2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #12

My mom should host a book club. Her picks are the best and this one has topped my list of the favorite I have read in this challenge so far.

A book written by or about someone with a disability – Still Alice by Lisa Genova

At 52 years old, Alice has a great life, solid career and a wonderful, if slightly distant, family. She has tenure as a Pscyhology professor at Harvard and travels the world speaking at conferences. Her husband, John, is cancer researcher on the brink of a breakthrough. Everything is going as planned.

Until the day she gets lost going home and doesn’t recognize anything on a familiar street. Soon after she notices that she can’t remember certain words, has difficulty deciphering her own to do list and forgets to go teach classes. When she forgets to board a plane to head to a major conference, she knows she needs to see someone. She was not prepared for the answer though: early onset Alzheimer’s.

The book follows her progression through the disease. Her family rallies around her, handling it the best they each can in their own way.


I adored this book and cried through most of the second half of it which is very rare for me. Told through Alice’s perspective, you get a sense of the losses she suffers, not only in her memories, but in her independence and her sense of self. It is a powerful book with a powerful message.

There are a lot of questions raised through out this book that make you pause and think. In the early stages, Alice plans her own suicide and leaves her future self a daily test and directions in case she fails her test. She does not want to be a burden to her family in the future as a young, but mentally lost dependent.

She has a genetically dominant form of the disease and has three children, each with a 50% chance of having it. Do they want to know? Would you? Her daughter wants children. Should she continue trying to get pregnant knowing that she may pass this on?

Reading how each of her family members treat her is eye opening as well. Some ignore it and plod on with their own lives without wanting to make any sacrifices because “she won’t remember me anyway”. Others try to do everything for her, taking away what little independence she has left. And too few work with her within her abilities and recognize that she still is a person.

This book is amazing and everyone should read it. I know it is also a major motion picture, but I like books better than movies and will not be watching it for fear it will ruin the experience.

5/5

Riding/Horses

What Can I Say? I’m Not the Monogamous Type Anymore!

Many moons ago I took a few lessons with a crazy lady. Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t have mounted up with them at all, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Anyway…back then I always felt bad for lesson horses. I’d throw my leg over a horse I didn’t know and have to ask it to work and I just had this deep seated feeling of being sorry to do so. Like it wasn’t fair for me to be working a horse who didn’t know me. Plus with a lot of lesson programs, you just never know what the care is like and how many times that horse has already been worked. It is actually what led to me purchasing Gemmie. I didn’t want to ride horses I barely knew – I wanted a relationship.

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Misty –  a new set of ears to look through Wednesday night

Flash forward seven years and my thought process has flipped 180 degrees.

Last night was a jump lesson (more details to come when I have more time to type it all up) and I was riding a new mount. As I groomed and tacked her up I was surprised to notice that I didn’t mind. Its not that I no longer care about the horse or that I want to use a horse as a means to an end, but I think owning Gem has taught me that it isn’t really so bad to ask a horse to do some work for an hour or so even if you don’t have that bond with them. As long as you are fair to the horse, act kindly and don’t ask more than they are capable of giving, it really can be a enjoyable experience for both.

My current situation is really different than any lesson barns I had known before. Maybe times have changed, maybe it is the regional difference of being in the south versus suburban north or maybe I just lucked into something great, but the lesson string of my past is nothing like my current trainer’s set up. The horses I ride are either her personal horses or a boarder’s who doesn’t mind allowing their horse to be used for a lesson from time to time. So these horses are being used judiciously, have a person who loves and cares for them and isn’t just being taken out to go around a ring all day long.

Whatever the reason, I am loving my new found infidelity. Not only am I being pared with horses that allow me to work on new skills and focus on me (you know instead of just trying to tame the beast beneath..umm…looking at you Gemmiecakes), but I am learning what it feels like to ride different horses and what suits me best. Gem will turn 19 this May and while she is in great shape and capable of being tortured by me for years to come, I know that in the nearer future I will be on the look out for a new main squeeze. Getting to ride different types of horses of various personalities and training levels is teaching me what I really want and need.

Being a one horse at a time type of gal and turning 35 soon means that if I get another horse in 3-5 years, it may very well be the last horse I purchase. That means that I want to get exactly what I am looking for.

In short, I am loving getting the chance to ride new things and learn what I want, need and enjoy. Of course, the better I become at my new found discipline of…well, I’m not really sure since I’m just working on beginner basics stuff but something english and arena/course based…what I want and need may change, but for now I am enjoying the variation quit a bit.

 

 

Uncategorized

Enjoying Horses Again

Have you ever been so deeply entrenched in something that you don’t even notice you no longer enjoy it? Or that at least you lost the reason for doing it in the first place and replaced it with this new drive?Have you accomplished your goal and then felt a little deflated because the only reason you were doing this is now gone and you have no clue what to do next?

That has been me the last 10 months.

I started endurance because Gem hated everything else I tried with her. She excelled in it and was happier at rides than I had ever seen her, so I kept going and put in the sometimes awful conditioning time because it was needed in order to compete successfully. Some days out on trail were magical and some were so terrible I questioned my sanity for continuing on.

There was always some future goal to achieve throughout all this madness: completing a 25 mile ride, then a 50, then a 100. With each step up, I had to become more focused, more strict with the miles we rode, the pace and the terrain. Every ride was pre scheduled and my GPS was glued to my wrist. I never went more than a mile without checking in on our pace and distance. It was a necessity if I was going to get her conditioned enough to do the 100 with the limited trail time I had available.

It all paid off too. We got our completion on a respectable course in a respectable time, neither chasing the clock nor rushing and causing harm. Gem had all As all day and looked just as fabulous 18 hours after the start as she had the night before it. I was proud of all the work that I put into getting a horse nobody thought could even go a mile safely on trail through it and I was proud of my mare for never giving up.

After the initial high of the completion, I felt empty. I took the entire summer off then halfheartedly prepared for the Ride and Tie Championships and then promptly took the entire fall off. I thought perhaps it was a lack of a goal that was leaving me wavering on my rides, but every time I looked over the AERC schedule for 2017, I felt nothing. No excitement at picking out a ride. No nervousness. Just a little bit of dread of all the time away, the money spent and the long hours in the saddle fighting a horse who thinks conditioning is a waste of her time and why not just use competitions as her training instead? (Because, Mare, I can’t afford to do that)

I didn’t even renew my AERC membership yet for this season. I haven’t chosen a ride. I haven’t made conditioning plans. I haven’t done anything towards getting a 2017 completion at all. When I rode last weekend, my friend asked what I was planning and I just looked at her. I wasn’t planning anything. She was shocked. I’ve always had a plan. Always another ride to work towards, a schedule of how many miles over what terrain and at what pace on each day available to me to ride.

And you know what? Right now I am having more fun and have been happier while thinking about, during and after a ride than I have been in years.

I’ve been on Gem, on Ralphie and on Pete.

I’ve been on trail without my GPS or a plan.

I’ve been taking dressage lessons on my beloved mare.

I’ve been taking jumping lessons on a new to me gelding.

I’ve been on Pete watching Gem teach the love of the trail to a beginner.

I’ve been carefree, learning and exploring all the different facets of riding and I have been basking in the glory of it along the way.

It really hit home this past Wednesday. I had a jump lesson scheduled that got postponed a week and I was shocked to realize that a) I had been feeling like a kid on Christmas morning all day waiting for the lesson and b) I was really disappointed it would have to wait. I haven’t had either of those feelings in a long time.

I love Gem, all she has taught me and all we have done together. She isn’t going anywhere and is still my main mount, but I am also really really enjoying riding Ralphie and Pete and having absolutely no set in stone goals or plans at the moment. I may make a 50 mile ride happen this year or I may not. It doesn’t actually even matter to me.

What matters right now is how much fun I am having doing a hobby that is pure indulgence. If I’m not having fun, what’s the point? I already don’t have fun 50 hours a week at work plus another several hours a week cooking and cleaning and doing laundry, running errands and grocery shopping. I darn well better be having fun on my horse and for the first time in a long time I am.

I am having a blast and I intend to not stop again.

 

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #11

For this prompt, I had to do several stages of research. For starters, I had to look up a list of all book genres then pick one I don’t typically read. From there I needed to find a best seller and a list of the top 30 of all time came up online. Then it was finding which one was available in multiple copies at the library. Phew!

A book from a genre you don’t typically read – Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline is a young girl who recently moved into a flat in a big house. Her parents work from home and it is nearing the end of her summer break from school. She is lonely most of time, having to entertain herself while her parents work. Most of her time is spent exploring the new house and grounds.

One day she opens a door in her sitting room that supposedly was bricked over to create separate flats in the mansion. Instead of bricks, she finds a dark and musty corridor leading to another world.

A darker version of the well known Alice in Wonderland story then commences as Coraline tries to return to the real world.


The genre I chose was horror and I don’t believe I have ever read a horror novel outside of Frankenstein in college. When I saw Neil Gaiman, I was excited. One of my favorite books is Good Omens co authored by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and I own most of the Disc World series by Pratchett. This was my chance to read a Gaiman novel within the challenge.

Unfortunately, this is a YA novel and I’ve already written about my feelings on those. This was no different and left me wishing the same topic had been written for a more mature audience. I did read a passage to my son and it scared him, so for the intended audience I would say it does the job.

The book was highly entertaining though, kept my attention and I kept reading past my bedtime to see what would happen. All excellent things in a novel. The characters were a bit bland and the theme was too similar to Alice in Wonderland, but it was a quick two sitting read and enjoyable enough.

3.5/5

 

 

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‘Fraidy Cat Eventing 2017 Eventing BINGO

Emma over at ‘Fraidy Cat Eventing is hosting a great contest. Please go check it out – here. This is my entry for the eventing BINGO story. I don’t event (yet) and I am not familiar with all the technicalities of the sport, but it is un to join along and write a story of what would likely happen if Gem and I attempted a show.

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GEM GOES EVENTING

Here we are – our first event. Just a schooling show, but you have to start somewhere, right? Gem is all dolled up for dressage – shiny bay coat sparkling in the sun, red and white dressage pad actually clean, black dressage saddle scrubbed within an inch of its life. I’m nervous and couldn’t eat breakfast. Can I even remember my dressage test? We are about to find out.

Its getting close to our test time, so I mount up and head into the warm up arena. It is busier than I anticipated. Horses are everywhere and Gem and I are both high as a kite. I’m supposed to be getting her to relax, but all I really want is about 20 miles of hilly trail to canter her along before hand. Endurance seems easy compared to this!

Circles. And halt transitions. I hope my brain starts functioning so I can actually ride. As I am trying to get her to calm down and show some sort of the training we have put in, Gem catches sight of a plastic bag outside the warm up ring. She freezes for a half a second then drops her shoulder, spins 180 degrees and runs.

There goes my white breeches.

I fall off over her dropped shoulder and land smack into a pile of manure. Great. Thankfully Gem stops right away and I collect my horse, damaged pride and ruined attire with just enough time to mount back up and head into the ring as the steward is calling my number.

With that behind me, things couldn’t get any worse. Hopefully. We go down center line and are mostly, basically straight. Ish. We wiggle our way through the BN test and all is going well for the first half. I decide to start breathing again. I relax. Things should go smoother if I just relax.

Right as I take a deep breath and exhale, Gem sees that damn plastic bag again. I think it is following us. Maybe a competitor attached it to a drone and is flying it around to sabotage us. Are we that good that we need sabotaging? Gem catches it out of the corner of her eye and that is it. Game over. She flails and jumps right out of the arena! All her jumping training has finally paid off, but it was intended to teach her to jump over the small white fence demarcating the dressage court. Are we eliminated?

Thankfully it is a school show and they let us re enter and finish the test. Someone is holding that plastic bag. I hope they throw it in the trash and put a lid on it. Is that an evil smirk I see on the person’s face holding it? I have to be imagining it. Wait…did she just wink at me?!

Dressage finally ends. Who knew 2 minutes could take so long? We do our best square halt and exit with what little pride I can manage. I need to track down that person, but I have no time. I have to get Gem ready for stadium jumping. She stands mostly still while I exchange her dressage tack for jumping. She looks just as sharp in her red jumping gear and brown saddle as she did in her dressage tack. I change out of my white breeches and into clean light tan ones. We are all ready to head back to warm up and I keep my eyes open for any rogue plastic bags.

Warm up goes uneventfully and while she remains her good old stiff self, so do I and we pop over the small fences a few times to get our heads in the game. I think Gem wants this day to be over with and she practically pulls me into the arena for our stadium round.

We cross the timers and head towards the first jump. Its a nice and inviting vertical and we approach it in a nice canter with enough forward momentum, but not crazy. Maybe I will survive this day yet. She launches over the fence and hits the ground on the other side with more energy than before. I find myself with a freight train on the other end of the reins.

Jump two comes at us faster than I thought and just as we approach that plastic bag flies right in front on us. I barely have enough time to register the fact that there is no wind when Gemmie jumps both out of her skin and over the standards! Who knew she could jump that high? We manage to safely land and I am seething mad now. My anger only eggs Gemmie onward and we manage to leave two out of the next line to fly over the jump. the rest of the round is clear, but frightening to both watch and participate in. I don’t know how we finished that course without an injury.

As we make our way back to the trailer to untack I look around for the woman with her plastic bag. I see her mounting up for her turn in the arena. No signs of the bag though. I wonder….

Farm life

Farm Life Update

Just over a month into this whole thing and I can say without a single hesitation or fleeting doubt that I absolutely adore having the horses home.

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Finally got the horses a mineral block. They both went to town on it.

I’ll admit to a little trepidation when it all began. Everyone kept telling me how much work it was going to be…how little time I would have for anything else…how I would miss boarding.

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The shelter barely moves on a day with 30 mph wind gusts. I was nervous and watched it anxiously, but all was good and stable.

You know what? Everyone was dead wrong.

We have established a nice little routine: Dusty gets up earlier than I do and always takes care of breakfast and I get home from work before he does and  handle dinner. We both have mentioned numerous times that we love just hanging out in the pasture with the Dynamic Duo while they eat and how relaxing it all is. Honestly, feeding them grain and hay, even including the fact we have been spoiling them with unnecessary mashes, takes all of 15 minutes and even in the pouring rain it was still an easy and enjoyable task.

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I love these delicate white flowers with the green dots. Only one bunch has bloomed so far.

I’ve already talked about how much easier riding has been. Now that it is staying light out later, I can even sneak in a ride after work once again. In addition, the money we are saving in not paying board (we already paid for grain), even with the addition of hay costs, has opened up the ability for me to take lessons – something I’ve wanted to do for forever.

Its also been nice to learn a lot more of their routines. The water tank needs topped off every 2-3 days depending on the weather. They spend the morning soaking up the early sun rays between the shelter and the fence and then after breakfast they go to the far corner to hang out and gossip with Rhino. While Gem and Pete are really great buddies, they are often grazing in separate parts of the pasture and only come together to groom or if Gem is scared of something. Gem always hides behind Pete to try to get out of work or when she is scared. Pete, on his part, is a great security guard for her.

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Pete always tips his bowl upside down when he has finished his dinner

I haven’t been home to catch them napping, which is sad. I’ve always wanted to catch them napping.

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Life is really enjoyable and way less stressful now that they are home. I no longer feel guilty if I don’t ride because I see Gem constantly and pet her every day, take her out to groom and in general just hang out. Everything is just more relaxing and calmer.

Both Wyatt and Einstein have a new found freedom as well. I’ll be cooking dinner and here the quad running outside and there goes Wyatt – driving around to his hearts content. Einstein has room to run and often comes inside exhausted and flops on the couch for a nap.

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Dusty returns from a 15 mile run Sunday morning to be tackled by Optimus Prime.

This has been the best thing to happen to our little family and I catch myself often thinking how great things are right now. There is nothing I am currently pining for and wishing I had. Nothing feels missing in life.

 

Family

Meet Wyatt – The Guinea Pig

A couple of Mondays ago I get a text from the hubster:

ITS GOING TO BE ONE OF THOSE DAYS

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He had shown up to work and found a young guinea pig, cage and all, sitting on his front steps. Who knows how long the poor thing had been sitting there although the kennel girl didn’t see it at 5 pm Sunday when she was last there.

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Dusty has a lot of experience with pocket pets, but doesn’t see a whole lot at his current practice. He took him inside to see if there was a medical reason for the abandonment and found a friendly, out going and healthy male.

He texted me some pictures and I told him to bring the poor little guy home for Wyatt. Dusty wasn’t too keen on the idea since we already have a house full, but Wyatt loves small, furry things and I thought he could just come stay for the night.

You see, Wyatt loves animals, but tends to not get too focused on them. He had wanted fish and Dusty went out and got a fish tank (Dusty had been wanting fish for years, so this was more an excuse to get it than Wyatt really begging for it) and while Wyatt thought it was neat, he pretty much ignored it.

I thought for sure that he would look at the little guinea pig, pet him a few time sand then turn his attention to other pursuits.

Nope. Dead wrong.

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Wyatt took that guy and refused to put him down. He chose the spot for the cage in his room and promptly named him Wyatt. Because after all it is the best name out there.

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Since then Wyatt aka Guinea (both names used equally) has lived at the foot of Wyatt’s bed. Wyatt gets him out first thing every morning and first thing when he gets home. He also has asked me to make him a costume which is going to be hard since I don’t make anything. I did make my hamster, hammy (strong names run in the family) a cape when I was in 5th grade, so it just might be possible.

Welcome to the family!

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar reading Challenge Book #10

While we waited for my pick to come in, my mom chose her next one and we downloaded the ebook version. True to form, she had the better choice.

A book written by an author using a pseudonym: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike is a private detective down on his luck: no clients, no money and a recent split with his fiancee. His office is shabbier than his clothes. Enter Robin, a temporary secretary with a secret dream of being a detective. She is smart, resourceful and a great employee. Too bad Cormoran can’t afford her.

That is until someone from his past offers him a job: looking into the supposed suicide of his supermodel, and extremely rich, sister Lula Landry.


 

The book is pretty formulaic: down on his luck private eye gets a seemingly easy job, does better than the local cops and makes it big. However, the author builds the characters and scenes in such a way as to keep the reader enthralled. Cormoran, at first a one dimension character, slowly builds up his personality throughout and becomes endearing in his own right.

My ebook version was over 1000 pages and I will admit that it felt mired down in too much detail to the point where several passages could be omitted completely without having any effect on the narrative or character building at all.

I was not expecting the ending, which is always fantastic in a detective “who done it” novel, but I was disappointed in the manner in which it was all revealed. With over 950 pages given to the lead up and investigation of the case, the author then does an information dump in one page where Cormoran goes off explaining exactly how everything happened even though much of it was hidden from the reader until this soliloquy. I know the author had to end it and wrap it all in a neat bow somehow, but I am just not a fan of the detective explains it all to the killer method.

Since I wasn’t the one who picked the novel, I was very surprised when my mom informed me that the famous Harry Potter author JK Rowling was in fact the author of this book. I fully admit that I am not a fan of the Harry Potter series and only barely made it through the first novel (and have no interest in the movies). This novel, compared to those, has a much more mature vibe and is obviously intended for a different audience as it is full of swear words, sex and drugs.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good detective novel and found myself looking up the next Cormoran Strike novel and adding it to my “to read list”.

4/5

 

Uncategorized

No Tresspassing

“Excuse me!!”

Wait…what? I looked up from my poop pile and wheelbarrow to find a middle aged lady standing next to her parked car in my driveway.

Odd. My driveway is 1/4 mile long, has an extremely wonky angled entrance and a cattle guard and then winds down past the pasture to the house. Not very inviting and definitely out of the way.

“Can I help you?” I was a bit incredulous. I mean, why was she standing in my drive?

“Who owns that horse behind you?” Not friendly. Very accusatory and well, to be frank, quite bitchy.

“Rhino? My landlady who lives next door.” I was puzzled. Why be nasty in your delivery of such a question?

“He is too thin. Something needs to be done. I never see you outside and I told myself next time someone was out I was going to find out what was going on over here.”

Um…you don’t see me outside because…oh..wait…that is none of your business. Nothing is “going on over here” either. She made it sound like I was running some sort of horse scam or something.

“He isn’t too thin. In fact he is in better shape than our two horses are at the moment”

“Your two are in great condition. Is he old? I saw his teeth. He doesn’t look old.”

In fact my two horses are fatAnd Rhino is in his mid 20s. And she is a horse teeth expert now?

“He is in his mid 20s. He isn’t thin. He gets two grain meals a day plus hay. He has clean water at all times and 8 acres to roam with a shelter out of the wind. He has a good horse life. Leave him be”

Not appeased by my answer she attempted to continue her interrogation when Einstein finally took notice and came wriggling over. Einstein is a jumper. It’s his last remaining bad behavior and we try hard to curb it.

“Your dog is jumping all over me!”

I just stood there and blinked at her. If you weren’t on my property where you weren’t invited, then you wouldn’t be getting jumped on by my overly exuberant dog.

“Well, he is obviously lonely. He hangs out near your two all day. You need to let him in your pasture. Right away.”

“He is a stallion. I own a mare”

She just stared at me. And repeated her demand that I allow him in my pasture. At this point my patience and good mood were rapidly disappearing and I did what I rarely do: I dropped the vet bomb.

“My husbands a vet and is right over there. Ask him his professional opinion.”

Thankfully Dusty was walking over our way and she repeated her inquest on the state of the horse and his inability to be friends with our horses. He repeated much of what I already said and, finally realizing she wasn’t going to be able to make some big scene, she finally got in her car.

She then proceeded to use the hay field to turn her car around without asking if it was ok to drive through the well cared for grass. I won’t be polite the next time I see her and I am sure there will be a next time. There always is. The middle of nowhere is calling my name.