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2018 Volunteer Challenge Winner!

First, thank you to all who participated in any way you could. This challenge was really fun to host all year and gave me something to look forward to each month. I love shopping for other people and finding interesting and useful horse themed gifts was a nice challenge for myself.

I wasn’t able to get all the data I wanted. Most people didn’t give me the event name or job performed, so I don’t have a lot of interesting information about the most popular venues and jobs. I can say that cross country jump judging was the most performed job, for the most number of hours.

There were an impressive number of hours donated over 2018 and I really hope everyone who participated enjoyed their experiences and that all those organizers recognized how lucky they were to have you all lending a hand.

I’ve been wracking my brain for the perfect gift to give out for the Champion and Reserve Champion. The winner already got some pretty cool things along the way and my first idea wasn’t going to work out. I think I finally have it though and I am really excited to announce the winners and their awards.

First – we have to work up to it though by looking at everyone’s participation:

Everything Pony – 4 hours

Holly – 4 hours

Teresa – 6 hours

KC – 4 hours

Betsy – 7 hours

Carly – 9 hours

Amanda (beljoer) – 12 hours

Olivia – 16 hours

David – 16 hours

Amanda C – 17 hours

Sarah O – 19 hours

Emily – 21 hours

Naadia – 26.5 hours

Bette – 46 hours

That is a lot of people doing a whole lot of volunteering. But enough about that…..time to announce the Reserve Champion who is none other than:

Amy!!!!

She put in a whopping 77.5 hours and even traveled half way across the country to get those hours in. Congrats Amy!

My original plan for you was to create a book out of your blog posts and send that to you. I made one myself a few years back from my adoption blog and it turned out really neat. I love having a hard copy of my posts and pictures from that time in my life and it is my favorite book on my shelf.

But….unless you want to send my all the original, high res photos I can’t make it work. I made a small trial book online and stole some of your pictures from the blog, but they are not high enough resolution to print well. So I guess, if you want this you could look back through your top 20-25 posts and send me the pictures (I can steal the text from your site) and I can still put the work in to design the book.

Your other option, which isn’t nearly as personal or cool, is a mohair girth/cinch to match the reins you won in Q3. I’d just need to know what style (western cinch or english girth) and the size and I can get that ordered to match the reins.

Your pick! Just send me an email to let me know which you want.

Now for the Champion of the 2018 Volunteer Challenge:

Emma!!!!

Emma went out there and donated 85.6 hours! That is nearly 4 days worth of volunteering this year. Congrats Emma!! I am blown away by your effort. I’ve had to wrack my brain a bit for an award for you and it took me a while to track things down, but I think I have it all sorted out.

Right before my beloved corgi, Hero, passed away in 2015, I reached out to none of than the Dressage Curmudgeon to get a portrait drawn of him before he left me. She did an amazing job and the picture lives framed on my wall by my bed. I adore it.

My Hero. I still miss his face every day.

Emma, for all your hard work this year, I have ordered a pencil portrait from her of Charlie. Or well, I guess anything you want (how about a H’Appy portrait instead? HAHAHAH!). I’ve pre-paid for the portrait and will text you how to get in touch with her to sort out exactly what you want her to draw (well, once she gets back to me with her contact info that you can use)

I hope everyone who participated enjoyed it as much as I did this past year. I’m not hosting again, at least not this year maybe I will again in 2020, to let my bank account rebound a bit, but I still want to encourage everyone to get out there and lend a hand. Remember: these events can not be put on without a horde of volunteers doing the work so please next time you debate competing or volunteering maybe give volunteering a second or third thought. Your local event organizers will love you for it.

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Pinch Me…No Wait. Don’t

If this is a dream, please do not wake me. Sunday was hands down the best day I’ve had in months. Maybe a year.

Wait…who’s brown butt is that???

The sun was shining. There wasn’t a cloud in sky. Temperatures rose to almost 70F and this happened:

Gem was umm…less than enthused when I grabbed her from the pasture, groomed and tacked then loaded her up. She did not agree that retirement was over.

I’m not even sure how this came about. One minute I was talking to Dusty while scooping horse poop out of the stalls and the next Wyatt is asking to go on a trail ride on Gem.

This big guy is slowly breaking my own walls down and teaching me to trust

Um..I think it took me all of 15 seconds to hatch a plan to make that work. The next day we were loaded up and heading to my favorite trail system with my favorite bay mare and blonde boy.

She looks good in blue stars

For the first time in my life, I hauled the horses tacked up. It seemed the smartest thing to do rather than fuss with them at the trail head in opposite sides of the trailer. It worked out fine and we were unloaded and mounted up quickly.

Life is different through this set of ears but I’m learning to love it for what it is

Before I knew it we were both mounted and walking down the hill to enter the woods. I chose the grey trail, which isn’t one I typically use, because it is mostly a very wide gravel access road. This way Dusty could easily lead Gem without worry of being stepped on.

Letting the pro show him the ropes over the scary bridge

And everything just went…perfectly.

Happy ears and an eager to explore attitude. Two great traits in a trail horse

H’Appy generally likes to lead but he is still inexperienced on the trail and had two instances when he just said he couldn’t handle it: over the entry metal bridge and again at the hairy creek crossing. Both times Gem quietly took the lead and maneuvered through the obstacle with her head low and teeny tiny strides.

No better view than my sons back on my favorite mare out i

If it was possible, Gem made me lover her even more on this slow two mile ride. She was a saint. All her typical spooky behavior, her need to go always faster, he hatred of mud and water, it was all gone. She knew Wyatt was on her and was a newbie. She walked through ankle deep mud that, had I been on her back, she would have either forced me to bushwhack around or would have jumped over. Not for Wyatt. She was so amazing. I can’t even describe how it felt watching her take such good care of him.

Wishing I always had this behind me on the trail

H’Appy did pretty excellent himself. He led most of the way up the steep hill on the way out. He made me laugh as he would be walking forward all eager and then would look back at Gem like “Are you coming? Move it! There is so much to see!!”

Coming back down he was happier to follow. I don’t think he wanted to turn around though

You see, while Gem is a killer endurance machine and ate that 100 miler for breakfast, she walks at a whopping 1 mph pace. Honestly. No joke. I walk faster than she does. It made endurance tricky as I could never give her walk breaks. She either trotted or stopped to eat otherwise we wouldn’t make time. H’Appy has a solid 4 mph walk without trying and I can get him walking at 5 mph if I push. Gem had zero intentions of keeping up with that.

Excuse me but does the Appy make my butt look big?

Once we made it up the hill, Wyatt declared that he wanted to turn around. We were one mike out and that’s about as far as I figured he would get. He is six, horses aren’t his go to and walking it boring. But he had a smile on his face the entire time and had fun and that was what was important.

My heart was so full

We turned around, much to the dismay of H’Appy who desperately wanted to see what was around the next corner, and made our way back down the hill towards the trailer.

The look I wanted at the end.

We ended back at the trailer with three very happy people and two well behaved horses who never put a hoof wrong. My heart was about to burst with happiness.

These three making dreams come true for me

I can’t imagine having more fun riding with anyone else no matter the pace, distance or location. Wyatt tackled two bridges, a creek crossing and deep sticky mud and smiled the entire time. He asked if he could do an endurance ride with me and while Dusty is more than up for jogging alongside for 25 miles, he would have to get comfortable trotting to make it work. Maybe in time. For now, I have no plans and no schemes. If he never rides again I’d still be happy to have had this one trail ride with all my loves involved.

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Journal Prompts

Kat asked in a comment Wednesday about the prompts I am using for my nightly journal. I’m not sure how interesting this will be for everyone, but she asked and it is easier to answer this in a post than in the comments.

Journals can come in many forms and with just as many purposes. For me, I want to use it as a way to focus my life a little better and grow a happier head space. Life is hard and always will be. Not every dream I have dreamed has come true and some have died very painfully. Some days are mundane and boring. In years past, I have been able to go through life with a, while admittedly not go with the flow personality, at least an attitude of “bring it, lets see where this next road leads, life is a journey until the very end” mentality. Not in 2018 though and I want the mental space I was in for most of 2018 to die a hard, cold death.

This bird gave me some pretty hard silent judgement as he watched me struggle on my run

With all of that in mind, I set out last weekend to figure out what was missing in 2018 and how to bring it all back in a healthy, low pressure way. When I bought a small notebook to write in I sat down and thought about the best use of it. What was my purpose in maintaining a journal? Was it to track habits? Write down dreams? Write about the details of my day? Have a safe space to complain?

I already have a bullet journal that I use to track to do items, Wyatt’s schedule and certain habits. This lives at work since my home life has very little to do items and I spend more time at work than at home. I didn’t really need another version of this at home.

Writing details of my day went right out the window too. I mean, there are only so many times I can write “got up, went to work, worked, came home, went to bed” before it becomes a lesson in insanity. Plus, the entire reason to do this is to clear my head space and focus on the positives more, so complaining, no matter how poetically done, would defeat it before it began.

We celebrated New Years by shoving cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory in our mouths New Years Eve. It was delicious.

Ok, so what was left? I took to my phone searching for journal apps, of which there are dozens. I downloaded a few to try and quickly deleted them all. While I loved the feature of inserting a picture from the day, that function cost money and I had zero interest in paying for it. Plus, I missed putting the pen to paper in the very literal sense. What I did find though was an app that laid out the journal in grids. I hated every question they asked (very existential BS type questions), but I liked the idea of paring my day down into discrete prompts that let me focus on what I thought was important. The bonus was that it would allow me to journal quickly and efficiently, two things I need right now to make anything function in my life.

With all that back story, if anyone is still reading, kuddos to you. The prompts I came up with focus on celebrating the small wins each day. They may make little sense to others but here they are to finally get to the answer to Kat’s question (which she is probably regretting asking by now):

  1. Three things that made me happy today.  Setting the tone right away to focus on the positive has been really helpful so far.
  2. What problem came up and how did I solve it? This has proven to be my favorite prompt so far. It is so easy in life to feel inadequate and impostor syndrome has plagued me since I left residency. Thinking over my day and finding a problem that I solved, no matter how small, really boosts my self pride.
  3. What was my favorite part of the day? No matter how bad or mundane a day was there is always a bright spot. Be that a really good sandwich at lunch or a major victory won. Again, all about finding the good in every day to create a more positive attitude.
  4. Three accomplishments from the day. Small things, big to do items knocked off, heck just managing to get through the day at all. This one is all about feeling good about a day well lived.
  5. Did I complete yesterday’s three tasks? This may make more sense later in the list, but did I complete each of the three items I wanted to.
  6. Family time. This prompt reminds me to focus on what really matters to me- my family. Did I call my mom? Eat lunch with Dusty? Snuggle on the couch for movie night? Work invades my life way too much. Time to shift the focus back to what is important.
  7. Did Wyatt do anything new today, say anything funny?  When you are 6 everything is a new experience and one of the best parts of being a mom is watching him grow and learn. It is surprisingly easy to forget the small stuff that happens every day in his life. This prompt gives me a space to write those memories down.
  8. How were the animals today? I’m not sure I’m going to continue with this one. The point is to write about H’Appy in a way that isn’t achievement based. I track my rides and care in my bullet journal but want to write about my overall interactions with him. I need to work a bit in the wording of this one as I go along.
  9. Overall feeling about the day. How did I feel the day went? How was my mood?
  10. Three things to do tomorrow. This will make #5 make more sense. Since my bullet journal lives at work and I’m probably the most forgetful person on the planet, I want to write down a quick list of things I really want to get done.
  11. Bonus: Summarize the day. I quick little jot down of my feelings of the day, what I thought went really well and what made me excited.
Pete’s old man face makes my heart melt. When he gives me that puppy dog, cute old man gaze I drop everything to do whatever he wants. Some day I’d love to have a retirement farm for old horses. I really love old horses.

As you can see, all these prompts are to help improve my head space and I don’t leave room for negativity. I’m not trying to white wash my life in happy lies here. Trust me, my brain is very, very good at remembering the crap parts of the day and giving me hell over my mistakes. These 10-15 minutes are made to help me retrain myself to think positively at the end of the day.

The prompts may change over time as I hone them down to what works for me. Ideally I’d love to leave room at the bottom to glue in a picture from the day, but that requires printing of pictures. I’m terrible at doing that so I don’t know if it will ever get done or not.

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Bringing Things Back in 2019

2018 was the year of feeling both overwhelmed and unfulfilled. It was difficult to reconcile the feeling of lacking with the feeling of the clock constantly running out with still more that needed completing.

I knew moving on to the farm would increase the demands on my time and I prepared for that. What I didn’t prepare for was the extra demands that Wyatt going to school would add in the form of nightly homework, school meetings and after school programs. By early spring, with 30 acres needing near constant mowing, I was running on fumes trying to work three full time jobs: physician, mother/housekeeper, and farm manager.

A misty morning on the farm

The term “burnt out” doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt each night as I struggled to stay awake past 8 pm to finish mowing in the dark after having worked 10 hours, cooked dinner and helped Wyatt with his school work. It was too much and I was drowning quickly.

Something had to give and so I gave up self care. I hung up my running shoes. I ditched my nightly journal habit, I began writing less on the blog, I stopped reading fiction for fun. I stoped taking pictures daily. In a way I was relieved that my new horse was lame all summer as it gave me a guilt free excuse to not try to fit in riding as well.

Spent New Years morning with my running shoes on in downtown

By the time fall rolled around, my schedule was a little more free and I was feeling even less like myself. All those little moments stolen for my own sanity were gone and now my day looked like this:

630am – wake up, get ready for work

7:15 am – take Wyatt to school and head to work

530pm – pick Wyatt up from after school, bring horses in for dinner, put them back out and refill grain buckets for the morning, make dinner, eat then clean up, work on homework with Wyatt

830 pm – crash in bed

Lather, rinse and repeat Mon-Friday. Add in cleaning the house, doing laundry, grocery shopping etc on the weekend and then begin all over again.

That’s not living. That is surviving. And poorly at that.

A beautiful morning without rain

By the middle of fall I was mean. I had a short fuse and took long naps. My energy was gone, my diet was awful and I was feeling ugly in my own skin for the first time in my life.

I spoke to Dusty about it and he found a cleaning lady to do the house twice a month. At first I was hesitant. Who was I to have another person clean my house for me? But over time I began to love it. Coming home to a clean house is an amazing experience plus it frees up three hours every weekend and stopped arguments with the husband about what cleaning actually meant. (Hint: running the vacuum does not constitute cleaning).

It was the first positive step to a better life.

All the recent rain really had the waterfall flowing

Having tried to make time by cutting out all seemingly unnecessary tasks and finding myself spiraling farther away from a happy life style, I’ve decided to bring them back in 2019 in a healthy way.

This lughead has really started to grow up and settle down. He spent the entire time I stripped his stall New Years Eve night in the cross ties sleeping instead of pawing, eating the ties and fidgeting

I’m starting to journal again but in a new format. I’ve had a bullet journal the last 3 years to keep up with all my daily to dos or else I’ll forget to do half the things I need to do so I don’t need a book like that. Writing long paragraphs about my day isn’t going to work either. It’s too time consuming. Instead I’ve created a group of 10 questions to answer every night. It takes only 10 minutes to do but helps to focus on the day, what made me happy, my diet and hydration, my exercise, Wyatt memories, things I was proud I accomplished and things to do the next day.

It’s been going really well. Really, really well.

Next I’m returning to running. Or run walking for now. I’m very out of shape. I dowloaded a new app called Zombie Run. It’s an audio experience while you run that tells as story in a zombie world. You pick your pace, distance, location and the story runs along with you. You pick up supplies, out run zombies and build a new world. It’s fun. It makes running suck less.

I evaded two groups of zombies and collected some nice stuff for my town. Silly but a lot of fun.

Hydration and a better diet are priorities moving into the new year as will be picking up a just for fun fiction book from time to time. Oh and more music. I need more music in my life.

I’m not creating any goals or participating in any challenges with these activities. No number of miles, races to be entered, book clubs or the like. I’m going to fit them in when able and try to do it without guilt for once.

Wyatt is still and will always be my #1 priority, but the things I’m adding back to my life are needed for my health and sanity and hopefully will change my attitude and perspective back to my normal “let’s do the thing! Let’s explore! Let’s LIVE!” mentality once again.

I’m also decorating. After moving eight times during our marriage, I stopped decorating houses a long time ago. After getting creative with some gifts I got for Christmas this year, I’ve come to the realization that having brightly decorated warm spaces in my house makes me deeply happy and content. More decorating to come in the year ahead

I’m coming for you 2019. With guns a blazing. Bring it.