This will be a super short review. The next prompt was back to the mother and followed on the tail of two really good reads.
A book from a non human perspective: White Bone by Barbara Gowdy
I’ll be upfront: I only made it through the first 50 or so pages. Then I gave up, so I really can’t give a full synopsis. Here is what I gathered:
Mud was born under extreme circumstances to the M elephant herd. Her mother was bit by a poisonous snake during labor and fell on top of Mud in her death. The other elephants in the herd attempted to free Mud from under her mother’s body, but were unable to do so and abandoned her to her fate. She managed to not only survive, but escape as well and was adopted by another herd, the S herd.
Her early years were marked by the worst drought to hit Africa in 65 years along with the presence of humans intent on slaughter. Rumors begin to fly of a safe place where humans aide the animal instead of hunt them.
That is the farthest I got, but my mom actually finished it and informed my that the book only goes downhill from there.
The book is told from the elephant’s perspective and as such is an interesting concept. As a general rule, I avoid all animal books since they historically all end poorly and from what I gathered, this one is no exception.
What was so wrong with it?
In my opinion, any book written in a way that not only requires a 3 page glossary of made up terms to start, but also at least one very lengthy footnote per page to explain made up concepts, is just written poorly. I get the creativity in the book, but the author made up so much stuff that it was impossible to keep up. Having to take a pause to read a paragraph long foot note to explain the concept of the Great She Elephant and their theory on the afterlife is cumbersome and detracts from fully engrossing yourself into the narrative and this occurred on every single page for the first 50 I made it through. By the end of that, I was so tired of reading things that made no sense that I cashed it all in and stopped.
I’m not sure what her full intent of the novel was. I’d guess it was about the cruelty of humans and the ivory trade, but due to the overly intricate invented elephant society, that was completely lost. In fact, she made the characters so unlikable in personality and the narrative a constant onslaught of misery that I found myself not really caring if they managed to survive or not.
Three years ago I made the incredibly rash decision to quit my high paying, pretty easy job and start my own practice for a 40% pay cut, more stress and longer hours. That was smart. In my defense, not only do I come from a long line of people unable to work well with/for others, but my old boss was stealing from me and making my life emotionally and mentally hell. It was quit or have a stroke at age 32.
The going was really rough for a long time and even now that things have settled a bit and my schedule is staying fuller, there is always, always something to worry about. I’ve learned a ton though in the process and thought I would share some insights.
If you want to work for yourself to work less hours, you’ll be bitterly disappointed, at least in the early years. When you are your own boss there is no such thing as paid vacation or sick days. You either work and make money or you stay home and go broke. At my old job I took two weeks vacation and one week for continuing education every year. In the three years I’ve been open I managed to take 3 long weekends and 4 full days off in a row total and that was for a work conference. If I’m not there, I’m not making money. So I work.
Sick days don’t exist. To expand on the above, nobody is paying you to curl up on the couch and feel sorry for yourself. You go to work. I’ve taken one sick day in three years and that was when I was vomiting non stop.
There will always be more work to do. At the end of the day your pile of stuff to do will be ever present. This really got to me early on. I needed to be done with everything, everyday. It isn’t possible. You have into learn to be ok with putting things off until tomorrow then bumping it again when a new top priority item comes up.
You have to learn to leave work at work. As with the above, it is really easy to never stop working. With so much to always do, it can be hard to turn it off. You have to force yourself to clock out or you will burn out.
You have to learn to sell yourself. I know, you are amazing at what you do. But here’s the thing. Nobody else knows that. Not yet. Get prepared to sell yourself and your skills all day every day. Eventually your work will speak for itself, but in the beginning you are a nobody. One of the best pieces of advise I go twas to not hang the shingle and expect the phone to ring. I spent every Friday for months taking bagels around to referral sources and introducing myself. It was hard to do, but it got me business.
Stay true to yourself. Chasing easy money is very tempting when you are broke, but trust me, you will regret it later. Stick to your own morals and beliefs. People will trust you better when they know where you stand, so don’t be afraid to take that stance. It may turn some people away in the beginning, but the long term will pay off.
Always be kind. But stay firm. In business, it never pays to be mean. People talk and they are far more likely to complain or bad mouth you than praise, so be careful. You are more than allowed to fire someone from your business, but do it nicely and make sure it is worth it to not only lose that person, but also their entire social circle. Likewise, the customer is not always right, sometimes they are just trying to rip you off. Stay positive, don’t get dragged into a fight, but also stay firm and don’t get taken advantage of.
Be prepared to go broke, make some money and go broke again. Starting your own business is a risk and hopefully it plays out well for you. In the beginning though, you will go broke. It will seem like the worst idea on the planet and you will question your sanity. Stick with it, make changes as needed and hang tight. If you put your all into it, have something decent to offer and work hard it will pay off in the long run.
You have to have long term goals. In the beginning, just staying around long enough to pay your bills seems a hard enough task, however, if you don’t make long term plans you will burn out quickly. Its very stressful to always worry about paying the bills and getting more clients, so take time to envision what 3 years will look like, 5 years, 10 years.
Don’t forget to enjoy it. Its hard work. You work nearly non stop and even when you are at home you are thinking about work. I get it. But you started this business for a reason, so enjoy the ride. Celebrate little victories along the way.
Two weekends stand between me and the first horse show I have ever entered (I don’t count endurance rides as shows). As far as training preparation, we are where we are. I have one more lesson scheduled to fine tune some things and then that is that. We will enter at A, give it our best shot and see what happens.
Gear-wise I’m pretty good I believe. I ordered a 46″ jump girth from Riding Warehouse and then saw a nice white polo for only $30 so that ended up in my cart as well. In fact, I ordered a small and medium so I could just return the one that didn’t fit. The only thing left is to call the venue and see if my Road ID band is sufficient or if I need a medical armband.
I know it is “just” (wow do I hate that word) a schooling CT at the amoeba level and that it is low key and meant for people just like me who haven’t got a clue. However, I believe in dressing for success or as some say “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” My wardrobe is limited by my budget, so I will be in my field boots, white breeches for dressage and tan for jumping, black gloves, my black tipperary helmet and white polo shirt. Probably no belt unless I manage to find one between now and then that doesn’t cost my left kidney (seriously, why is a strip of leather 28″ long $50??)
What I can do though is spruce the mare up. I’m just not sure what all that really entails. She will get a bath full of shampoo and conditioner the day before we leave for the show (no clue as of right now when that is, depends on ride times) and will get her usual thorough grooming right before we tack up. She will be shiny and clean.
I am not 100% sure what to do about her mane. It is long and luxurious and I plan to keep it that way. No roaching, trimming or pulling for one show. She needs that mane for her every day, live outside life. Running braid? It looks easy enough to youtube and figure out but looks a bit tacky to me. Can you do button braids with a full mane? Will they look ok or just like super big gremlin fur balls down her neck? Suggestions?
Her tail is long and I do plan to cut that straight and shorter than touching the ground as it is now. Do I have to dye it? I’ve seen a lot of DIY tail dye posts on blogs. Is that needed? Do I have to cut around her butt? She is pretty bushy up there. I don’t like it when it is trimmed too much, but it would probably be better for her not to have a butt-stashe going on, right?
Her feathers, ear hair and whiskers are staying. I doubt I’ll get all the wax out of her ears as she hates her ears being messed with, but I will try to tidy them up and she will be in a bonnet so that should limit her exposure.
Anything I am missing? Do I need to learn how to do a quarter mark? I want her to look presentable and not have our turn out make a bad first impression.
The local YMCA waived the registration fee back in January and offered a 20% discount if you signed up with a friend or family member who does not live with you. That made the price $48/month and that was hard to pass up and certainly way below the price of any specialty gym in town.
First 100F day of the year!!!
In February and March I speed dated. Each time I went I joined a different class. My goal was to figure out where my weaknesses were (my entire body as it turned out) and what classes were both enjoyable and provided results. I didn’t make it to every class they offered, but I did make it to every class they offered during the time I could go: after 6pm.
Now I have my two favorites that I go to every week plus a couple of back ups in case I either can’t make one of my days or I’m not feeling it that day. It’s been working great for me and I absolutely love the two classes I do regularly.
Hubby got me a saddle stand for Mother’s Day. The top two tiers swivel and have a bar for saddle pads. This was really needed as we only have 2 saddle racks in the trailer and 4 saddles. There are also bridle hooks, so I can start moving some of those out too.
So what have I tried?
Cycle/Spin: this was the first class I really wanted to do and was the first class I swore I’d never do again. The work out is great for both my legs and cardiovascular system and I am sure it would greatly benefit my riding. However my lady bits hurt for 10-14 days after and there is nothing worth that. I talked extensively to a good friend who teaches spin 4 days a week and she told me that none of the padded shorts or seats work and I’d have to build up a callus. Sorry but I have no reason to want a callus there. Next!
Zumba/Cardiodance: I’m lumping these together because I say no difference in the two classes. I wanted to like them so bad. What’s better than dancing your way to being fit? Eating pizza, but I digress. It just wasn’t a good fit for me. The dancing was fun although frustrating when I had no clue what was going on, but my issue was that I never got my heart rate up. Even when I did manage to, by adding jumps and squats as the like to the dance, by the time it got there the song ended. I saw zero benefit so it was out. Next!
Water aerobics: Being the youngest in attendance by a solid 40 years was my first red flag. The water was frigid and stayed that way. The work out was minimal and honestly I would have been better off swimming laps. Next!
Group weights: to be fair to this class, I tried it after I found my favorites, so it had pretty big shoes to fill. We used dumbbells and for the first time in my work out history, I got bored. Like stare at the clock the entire time bored. I went up in weight but the exercises were just not my thing. Next!
Glutes and Guts: I liked this class. 30 minutes of hard hitting legs, butt and core. It was hard. It was fast. It was at 5:40 and extremely stressful to try to get to. If I happen to get out of work a bit early I would do it, but I generally can’t get to the Y much before 6.
Kettle bells with D: This was a so so class. Hard yes, but we only did 8 exercises in the hour and I left feeling like I didn’t do enough. Mostly arms and some squats thrown in. No cardio work.
Kettle bells with M: this tiny little woman kicked my butt. I loved this class and it was in my rotation until I found another I liked better. It is in my solid back up list. This class does something in never heard of before: tibotta. It’s 8 sets of 2 exercises with 8 reps. One exercise is cardio, the other strength. Example: 8 bicep curls with the kettle bell followed by 8 mountain climbers and then repeat until you’ve done it 8 times. Each set is harder than the last. I always left sweaty and out of breath. Too bad it runs at the same time as my all time favorite.
Yoga Flow: the Y offers 6 different styles of Yoga, but only one during my times. I love yoga and this one is a slow stretch and relax class. It always makes my body feel loose and stress free. I attend when I’m just not up for the other classes or when it’s my time of the month and there is no way I’m working cardio.
We borrowed a tractor and bush hog from a friend and are clearing the back acres of over grown pasture. Landlady claims there are only 8 acres back there, but there is no way. I bet it is more like 16.
The two best classes for me?
Body Combat: hands down my favorite and I go every Tuesday baring something getting in the way. A mix of kickboxing and core strengthening this class kicks my butt every week and leaves me sore for days. Each time I think I have beaten it, it hits me back even harder. We punch, we kick, we jump, my heart feels like it is going to beat out of my chest and I’m breathing harder than I ever did running. We work on combat moves: hooks, upper cuts, jabs, crosses. Not only is it a great work out, but it is my weekly stress relief. Love, love, love.
Group Rip: this is my Thursday class. It is pure strength training relying on high reps and low weight. I want to tone but not get big muscles so this is perfect. We do 120-145 reps for each muscle group with both a bar and plates and dumb bells. My entire body shakes like jello by the end.
The combination of intense cardio on Tuesday and strength training Thursday is working out really well for me right now. I look forward to both days and my body feels stronger and leaner than before. I know it has helped my rising quit a bit. I only ride 1-2 days a week and should be sore or feel weak with so little saddle time, but I don’t. I feel great. I
For some reason I think that if I spread out the purchases over several weeks it won’t seem so bad. Doesn’t make a lot of sense since all the money comes from the same source, but anything that helps this inherently cheap person spend money without having a stroke is good.
The list of things I needed to get was pretty extensive. I tried to do the internet used tack route, but I got burnt and wasted money and have been a bit hesitant to try again. Instead I’ve been trying to go cheap but new with the idea to upgrade in the future.
So far I’ve got:
Synthetic tall field boots: I actually really love these. They fit me really well and after two rides and two days wearing them around the house they no longer hurt anywhere. I do find it a bit harder to sink my heel down in them as they are still a bit stiff but I’m getting used to it. $68
Black with white padding cob sized, unknown brand bridle with reins. I had to creat a new hole in the cheek piece but otherwise it fits Gem well. I’d love to replace the reins and brow band at some point. $40
Dark brown stirrup leathers. I grabbed these last minute at the tack store and didn’t look at the price tag. If I had, I wouldn’t have bought them. I’m glad I did though. The are wonderful: soft, flexible and padded. They will be pulling double duty on both saddles for now. $70.
White all purpose pad with black trim. This was a difficult purchase for me. White pads are boring and I didn’t have a lot of selection in person and didn’t want to get anything online that I was not familiar with. I ended up just getting the cheapest one I could that had some nice padding and trim. $54
Noble Outfitters black gloves. Personally I hate riding in gloves unless it is extremely cold out. I tried on some Roekels which were lovely but too pricey. These gloves are just ok. They fit my hand well but I wish they came over my wrists a bit lower and I’m just meh about them. The price was right though and since I plan to only wear them during a show and only have one show on my summer schedule, they will suffice. $22.
Breeches. Ah. Nearly as bad as girth shopping and twice as bad as jeans. Trouble is that I am in between sizes and that just makes the fit hard. I finally got a pair of Irideon Hampton tights with knee patches and a sock bottom and they fit pretty well. They are a bit looser than my Irideon Synergy and Issential tights (all three are size medium) but generally fit very well and are comfortable. $79
So far my outlay is $333. I don’t think that is terrible given everything I have purchased. I could have gone a bit cheaper on the leathers and pad but I adore the leathers and think Gem will appreciate a bit of padding between the saddle and her back.
Jump girth. Heaven help me if the 46″ doesn’t fit. The tack store was out of that size so I need to go online and order one. Soon.
A white polo shirt. I’m trying my best to avoid buying a real show shirt because a) they are entirely too expensive and b) I refuse to buy anything that is see through and every white show shirt I have come across has been completely see through. Not happening.
Not too shabby and hopefully I can snag these two items this week. Then I should be all set!
For Mother’s Day I only wanted one thing: to trailer to the equestrian park and practice my dressage test. Dusty was all for it and we ended up bringing Pete along too.
I had two goals for this ride:
Practice my warm up
Run through the test and see what we still need to focus on
If endurance only taught Gem one thing it would be how to travel. She unloads and immediately gets started eating and relaxing and doesn’t fidget while I tack her up. After a quick moment to get her dressed, we wandered up to the dressage arena to get started.
It has been extremely wet down here this spring. The puddles made for good practice getting Gem to ignore everything but me and the work at hand. Also, I was wishing there was a small dressage court to practice in, but we made do in the large one.
For goal #1, I had a plan of action: work on a million halts to get her understanding that I really do want her to stop moving until otherwise instructed and then work on rhythm. It can be a little frustrating riding Gem at times when she seesaws between over reactive to the smallest leg aide to sluggish and needing a dressage whip. Each ride is different, but with enough warm up time, I can get her moving in a much more steady manner.
She was skeptical as to what I had planned and I believe she was pleasantly surprised that all we did was halt, walk and trot.
I got to work on halting first and began down the long sides asking her to halt at each letter which helped give me a visual as to where we were and how long it took to get her halted properly. She was really responsive on Sunday and it didn’t take very long to get her stopped exactly where I wanted with less and less rein. So much better than any prior ride!
Then I moved her out to the quarter and center lines and that wasn’t so great. She still halted, but it was really hard to keep her square and not shove her butt around. A continued work in progress.
Once we had done a dozen or two walk-halt-salute-walk transitions I asked her to trot. Mare wasn’t in the mood to work any harder than she had to and began in a lovely western pleasure jog. It took several demands on my part to get her moving forward and then she began to get racy and braced. No Gem, that is not the correct answer either. Tone it down. Eventually she settled into a decent, although still lacking much of a spark, working trot.
Having found a rhythm I could work with, I began to fiddle with bend. Neither of us are particularly good at bending although going right is coming along nicely. My main focus in the circles was shape, size and consistency which are all things I can control to gain points on the test. I’m not naive enough to think I will fix our bending issues in the next two weeks, so my focus is more on what I can control: shape and size.
After that is was a run through Intro B. The first time through was pretty nice. Gem was relaxed and played along with my requests and I rode decently enough. I found that it really helped to speak out loud to myself (not something I can do during the actual test): start looking ahead, sit up taller, ask now for walk, turn your whole body etc… It made me quit focusing on the movements so much and just ride my horse the way she needed to be ridden.
Dusty wandered over at that point and I asked him to grab a video as we ran through it again. I immediately wished that I had him secretly doing it the first time because as soon as I knew he was videoing, I got tense and began to ride like crap. Sigh.
For her part, Gem began to anticipate what was coming and tried to bulldoze through me. Me being tense and braced through my lower leg didn’t help matters at all, but I was a bit frustrated that she couldn’t just do the thing since she had just done the thing and did it well enough. Apparently, she figured we could be done a lot quicker if she just raced through it and she knew better than I did.
If you feel like watching paint dry isn’t boring enough, you can watch me ride Intro B like complete crap for just over 3 minutes below. Its riveting stuff for sure. There is a lot to pick on although I’d be happy if I could just relax my upper body and release those elbows. This is just suck a different picture than pre lessons it is almost unreal.
After that we were done. Gem tried hard for me and was such a good girl overall. Light years from where we were before and given how infrequently I ride (1-2 times a week) our improvement to date has been pretty awesome. I really wish I had a before video to show, but it was so ugly I didn’t want proof of it. The mere fact that we haven’t gotten in a real argument in months is testament enough.
Wyatt jumped on Gem then for a few circuits around the arena and afterward it was time for Pete to have some fun.
Pete hasn’t been ridden off the farm in three months, before that it was about 18 months. He walked right onto the trailer as if he did this weekly. He is such a good boy.
Dusty mounted and they walked off no big deal. If I hadn’t ridden Gem for that long and took her someplace new she would be a freak. Different horse, but annoying nonetheless.
Dusty headed up to the jump arena and I dropped the rails as low as they would go. I was surprised to find that the lowest is 2′ which means that the vertical I did last week was 2′! Not a major deal to some but a big huge deal to me!! It didn’t even look big at all. Hopefully that means that the 18″ cross rails at the show will look tiny.
I missed their warm up due to playing with Wyatt but did manage to catch them jumping. Pete adores jumping. It is his calling in life.
I tried to convince Dusty to sign Pete up for the jumping tests at the show. They are only $25 a round and I figured they could do one or two but Dusty isn’t interested. Mostly because he owns even less show appropriate gear than I do and has no interest and buying any.
We left the equestrian park with two very good and happy horses and it was the perfect way to spend Mothers Day.
This next prompt was for a genre I had never even heard of. I happened to be at the library dropping off my last book and decided to ask the librarian what it was and for a good recommendation. As it turned it, this genre was the young lady’s favorite and she gave me a good suggestion for my first foray into it.
A steampunk novel: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Ezekiel Wilkes is a 15 year old boy with questions. Questions his mother, Briar Wilkes, refuses to answer. They live in the Outskirts, a muddy and poverty stricken shamble of houses bordering a two mile high, seamless wall that was built to contain a toxic yellow gas that rots everything it touches including human flesh. Zeke believes that inside that wall are his answers and one morning he slips through a sewer drain and enters what was once the bustling and wealthy city of Seattle, Washington in search of his mother’s old house.
When his mother finds him missing, she needs to find a way into the city to get him back and will stop at nothing to do so.
What follows next is an adventure involving zombies, desperate souls trying to hold onto their crumbling past, power hungry men taking advantage where they can, and the struggles of a mother trying to save her son from a past she is trying to hide.
Going into this prompt, I was a bit worried. The description I was told of the genre, victorian era sci fi, wasn’t all that appealing, however, once the book got going I found myself deeply interested and not wanting to put it back down.
The time period is the mid 1800s and I found it really interesting that the author explains herself in the back of the book because she veered from accurate history to make her plot make sense. In this version, Seattle is bustling due to the influx of Klondike gold and many future buildings and streets are already in place. I found this odd since the entire book relies on the suspension of reality: the premise is based on a toxic gas leaking from the earth that turns people into zombies. Not being familiar with the genre, I am uncertain as to if it in general follows as closely to the real world as a rule.
While the book at first glance is about fighting zombies and opportunistic, power hungry men, at closer inspection the themes that run through it are much deeper.
When the wall went up some people decided to stay behind and turned the rotting city back into their home. They built tunnels to avoid the zombies, found a way to make beer out of the toxic gas and learned how to both filter the air and make sealed off clean rooms. The life they lead is far from perfect, but as they put it it is a life of freedom. It brings to light the ideas of home and what makes a good life.
The other major theme is that of protection. Briar has strived to protect her son from their mutual past, but in doing so she sent him off in search of answers in the one place she didn’t want to him go. In begs the reader to ask how far one should go to shield others from a past you couldn’t control.
The characters themselves are likable and realistic and the more you learn the more you want to know about each one. The ending is left open which is my least favorite, but I suppose it leaves room for interpretation.
It was a really good book and makes me want to add this genre to my list of favorites.