide awake and doing things.  I figure there will be time for naps later, since I took the day off.  Still, thanks body, for refusing to let the patriarchy control your biorhythms!

I think it was the taco dream that woke me up.  I was reading through this book of taco recipes yesterday at work and thinking how good they would be, but talked myself out of Chipotle after work because my last meal there was kind of tasteless and forgettable.  I want delicious fewds!  I fixed something at home instead.  But I now know that unfulfilled taco cravings will wake you up just as surely as repeat performances from their actual ingestion!

In my dream, I realize that the man I am flirting with is not only a talented yoga instructor, but also makes a mean guacamole.  And he’s cute.  And also, I know him already.  And he wants to cook for me.  And he doesn’t mind my garlic breath.  Overwhelmed by this opportunity, I wake up sans yoga instructor, tacos, and guacamole.

Mornings are hard.

Adieu, 2016

I have a new understanding of Dickens’ words from “A Tale of Two Cities.” *

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

After a very focused and intense beginning, everything sort of unraveled in September when I got back from my trip.  I had two really awful intense bouts of illness – unrelated as far as I know, but involving lots of incapacitating abdominal pain.  These were within a few weeks of one another and both were so intensely painful I thought I was going to die.  <– I usually handle illness and pain pretty well, so this is saying something.  What the heck, body?  What is wrong with you?

After recovering from those, I had a few more riding lessons at the therapy barn and realized that it really wasn’t meeting my needs.  While I really like my instructor and have learned a lot from her, I wanted to have more riding time and more independence and horse interaction.  Because of their therapy focus, that just wasn’t possible – everything was very supervised and they didn’t have the flexibility or time to let me groom and tack my own horse or even ride every time I had a lesson (there were only 2 horses that could do walk/trot/canter lessons and the 1 I had been riding regularly was lame for some reason they couldn’t ascertain, so I was doing a lot of groundwork).  If I can’t ride and get my body to remember what it’s supposed to do to communicate with a horse, then I’m not going to make any progress.  I started researching some new places and found another barn that’s as close (or possibly closer) to my house that has a more traditional riding program with more lesson horses and will school me to jump if that’s something I want to get back into.  I met with the trainer/barn manager who gave me a tour and took a couple of lessons and decided to make the switch.

Shortly after that, I learned that the trainer was looking for a couple of people to work at the barn on Sundays.  I thought that might be a good way to pay for my riding lessons (I’ve traded barn chores for lessons in the past), so I signed up to try it out.  My first Sunday (also my last Sunday) I worked with a 15 year old girl who had just started the weekend before and who was trying to show me how to do everything that she had only just learned.  She was doing a good job explaining how things were done, but we were a little slow because it was my first day and her second.  We would have finished more quickly, but boarders started arriving while we were still cleaning stalls and it was really hard to work around them.  We were supposed to be using the four-wheeler to carry out muck buckets, but you can’t drive that down the aisle when there are horses in the cross ties.  So we were molasses slow for the next couple of hours.  Then, when I was leading a horse back to her stall, she brushed up against a trash can and spooked.  Leaping forward she hit me hard with her shoulder and knocked me right off my feet.  I hit a wall and landed hard on my right knee.  She was still freaking out above me and I still had hold of her, so when she lifted her head up, she pulled me back up on my feet.  This was good, since I was no longer on the ground where she could step on me, but also terrifying because it was so effortless for her.  BIG, POWERFUL ANIMAL.  Check.  Also, I wasn’t so sure my legs were going to support me.  I let go of her at this point and she jogged a little ways down the aisle where someone else caught her and brought her back to me.  She was fine after that.  I was not.  Bruised and swollen and hurting all over and it was only noon.  I’d said I’d work mornings, but I ended up staying through the afternoon because there was still so much work left to do and I felt bad leaving the teenager to do it on her own.  I didn’t see any way that she was going to be able to handle it all by herself.  I limped through the rest of the day, and we finished up after 5pm, whereupon I took myself home and discovered after sitting for the 5 minute drive that I could barely put weight on my right leg, let alone walk, when I tried to get out of the car.  So that sucked.  It was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t rest or do much to make it better.  I tried R.est, I.ce, C.ompression, and E.levation (RICE) and some ibuprofen and still couldn’t find any relief.  I was worried that I’d broken something so I had myself checked out at Immediate Care the following day (after having a friend come over and retrieve my crutches from the basement – NOTE TO SELF: Do not store your crutches in the basement as you will not be able to get down the stairs in any graceful way in order to retrieve them when/if you need them).  They didn’t see any obvious fractures on the X-rays they took, but recommended I keep using my crutches for the rest of the week and see how I felt after that.

Unexpected time off from work!  That was right before Thanksgiving.  A few years ago I fractured my elbow on a bike ride (well, a bike Fall) the same week.  Late November is a bad time for me.  I don’t think there’s any supernatural explanation, it’s just that it feels like the last opportunity before Winter Sets In to do a lot of the outdoorsy things I like and then I injure myself.  Adventure!  Anguish!  Discomfort!  December!  December is for healing.  Also unexpected time off from riding.

About barn work – I like working physically hard and I like mucking stalls (I know this might be construed as weird).  It’s satisfying.  I do *not* like dragging 60 lb plastic muck buckets up a hill of horse shit and dumping them.  That’s just silly.  Also, it hurts your back.  Why not put a ramp up to the muck pile, which is already enclosed in a walled concrete structure, and dump a wheelbarrow down into that?  Makes more sense.  That will be my suggestion for the first barn upgrade!  I think the most unhelpful thing that the manager told us was that we needed to “work faster.”  Other than that we received basically no guidance.  We *did* get a 5 minute lesson on how to drive the 4-wheeler.  I let the 15 year old drive.  After watching some more videos of that whole process I might finally feel comfortable attempting it myself, but, you know, I probably won’t need to, since I’m not going to be doing it anytime soon.  Disappointing to have injured myself and be out of action, but also a relief to be able to say, “I’m not going to be able to do these Sundays like I wanted.”  It turns out that I like having ONE day a week where I can do whatever I want and am not committed or beholden to anyone else.  That’s probably worth at least $35.

I’m currently on week 5 of my riding hiatus and my  knee feels mostly sound, but my foot is still sore.  It’s much better than it was, but I’m not entirely sure that it isn’t broken.  Still, if they didn’t see a fracture, maybe it’s minute (my-noot!).  The last time I fractured my foot (Jones fracture, same foot) it took about 6 weeks to heal and the orthopedic doctor just observed it (for about $2000) during that time and made Pronouncements of Doom that made me worry about it ever healing.  It did.  I am hoping it will be completely healed in a few more weeks.  I will return to my riding lessons in another week and I’ve already returned to water classes (which, despite all of the leaping and jumping around we do, aren’t bothering my foot too much).

* * *

I haven’t spent much time *processing* my Iceland trip.  It was wonderful – lots of fun, enjoyed the horses and the riding, made some new friends, wish I could go back.  I don’t know that it was profoundly transformative.  I want more time there to figure out how I feel about Iceland itself and meet more of the people who live there.  Our guides were really interesting people – from England and Germany – and I think that their jobs are pretty amazing.  I sent out a few feelers after I graduated from college, looking into something similar for myself – horse work/guiding – and there was a distantly related cousin who had a ranch out west I might have connected with.  That was the summer I managed our school’s student run barn.  I was the student running the barn.  Barely qualified manager, but I learned a lot, and kept all the horses clean, exercised and fed for 3 months.  AND NO ONE ESCAPED!  Best summer.  The school received a nice donation a few years after that and built a very fancy facility across campus and hired a professional, so I think the program is a lot more posh than it once was.  It was a path not taken.  And now I am OLD and decrepit.  (And would probably not find it nearly as enjoyable now as I would have then!)

Mostly, I think, it was hard to come home and have nothing be different.  There were a lot of projects to catch up on at work, and with my bouts of illness I’d be off for a few days and get back only to be behind again.  It’s very demoralizing to live in constant panic/stress that you’re not going to be able to complete everything.  My supervisors and coworkers are very understanding and supportive, but still, sometimes I just felt overwhelmed.

It was also an unpleasant shock to see our election results.  Really, people?  I am so disappointed in you.  Early on in the “race,” when the parties were still deciding which candidates to back, I felt really hopeful.  Bernie Sanders was a contender and he really inspired me in a way that I have never been inspired by any other politician.  I even donated money to his campaign – unheard of!  So, when he lost, that was disappointing, because, although Hillary Clinton did end up adopting some of his proposals/espousing his ideals, she still comes from that big money/corporate political dynasty background (that needs serious revamping), I didn’t think (along with many others, apparently) that she was going to be the agent of change I was looking for.  And Trump was a joke.  Really, Republicans?  That’s all you’ve got?  And then he wasn’t.  And then it was scary, and now it is terrifying.  So, to find, come that November morning, that there were SO many people who couldn’t see what a bad choice Trump was/would be was a really rude awakening.  Who are these people?  They are some of my family, my neighbors, my friends.  Did they not read the same things I was reading?  Do they not have similar values?  How could they know these things about this man and STILL vote for him?

Since I have only been a passionate and active participant in the last couple of elections (after the embarrassment and horror of George W. Bush I decided it would be prudent to care/vote), I’m not sure if people always feel this way when their candidate loses, or what.  This feels particularly bad, though – like we are on the edge of a knife.  It shouldn’t be happening.  What can we do to fix it?  Will someone just make him go away?  Trump doesn’t even seem to want to be president (if you can judge desire by the wacko things he says in public).  So, how about a do-over?  And shouldn’t there be some sort of option on the ballots to indicate that we have NO confidence in or desire to elect ANY of the candidates available to us?  If Illinois’ government can stall their agreement on and implementation of a state budget for months, years, then SURELY we can take some more time to find a better president.  Maybe one who isn’t going to pander to all of his friends, destroy any goodwill we have toward one another (despite our many, many differences), and bring about the apocalypse through some careless remark.

It has contributed to a sense of unease that I do not really know people (my people, people in general, all the people) or understand their motivations, and they do not know or understand me.  It is bewildering and alienating, and probably the exact way that those in power want us to feel.  Alone and powerless.  But also, increasingly angry.  That’s dangerous, too.  Because it’s energy I/we don’t know what to do with.  I am a fixer and I want to fix it.  Not tomorrow, not a few weeks from tomorrow, but now.  I can’t see a way to do that.  And the people I see as RESPONSIBLE for fixing this aren’t doing enough (or maybe anything?) to fix it.

This is not how I want to spend my energy or my life, and probably why I have avoided news and politics in the past (which are super pleasant and uplifting) and focused my attention on adventure and cute animals.  Remember how I mentioned that my priorities/motivations seem to be misaligned with other people’s?  Here we go again.  I just want to ride my bike, grow things in my garden, raise bees, read and recommend some good books.  I *should* want to make a ton of money, generate a ton of waste, buy all the things, fuck all the bitches, do all the drugs, drink all the alcohol, drive and fast and recklessly in my Escalade, and have a staff of yes-men (and women) catering to my every whim.  I am not of this world.  [I do not know how people maintain the energy, either, to remain constantly outraged.  This is a huge problem on social media – like FB – where I can’t even follow some of my friends’ posts because they are constantly liking, posting, and reposting disturbing things.  Is it helping?  Or is it just spreading misery and making us too exhausted to be truly effective?  THE WORLD IS ENDING!  /begin random rabbit rant which might be loosely tied to this subject in that it goes along with things I don’t want to know: People also like to tell me, when I inform them that I have pet rabbits that they either had one or knew someone that had rabbits who were horribly mangled in some way by family dogs, or wild animals – if kept outside – or cruel people.  WHY WOULD I WANT TO HEAR THIS?  Please stop. /end marginally related rabbit abuse rant

It is immensely irritating that we can’t just trust people to be good and not fuck you over as soon as you turn your back.  That is what we have elected, that is the sort of regime we have been supporting.  Because people with money and power make the world go round.

Even more disturbing is the whole conspiracy theory world that’s come to light – where anyone can believe anything despite evidence to the contrary.  This has always been the case, but it seems to have gotten out of control.  It seems much larger now than the sort of fringe madness that lurked in dark corners before.  So, it no longer matters if you have proof, scientific evidence, research, fact-checking to back up your claims.  Just say things a LOT and believe in them ABSOLUTELY and that is enough.  Dear world, you are so fucked up I don’t even know what to do with you anymore.

I was listening to an episode of “This American Life” the other day, where Australian Australian writer/reporter Eleanor Gordon-Smith interviewed catcallers about the reasons why they accosted women, and then attempted to get them to change their ways (since statistics and personal experience show that MOST women hate these sorts of encounters – they feel uncomfortable and unsafe and they do not enjoy them).  The men she talked with seemed pretty decent, but honestly believed they weren’t doing anything wrong.  Even after Gordon-Smith told them how she felt about catcalling (one of the guys was also slapping – or tapping, as he put it – women’s butts).  They listened to her, but dismissed her feelings and indicated that she was probably an anomaly (a DAMAGED woman who should probably seek therapy for her ISSUES) and that their perception of the situation was more accurate – women like it.  SO wrong.  After being upset by that, I ran across an article in Booklist (book review journal): “Make Them Hear You: Rape Culture & Girls Voices in YA Literature,” by Maggie Reagan (Booklist, December 15, 2016, p. 44)  Reagan described a conversation she was having with a man at a party about rape culture and all of the things she wanted to say to him, but didn’t.

I wanted to say that when I left that party, I’d do so with my keys between my knuckles and the thumb on the call button of my phone.  I wanted to explain that it’s more than that.  It’s the catcalls, the endless dialogue surrounding women’s rights, the interruptions and the condescension, the workplace microaggressions.  Rape culture, I wanted to say, is people like you telling me that my lived experiences are invalid because they don’t match your perception of the world.

This.  So much this.  Women are not necessarily broken, but this world sure is.

I am thinking and writing about all of this as I watch the last of 2016 trickle through the hourglass.  This ending and beginning are pretty arbitrary.  I’m hoping the dread and tired that I feel will be replaced with something more positive, and I’m actively pursuing options to find my optimism and energy.  Remember that bumper sticker I had on my car a few years ago?  “Losing my faith in humanity one person at a time.”  At the time it was just kind of funny, and when a stranger asked me about it and then spontaneously hugged me to restore my faith, it was kind of sweet.  I removed it when it started to deteriorate and figured I was taking some of the negativity out of the universe, but man, THIS YEAR.

Thanks for listening.

*The other day a patron asked for classics suggestions for her 13 year old granddaughter to read/listen to.  Since they were wanting something they could borrow immediately, I took them over to the audiobooks section where we were discussing some options when grandma had a thought.  “What about ‘Tale of Two Cities’?” she asked me.  “There’s no sex in that, right?”  I couldn’t recall.  But would it be appropriate for the 13 year old girl who told me she loved “Divergent” and Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series?  As I recall, it was kind of a downer of a book.  And it’s winter break.  And said 13 year old seems to want to read something fun.  Is “Tale of Two Cities” fun?  I read it in high school, which was 20+ years ago, but in a time where I would read ANYTHING because I wasn’t very particular.  But that’s the kind of reader I was.  My brother, on the other hand, wouldn’t read anything unless he’d personally hand-selected it.  There are far more readers like him than there are readers like me in the world.  So, I suggested that they *try* “Tale of Two Cities,” and then I talked them into “Anne of Green Gables,” too, and a couple of other things, and they said they’d be back for more recommendations.  I was relating all of this to my coworker who was also trying to come up with suggestions and when I said I pretty much enjoyed everything I read back in high school (novelwise) she narrowed her eyes and asked, “Well, what about Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness?'”  Oh.  Well.  No.  Not that.  That was awful.  But maybe I read that in college.

Midwest Horse Fair

I took a trip up to the Midwest Horse Fair (my first time attending) to see my riding instructor’s trick riding drill team perform.  She rides with the Midwest Renegades.  Wow is all I can say about trick  riding.  Most people would be happy if they stayed in the saddle, but the trick riders have all kinds of fancy moves that have them dangling from special straps, doing shoulder stands off the saddle, and vaulting off and back on their horses WHILE GALLOPING in patterns.

They weren’t performing until later in the day, so I was able to check out a bunch of other sessions that were going on around the Fair.  I caught most of Jessica Blair/Madison Macdonald’s session on trick riding, which was nice since I know next to nothing about trick riding and they demonstrated basics and talked about how it’s usually done.  They also had 10-year old Jess with them whose trick riding skills were pretty amazing already and she and her gypsy pony flew around the arena.  I think 10 is actually a better time to learn some of those skills – while you are still small, light, and flexible.  Impressive.  One of the things they mentioned was training their horses to run a pattern so that they could focus on their tricks and safety rather than horse control.  And trick riders generally perform one person at a time.  This was not at all true for the Renegades who performed with 10 or 12 (I was so busy being amazed I forgot to count) women on horseback who had CHOREOGRAPHY of their horses to orchestrate as well as any tricks they were performing.  And they encouraged lots of cheering and clapping as they rode around.  Their horses must be bomb proof.

I also saw Stacey Westfall do a training session with a severely uptight horse who could not relax.  He was so anxious and stiff, you could just feel nervous energy radiating off of him.  Stacey spent a long time just irritating him into paying attention to her, which is what I do to my rabbits, so I can now say this is a valid “training method.”  I’m not sure why he was so uptight – his owner/rider said he is ALWAYS like this.  He was somewhat calmer after Stacey worked with him for awhile – getting him to walk around a terrifying hula hoop, and having him lunge in circles around her to wear off some of that energy.  He seemed to really want to please her, but was super terrified of not giving her the right answer, or maybe it was more that he just dreaded the whole exercise completely and couldn’t wait for it to be over.  But, Stacey showed that underneath some of that stiffness and poor emotional control was a very smart horse who had the potential to be very trainable, but his owner is going to have to do some hard work getting him to trust her and be comfortable with both her and in his own skin.

I caught part of Guy Mclean’s (Australian equine entertainer/trainer/bush poet!) work with a young horse who had never been worked or ridden before.  He spent an hour getting the young horse comfortable with saddle and bridle and doing some groundwork with him to establish trust and boundaries – a lot of this involves lunging the horse and using body language and touch to get him to move in certain ways (away, toward, in circles, at different gaits).  It’s a warm up of sorts for the things he intends to ask of the horse when he gets into the saddle.  Really fascinating to watch and Guy has a great sense of humor and attitude – he manages to be present for the horse and the audience at the same time in a calm and relaxed way.  It’s no wonder that his horses love and trust him.  I got to see his more performance-based session with his team of horses where he rides a “stock” horse and the other 4 are “at liberty” without any saddles, bridles, or other means of controlling them.  Guy uses his body language, a long whip (which he only uses to touch them, not to hit or strike), and his mount to get them to line up and run with him.  He’s also able to get individuals to sit and lay down and remain still while he has his mount sidle sideways over them.  It’s some pretty amazing control.  He WAS able to ride for a few minutes at the end of the hour and nothing terrifying happened.  The horse he’d been training seemed a little nervous about this new thing, but accepted Guy so quickly.  The continued training of this young horse will be featured in 2 other sessions Guy is doing this weekend.  One of the things I really liked about Guy was how he views the horses he works with – they are his family.  He said he had always loved horses, but when he considered careers he found he preferred the entertainment circuit (even though he didn’t really have the showman personality) because it meant that he got to keep all the horses he trained with him and continue to love them as family.  Training other people’s horses meant he had to give them up eventually.

There were/are a bunch of other big names in the horse world on the schedule for this weekend.  I probably should have done more research beforehand!  But I really enjoyed the sessions I mentioned above.  Also, it was interesting to watch other people ride and see what corrections their instructors gave them (during some of the clinics) and realize that they have a lot of the same problems I do, and know that my riding isn’t completely broken.  Cuz, you know, sometimes I wonder.



When cats attack

Forgot to mention:

During my riding lesson last week we were attacked by one of the barn cats as we were trotting around the arena.  On our first pass, she just rolled around in the sand by the rail.  And on the next pass, where I decided to ignore her so Copenhagen wouldn’t freak out, she leapt out at us.  I missed it entirely, and Copenhagen (good boy!) followed my lead.  Our instructor decided that was Enough, however, and removed said cat from the barn.  Crazy cat.


Because I have all kinds of events I have to schedule for work and I have to do this months out for our newsletter, I end up scheduling things like vacation days at the same time because I want to be sure that I get/take some in the midst of all the craziness that can be going on.  When things are planned, then, I have a tendency to forget about them until they are upon me.  Oh, do I have three days off this week?  Yes, yes I do.  I am never without Things to do, though, so it’s not like they will be squandered.

Last week was kind of a mess (a beautiful mess) because I had extra time to take off for Easter and for the conference I went to this past weekend.  Tuesday was particularly lovely.  I had time for a bike ride, a nap, and then at work my first commitment of the day (at 2:30 pm, when I went in) was a meditation class (which I’d forgotten about).  So, yeah, go to work, meditate, order some books, oh, it’s 5 already?, go to water aerobics, home.  That was super.  I expect these sorts of days happen ALL THE TIME for people who regularly work part-time.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t pay the bills.

Wednesday was good, too.  Riding lesson.  We put me in a western saddle because the shape of the saddle encourages you to hold your legs in a certain way (turn your thighs out) and we are trying to break me of of my hunter-jumper habits.  Western saddles are bigger and heavier and the stirrups make your toes stick out (if you want to keep your feet in them), and there’s the big horn on the saddle (for roping cattle), and the back of the saddle is higher.  Still, sitting on it, I didn’t really *feel* a big difference.  “This is a thing I am sitting on.”  But, as we trotted around the arena it was easier to find my center and sit the trot without bouncing all over Copenhagen’s back.  Shockingly comfortable, even.  My instructor was going to give me a break, “You must be tired,” but I said no – I wanted to keep on going because my body was finally GETTING IT, and I wasn’t tired at all.  We tried this with and without stirrups.  Because I’m so accustomed to turning my toes IN (this is an English riding style thing – heels down, toes in – that pretty much gets drilled into you), I couldn’t keep my feet in the stirrups anyway, so dropping them was no problem.  And I didn’t feel like I was going to slide or fall off, either.

I’ve been doing a lot of bouncing on my exercise ball while I’m at home to figure out where my center is and remind myself not to tense up (isn’t it funny that when you focus on some part of your body to tell it to do something, you automatically tense up/stop breathing/etc. so that you can pay better attention to it?  All of this before you’re able to say RELAX, body part!), and to move my hips and knees and keep my ankles loose and flexible, and my lower back ready to absorb some of the impact of the bouncing…  There’s a lot to remember.  And some day my body will remember it and I won’t have to think about it so consciously.  It used to know.  I wish (over and over again), that I had more horse time so that I could figure it out faster.  This is just something that takes practice.

I’m remembering, too, how much I love riding and being around horses and other horse-loving people.  Why haven’t I done more of this?  It’s not an inexpensive hobby.  And, if you want more horse time, eventually you get your own horse to work with/on, or you pay to lease time on someone else’s horse (plus there’s the cost of lessons on top of that, and boarding if you own your own horse).  When I was a kid, we were able to afford riding lessons at summer camp, but I was either told (or assumed) that we couldn’t swing the cost financially on a regular basis.  When I rode in college, we had a student-run barn, and I could pay for lessons/horse time by working at the barn (mucking stalls, feeding, etc.).  This is something I would do now, and may look into when I’m back from my Adventures abroad.  Because I think I’m still going to want to ride.  And for more than just half an hour every other week.

I could feel whenever I got my seat right – I stopped bouncing, felt relaxed.  And it involved sitting back into my butt more, which Copenhagen interpreted as a signal to walk.  Argh.  Sorry, horse.  I don’t mean to send you mixed messages.  I will try to get my body under control.  He was in nap mode anyway, and after asking him to trot with little response from him, we had to get out some carrot stick (lunge whip) encouragement.  A little snapping of that got his attention and we soon had a very smart, energetic trot to play with.  Good lesson.  Jackie was happy with the way the saddle helped me assume the proper position, so I expect I’ll see more of it in the future.  We also talked about riding with the bareback pad, which helps you feel how the horse moves.  I’m open to all of it.

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The conference was good – informative sessions that have seeded a lot of ideas (I don’t think any of the ones I attended were duds).  Too much sitting for sure – there was a clogging convention at the same venue, and I was tempted to sneak into some of their classes to change things up.  My coworker ended up attending, too, at the last minute, and offered to do the driving.  While there are many Good things about traveling with someone, I’d already gotten into the flying-solo mindset…so, my initial internal response was more of a lukewarm “yay?”  And, instead of catching up on my audiobook queue, we ended up talking most of the time (which, admittedly, WAS really interesting, because I got to know my traveling companion better, but at the same time, when I was super tired, I still didn’t feel comfortable enough to say, “I just don’t have any more energy,” or as my brother would have stated, “I have nothing more to say to you” – even though I DID tell that story on our trip).  I did not fall asleep like my brother would have done, either.

I brought 2 books with me, and only cracked one of them.  I mentioned a love of HGTV, which my coworker shares, so when we got back from a very nice dinner at Medici (we split the spinach lasagna AND some fish tacos because we wanted to try all the things and not just one each), we had about 2-3 hours of home improvement and phone time interspersed with our own running commentary.

I met another beekeeping librarian while I was there.  I forgot to bring my notepad from work, so I grabbed one from home that happened to have bees all over it and when I sat down next to her, she squeeed and told me she was a beekeeper, and then it was bees, bees, bees (and more bees) until we got started for real.  [Aside: I haven’t been to any of my bee clubs meetings yet so far this year, but our group seems to be a lot of older, crustier guys who have Definite Ideas (ok, every single individual beekeeper has definite ideas about how to keep their bees) about how you’re supposed to keep bees, and they don’t always mesh up well with how I’m managing my own hives.  But it’s super cool to meet another female beekeeper of roughly the same age who keeps roughly the same amount of bees and has similar principles.]

Did not sleep well.  Did not get a proper breakfast.  Put me in a bit of a mood for the second day.  RARGH.  <– This is how I was out of patience and energy by 3pm.  Fortunately, we were both ready to wrap things up and get home a little earlier.  (We missed the author panel.)  The northern climes welcomed us back with gusty winds and freak snow storms.  Thanks?  Took a wrong turn off the highway when we were nearly home.  I wasn’t even paying attention at that point because we were ALMOST THERE!  And M. turned to me and said, “Did I just go the wrong way?”  I looked around and answered, “Yes, yes you did.”  And then her phone rang and her husband also pointed out that we were traveling in the wrong direction.  Because he was spying on us.  Being “CREEPY,” as she and her daughters put it.  Still, that enabled us to stop, grab the snack bag (which was full of chocolate chip cookies and Doritos), and reorient.  And about 20 minutes later I did finally make it home to all of my loving (and demanding) lagomorphs.  Hello, Bunnies!

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I may or may not get around to constructing all of those raised beds I want to make.  It’s cold again today, and I frittered all of yesterday on Being Outside on my bike and on foot in the wilds.  Oh my sweet corn the WIND.  As usual I didn’t notice just how strong it was until I turned around at my halfway point, and then much of the way back was directly into the wind, so while I’d been achieving 20mph speeds on the way out (freakin’ fantastic!), my averages on the way back were much slower (and that much harder) with the wind.  Plus, no one could hear me yelling that I was coming up on their left, so that made for a few scary moments where people were leaping out of my way.  Excitement!  Still, my overall average was ~13mph, which is decent.  Everyone was out with me yesterday afternoon.  I think we must all be ready for spring to really feel like spring.  30 degrees again today and I’m contemplating a hike somewhere.  I bet I get whatever place I choose to myself, since it’s all gloom and doom out there.  Maybe I will pick up some nails/screws for my woodworking project while I am out!  (That’ll help me feel accomplished.)