Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Natural Selection. I'm all for it.




A messy office special from yesterday. First one in forever. I'm a bit rusty.

I don’t get it. When I was a kid, I had to take public transportation to my school when I went to the local schools, or my parents drove me when I attended the American DOD School or the International School, since they were far from where we lived. But when I was in Catholic Intern School, my dad would drive me there to drop me off, but after the end of the week, I’d take the train back to Brussels, and the Metro to the embassy where my mother worked. I did that all by myself, carrying my bags for laundry. I navigated all over the place using public buses and trains from a pretty early age. In the mornings, it was up to me to get out there and to get on the bus to go to school and up to me to find the bus home when I attended a non-intern local school. There was one convenience and that was my student pass.

But I was always fascinated with the American icon of the yellow school bus that I saw in movies. Those did not exist for me. The DOD school provided bus-service for the kids that lived nearby (we did not), but they were not the yellow buses, they were the big huge flat-faced buses with mustachioed Belgian drivers. Kids filed in, kids filed out. They waited at bus stops. Got on, got off, waited to cross the street when the time was right. It was simple.

Then I moved back to the US. I was shocked to discover that the iconic yellow school bus not only has the power to stop traffic to load and unload kids, it can also disrupt traffic to stop at railway tracks. They have to stop and open their doors before they go over railroad tracks—what that accomplishes I do not know? So the kids can run off when not getting hit by a train? But that’s not the end of it; the crowning achievement of the Yellow School Bus is the arm. American school buses have a little arm affixed to the front that opens out towards the curb and bars children from crossing in front of the bus when it’s stopped.

Okay, call me heartless... but WHAT THE HELL? Seriously? What are we teaching our kids if we are coddling them to the point that the world has to stop for them to get on and off a god-damned bus? If the kid is too stupid to figure out how to cross a street responsibly, then he or she is probably better off getting run over. Natural selection! If the kid is that stupid, he'll probably grow up to be the guy that gets tragically killed doing something else incredibly stupid on the job anyway. 


Yep, that kid you protected with the yellow school bus grew up
to be the reason why this warning exists.

Reality is, SEEING EYE DOGS can be trained to cross the street safely, why can't your kids? Is this a sign of devolution? Someone, somewhere thinks your kids can't be taught to make safe choices as well as a German Shepherd can. For God's sake. ::facepalm::

And what about the bus drivers? Are they so retarded they can’t be trusted to drive safely enough not to kill your children? They have to have all these crazy precautionary measures and accessories in place to help them do their job responsibly? I mean jesus, where should the responsibility end? Oh, I don’t know... with the PARENTS??? OMG... Flash of red lights, traffic needs to stop both ways because little Bobby and little Suzie can’t be trusted to cross the street on their lonesome. ::facepalm::

What next? Are we going to start making all kids 20 or under wear Kevlar to school on the off-chance someone pulls a Columbine? Wrap them in bubble-wrap when they go out to play? OMG... it’s CRAZY! What about teaching them to be responsible in the REAL WORLD? How’s that for a concept? How about teaching them to do things like cross busy streets safely? No. Instead let’s create a massive traffic inconvenience to the countless masses that happen to be driving to and from work during the times when these buses are picking up and delivering your hapless, bumbling offspring. As long as the kiddies are safe.

What are we breeding? A bunch of mouth-breathers that don’t have to take any responsibility for anything? A pack of coddled oafs who don’t have to make a single god damned decision for themselves? Oy! It’s infuriating. It’s like those warning signs posted for the most obvious dangers... why does the lowest common denominator have that much power as to make thing inconvenient for the rest of the world? Some idiot makes a dumb-ass decision and all of a sudden everyone else who has managed to avert disaster by using their eyes and brain is stuck having to abide by the most ridiculous precautions. Thanks ASSHOLE—so sad you died doing something colossally stupid! FU!

This is the perfect microcosm of America when it comes to kids. They are increasingly turning out to be entitled, the ‘world-will-stop-for-me because it always has’ kids. It spares the parents having to bother to teach their spawn any valuable life-lessons, or for that matter, even bother to take the time to supervise them so they don’t step in front of buses.

But hey, let’s force society to make all the decisions and take all the precautions to keep your brats safe and sound. Then you don’t have to do any parenting at all!

Okay, I’m done now. 
One of my Worth1000 submissions. It seemed appropriate.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

‘Tis the season to be grumpy, fa la la la... meh.

It’s beginning to look a lot like annoying. It’s taken quite a while for me to even begin to feel that Christmas spirit, and when I say feel the spirit, I mean barely even acknowledging that it exists. Part of my scrooginess was attributed to spending several days in the prior weeks being mired in a HoneyBucket Hell, which is a special place for people like me. You see, I described the septic situation we’re in at home. Well, piles of begged family money later, the back-yard looks like a WWI trench, or the surface of the moon, all the trees are gone, there’s a rectangular mound the size of an in-ground swimming pool in front of the garage where the driveway used to be, and two hideous cement manholes and a power box sticking up out of the ground behind the house. It’s hard to look at that devastation and not burst into tears. But at least we have working plumbing again. For a few days, I was consigned to the use of a Honey Bucket at home in 18º weather—and let me tell you, getting up at 3AM for a potty emergency, and having to hoof it outside to the frigid air, NOT FUN!!!! And worse? The septic tank at our office building failed back in April, and we’ve had a porta-potty at work since then, so I couldn’t get away from the freezing toilet seat if I tried. It has been a nightmare!

But, the toilet is now reconnected at home, and even though our toilet is slightly tilted, it’s warm, so that’s a bonus. It’ll be a little while longer before we can use the indoor facilities in our offices again. So all this toilet-related drama that has sort of set my mood into grump-drive for the next few weeks.

But then there’s all the other additional factors. 1) we can’t afford to give gifts again this year, not even to one another. 2) our Christmas tree didn’t arrive until this past weekend, and he was from the ‘slim-pickings’ pile, because he was cheap. Because we insist on buying live, potted trees, and buying locally, we have to move quickly to get the best looking tree. But since we waited, all that remained were several twiggy trees, a bush that thought it was a tree, and the tree we have, which I call the ‘Special Ed Tree’. I’m convinced that as he was growing up in the Mount Hood forest, all the other trees teased him and laughed at him, playing cruel tree jokes and making him cry. He probably wore a bicycle helmet too, but one of the other trees probably tore it off his top and flung it where he couldn’t reach it with his one, randomly long limb that sticks out from his bushy bottom half. His top half is a single thin trunk-stalk with about eight single branches on it, one set of four in the middle, and one set of four close to the droopy top. His one long branch sticks out from the others by at least two feet. Yep. He’s a special tree.

No amount of blurring, bad lighting or can a bad camera
hide the gaping void on the top half of the tree.
Oh well.
I decorated the hell out of him. I tried to compensate for the lack of branches on the top half by hanging ornaments all over the lighting wire and wrapping tulle around them to give him bulk. He doesn’t look half-bad, in spite of his ‘specialness’. He’ll do. He’s a Norway Spruce, so he’ll go into the back yard, now that there are no larger trees present to tease him. Maybe he’ll grow into himself a bit. Who knows? Decorating did put me in a better mood.

3) Part of my seasonal resentment is also instigated by all the snacks and meals and treats that come along with it. The holiday season revolves around FOOD and for folks trying to lose weight... it SUCKS. Since Thanksgiving, my husband and I have been beset with every temptation known to man. We’ve won some battles, but lost most, and every day is a torturous opportunity to FAIL. My weight as a result has been stagnant. The retreat did not help either because being faced with four days of Stephanie II’s cooking and trying to moderate was IMPOSSIBLE. So I have decided to pretend it never happened and move on. But trust me.. With this kind of noshy deliciousness arranged before you like a feast... There’s no stopping yourself from grazing like a blue whale inhaling krill by the thousands of pounds.


A plate of evil. Delicious, delicious evil.
The ORS retreat was a blast, if not a lot of hard work. My feet hurt for several days afterwards, my 40-year-old body just isn’t able to keep up with Stephanie II. Although I did drive her nuts with a couple of inordinately early morning wakings during the retreat. ::muaha:: I’m surprised I didn’t find sharpie written all over my face or something like that. She can be a brat that way. But that’s all right.

Here I am attempting to read two or three lines of Mary's novel
before being irrevocably distracted by tasks and fun (and also
sporting a lovely double-chin to boot).
Last Thursday, I visited Mary Robinette Kowal’s home to trim bonnets. I was trying out my new bonnet pattern and discovered to my great dismay that it did not scale right, so it’s back to the drafting board. I’ll be re-releasing the old pattern though on Etsy for the time being, until I get my stuff together. And this pattern is tried and true. So it will be for sale as it is for a while longer until I can redraft it and clean it up a bit.

Here at work, my boss is retiring (today is his last day), which has stirred up a lot more emotion than I ever thought it would. I’ve found myself being unusually snippy and angry about stupid things, and this morning, when Sherry texted me a picture of the door-decorations we made all ready to be posted on his door for his last day, I had to pull over and cry. He truly is the best of bosses. He’s funny, he handles us, even at bad moments, with humour and affability, and he trusts us. I don’t know this new guy who is replacing him, except that he’s close to my age. It’s scary. For all of us, but mostly for the other two ladies in my office who have both worked with Dave for over twenty years. I’m going to miss him very much. More than I imagined. We had a little retirement shindig for him at Winestock in Oregon City last Friday. He was SO bratty and out of control. SII made a little jukebox cake (which was so soft and delicious OMG – CURSE THE CAKE!) for him (he restores jukeboxes as a hobby). Strangers in the wine place were asking for pieces of it.



On Saturday, a small group of us had tea at the Heathman Hotel to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the Heathman. For $32, what we got was pretty laughable, and SII was scandalized. Last time we went there for tea, the portions were pretty much double what we had this time, so I’m thinking the kitchen is trying to cut costs, but holy crap... the cost is too high. I’m not sure if we are going to do a repeat of that again if it’s so little for so much. Just not worth it! The foods were also pretty mediocre. Next to SII’s teas served at the retreat? Not even close. But we all had a really great time. And a moderately OK photo of me was taken by SII.


At Saturday Market in Portland before we
made our way up to the Heathman.
Still not pregnant, but not for lack of trying. I am still popping clomid like pez every time the cycle comes ‘round. Not sure how much longer I’ll keep doing that. We’ll see.

Anyway, that’s my update for now. If I don’t post again until after Christmas, I’d like to extend my warmest “BAH HUMBUG!” to you. ;)

The HC



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mommy-Issues

My mom makes me crazy. What’s worse, is that left to her own devices, she creates this special reality where she always looks like the shining beacon of virtue and perfection to strangers, while making sure she puts as equal amounts of energy into decrying, manipulating and belitting the people closest to her.

Case and point number one: We took mom with us to my sister’s house in Arlington (about a three-hour-drive from where we live going the long way). My mom was thrilled when we picked her up. She had a little box of stuff she’d bought for my sister; some flower bulbs and two really ugly coffee mugs which my sister accepted graciously. We made the drive, mom was totally fine, she was in an excellent mood. She behaved moderately well during the stay, except for the occasional slip up of snideness, but that was minor. Her most annoying behaviours were her blatant lies. She invented a sudden case of lactose intolerance, said that my dentist tore her mouth up, bragged about how she told some old dude off complete with F-bombs, and all number of other random crap. Most of the time, when she lied, my sister and I would exchange a look of incredulity and laugh, and we’d tease her, to which she would respond with laughter and tease us right back. We have *always* teased mom about her accent, and when she said to my husband: “Jou did whaat?” And my husband said: “What about a Jew?” we all had a good chuckle. We laugh when she says jankee pot-roast and when she says joyo instead of yoyo; squeedle instead of squirrel; cheessbehrgehr instead of cheeseburger. It’s just something we have always done, and she’s always given it back with equal jocularity.


We also didn’t allow her to fabricate lies about the absent sibling, and stopped her short whenever she came up with some madness or other. She did not like that, but we wanted to keep the visit positive and having mom play her ‘I’m going to play you against your siblings’ game was not something we were about to entertain. We called her out on every one of her wild suppositions and utterances, and she was a bit cowed by our united front.

She didn’t eat much, and when we were back in Gresham, she declared she was starving and insisted we stop at Jack-In-The-Box to get her a cheessbehrgehr. Miss Lactose-Intolerant was shouting from the back seat when hubby was at the drive-through “Does it have cheess? Make shoor eet haz cheess!” Mind you, both hubby and I are still doing WeightWatchers, and sitting in a closed car with the aroma of fries and burger wafting around our heads was pure torture. We get her back to the assisted living facility, she’s so happy and delighted and she tottered off to her ‘warehouse’ carrying her bag of fries.

The next day, I get an email from my eldest sister (in Florida) admonishing us for our terrible treatment of our mother. Apparently, my mother called her in a tizzy as soon as she got back on Thanksgiving. According to Satan, we were ‘disrespectful and ungrateful, making fun of her. We were horrid, and we were mean to her (which is bullhockey). She whined at my sister for a long time about how ungrateful and horrid we were to her. Little did eldest sister know that hubby and I had to listen to my mother ripping my eldest sister apart on the drive all the way home. People with Borderline Personality Disorder can shape realities into whatever best suits them, ultimately.

Second case: I stopped by to visit mom on Monday, and when I walked in I was confronted with Amy, the activities director. She assailed me at once with: “Oh, thank goodness you’re here! Your mother is so sad, she’s pouting! I’ve never seen her so upset.”

“Why is she upset?” I ask, already developing a sense of trepidation.

“Oh, she was so sad. She told us about the big dinner you have planned, and how she spent all this time and effort to prepare a special dish for this dinner, only to find out she wasn’t even invited! She’s been depressed ALL DAY.” For one... WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, OVER? Seriously? Who the hell does she think she is confronting me about this supposed dinner. Even if there WERE such a dinner, whether or not mom was invited is none of her god damned business, and it sure isn’t her job to censure me for not inviting my mother. OMG the gall! But the worst part is, this supposed ‘big dinner’ is a figment of my mother’s imagination, one of her convenient fabrications created for the sole purpose of inviting sympathy from her apparently gullible and vapid audience. I mean WTF????? You’d think someone who works in a Senior facility would be well-versed in knowing that you can’t believe everything that comes out of these octogenarian mouths. They spew all sorts of shit about their families that isn’t even remotely true... But the crime here was that this Amy chick had the stones to stand in front of me and dump guilt on me for something that was none of her business for one, and something that was not even true to boot. Oy.

Incidentally, Amy did it to my husband too. He walked into the facility and she was standing there, and said: “OH! Good! You’re here! Your grandma has been looking forward to your visit all day. You’re taking her out? She’s been so excited that you were coming to take her out, she had her hair done and everything!” Dan is very susceptible to guilt when it comes to his family. He often extends himself to a breaking point to help them when they can’t be relied upon to do anything for him when he needs it. His grandma is an especially sore subject for him, because he loves her to hell and back, and it’s taking a very hard toll on him watching her fade into a figment of who she used to be, with fractured memories and no capacity to hold short-term anything in her head. He will be there visiting, she’ll get up to go to the potty, and then forget he is there and go back to her room. She will state the same things over and over again, and she still thinks she can go home at any time. He visits her every week, and brings her a 20 oz mocha coffee (we are Oregonians after all) and sits with her while she repeatedly asks if he’s heard from his father (which he never does), and if she can go home (which she cannot), and she asks him again and again what he’s been up to. When we take her out, she stays for ten minutes and then wants to go back. She’s not easy. And Dan is struggling with her decline. I’m not sure if Amy just invented the whole thing about Grandma spending all day getting ready to go out, but Grandma would not have held onto the knowledge of it for more than ten minutes. Getting her hair done to go out? He never planned it, or called her to tell her she was going anywhere, so either it was a fluke, or Amy was pulling this out of her rather large ass (which is my guess). I had to call the facility to day and talk to the director and explain to her that deliberately dumping guilt on relatives when they come and visit isn’t the best incentive to compel them to return.


I digress....But all that is a perfect illustration of the drama my mother creates simply for the sake of being evil. My mother invents all sorts of tall tales to elicit sympathy. She has always had people convinced she is a paragon of virtue and wonder, a sacrificing soul, a giver and a hero. I’ve gone through life having people arch their brow at me and look at me in disdain because I don’t share the glowing opinion of my mother. You see, they don’t *know* who she is. Not even remotely. They don’t know about my brother being locked in a bedroom for 18 hours a day, smearing his feces on the wall because my mother didn’t want to deal with him. They don’t know that the reason why my father was repeatedly hospitalized in his final year was because he was malnourished, dehydrated and suffering from bruising from being roughly handled and hit. My mother’s ardent fans are not aware that my mother had repeated affairs throughout her marriage, and brought a pedophile into our home. They don’t know that the sacrificing, wonderful mom they saw would take us to bars on school nights after knocking my father out with valium and laughing most heartily about it, or leave a fifteen year old girl in charge of the riding club and the bar, so she could go out partying all night, or take off to the US and leave her 17 year old daughter in charge of the stable without a penny to buy horse food, and the electricity turned off because she hadn’t paid the bill. They have no idea that when we moved back to the states, she flew back to get my brother from his school, and disappeared for two weeks. When we managed to hunt her down, and found her at a friend’s house, she’d been out drinking and partying and hadn’t even bothered to go see my brother, let alone notify the school he was going to be flying to America. Oh no. Instead, these people who see her as the paragon she’s painted herself to be just look at us children like we’re awful for feeling the way we do about her. We watched her neglect and abuse our brother, we watched her pretty much kill our father by roughness and neglect, and we watched her introduce the concept of lying, cheating, duplicity and manipulation into our lives very early on. To this day, I am still amazed at how aptly my mother was able to hide this bleakness behind the glossy sheen of our household. Nobody ever knew.

I’m amazed the three of us stepped out of childhood moderately intact. I won’t lie; the things we’ve had to live with have taken their toll. For me, it’s been a constant struggle with depression and for a short time, I was almost committed for entertaining some pretty dark thoughts about suicide. For my sisters, it’s issues of abandonment, trust, overcompensation. We’re all broken in one way or another, but we did not take the bad road, thank god. We are not alcoholics or drug-addicts, we are not criminals or ne’er-do-wells. We all managed to emerge with a particularly strong sense of empathy, a near-obsessive desire to surround ourselves with pretty things and to take care of them obsessively, or in one case, to put little to no value on pretty things at all. In some cases, we have issues with identity—and figuring out who we are—often becoming chameleons to suit what we think are other peoples’ preferences which goes back to the whole abandonment thing. We’ve emerged with strong personalities and we are all so different.


It’s taken me years to be comfortable enough with myself to talk about these things with a matter-of-fact sort of approach, to talk about these things without personal shame. I had to figure out that these things weren’t my doing. I had to learn that in spite of what society tells you, the adults in your life might be fallible and they can’t *always* be relied upon to be what they are supposed to be to their children. I learned that adults don’t always protect you and that kids sometimes have to learn to protect themselves. I had to learn that there’s nothing I can do about it now, and there was really nothing I could do about it when I was a kid. It took a while to finally figure out who I am. But I know now, and I’m comfortable enough to spout it all out on a blog for the world to see, flaws and all. I’m okay with oversharing. LOL. I don’t take medication (though some of my friends might argue that I could definitely use it to despazzify myself). I can laugh at myself, and I can laugh at the walking tragedy that is my mother, and still sit down across from her and look at her watery, beady little eyes as she tries her very hardest to undermine me and be okay afterwards.

“You used to worship me, I don’t know what happened...” she told me one day a few months ago while we were out shopping together. She doesn’t understand why we don’t have the same relationship anymore, as we did when I had no self-esteem, no self-value, and was too depressed to care.

“I opened my eyes, Mom. I’m not a kid anymore. I grew up. And I got tired of carrying you, enabling you and apologizing for you.” When I say these sorts of things, she does this thing where her eyes sort of focus somewhere else far away, and she goes: “Hmmm” and then deftly changes the subject. She hates it that I can laugh at her lies now and it bothers her that her manipulations aren’t working on the three of us anymore. She bitches about me to my sisters because I reflect the truth of who she is back onto her like a really cruel dressing-room mirror—bad lighting and all. If that’s disrespectful, then so be it. Respect is earned—my mother is bankrupt of it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A secret to snaring a woman with ease, heads-up single men

Single men, you are missing out on a motherlode. I’m going to let you in on a secret. There is available to you a virtual trove of women for the picking. Forget OKCupid or eHarmony. I have a much simpler solution. But you need to just get over your issues about dressing in costume, and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. You men ask women to wear sexy little things all the time… so turnabout is fair play, and doing this is will pretty much set you up for a a sure thing if you do it right.  If you do, you will find yourself surrounded by admiring women. I guarantee you this.  Why do I say this? Because I’ve spent the past four days at the Oregon Regency Society’s regency retreat—and I know now that this notion is not only my own. The retreat was 99% occupied by women this first year, (although we are hoping there will be more men at the next one), and there was a great consensus among the participants as we discussed things by the fire in our dressing gowns. Single guys who dress Regency would find themselves with no shortage of women swooning after them.

For example, one of the ladies’ husbands showed up on Saturday for the ball. A large group of women were in the meeting hall taking a dance workshop when he arrived, and he arrived in a shirt with high collar, waistcoat, frock coat, top boots and top hat.  He came striding down the path and someone said: “Look! A Gentleman!” and all the women erupted in gleeful squees and applause, and went running to the window.  He was no Hollywood actor, he was an ordinary guy who was made hot by his costume, and all the women melted into silly puddles at the sight of him.  If he had been into the dancing, his wife might have had to carry around a big stick to beat the women away from him.

Take this as a heads-up, guys… This…





::Coff-coff HOT ahem coff::



…This right here is the pinnacle of the Regency-loving woman’s fantasy. This is what she dreams of when she’s thinking about Mr. Perfect.  Right here.  And we’re not talking about Colin Firth… it doesn’t matter what you look like, what your body type is… if you put on the high-collars and the top boots, the women will be swooning like teenaged girls. And god, if you bothered to display the gentlemanly manners and were willing to do the English Country Dances, you would be likely competed over, hunted down and violated… politely of course.  Because in all the discussions we had about this during the entire retreat, it wasn’t ‘oh, it would be so romantic…’ no. It was, ‘oh that would be so HOT… he’d just have to grow the sideburns and wear the shirt and I’d be all over him’. 

You guys who already have women who are also into the Regency thing, but you refuse to participate, I am just saying… if you want more nookie, you’d be well served in putting on the frock coat on occasion. It’s the equivalent of your wife wearing the cheeky schoolgirl outfit or the French maid with thigh-stockings and a crotchless panties.  Put on the outfit and just swagger into the room, lift your arm and point to the bedroom and say: “Woman, get into my bed at once!” and I guarantee you she will go skittering to bed, giggling with delight.

There are hordes of women out there who sop up the regency novels like water. Any man with his head screwed on right would be taking advantage of it. He’d be secretly buying costumes or patterns, having them made to fit beautifully, ironing and starching collars, growing out his sideburns and combing his hair forward. Any man who wants to be the center of female attention needs to just get dressed in Regency costume, and show up at a Regency event. Ask a few girls to dance, be stoic but slightly flirtatious and you will find a girlfriend, and keep her. I’m just saying guys…::nodding::  This is privileged information, and I hope you all choose to use it wisely. If you’re from Oregon, you are in luck, we have a huge group here and lots of events… And it’s pretty estrogen-heavy, so you won’t have too much competition.

Here is a blog-post on outfitting the Regency man -- it describes the costume from the period.  You can use it to locate the pieces you need. If you go to the ORS resources page, you can also contact some local costumers to put you in something that is correct and well-tailored (the more authentic you’ll look, the more women will drool).

The facebook group: Men in Regency Era Costume -- a place for women to admire them, and for men to join and be admired.

Incidentally, we are looking for gentlemen who are interested in military and male-related history from the period (1812, Napoleonic, Naval Exploration, Louis & Clark). We want to build up the events for the guys.  So if you are interested, email the Oregon Regency Society (orregency@msn.com) and declare you interest. We need someone to head the drive to create gentlemanly activities.

The Oregon Regency Society's main Blog.

Monday, November 28, 2011

And what led *you* here?

So... there's this little widget that allows me to check my blog traffic, find out where most of the visitors are coming from, and see what sort of search terms brought them to this blog.  Now most of the time, they are run-of-the-mill-things, like "Regency Gown" or "My Mother is Satan". But every once in a while, I see some search terms that boggle the mind. So I thought I'd make some screen captures and share some of these treasures with you:

On a typical Sunday night or Monday morning, the search terms are usually the same thing:
Yes, tame, but still funny. It's good to know I'm not the only one who despises Mondays.
But none of the above quite meet the bizarre nature of some search terms...

I can think of some rational ideas why someone would be searching for map-reading ducks...
However the ones that are really weird are usually the sex-related searches:

Octogenarians in Marion Ohio are on the prowl, people.

Someone in Meadows of Dan, Virginia has a penchant for close-contact riding in the buff apparently.

Newcastle Upon Tyne... Really?


And sometimes, it's just plain disgusting. Shame on you, Hawley, Minnesota. A Explorer user no less!
I really have no idea what the hell could possibly be going through this person's mind.

Now sometimes, you get some strange eyebrow-related searches: 

I don't know... Hmm... how *does* one know...?

That's just weird.
And sometimes Jamie Lee Curtis-related searches:


High-rez for zooming.
And every once in a while, you get something really awesome:
Thanks Johannesburg for restoring my faith in humanity.



Friday, November 25, 2011

The 'Pemberley' Shoe is now open for pre-order!

Heads-up, Regency enthusiasts! American Duchess has released another model of period shoe and this time it's Regency. A beautiful Regency slipper complete with the side seams.  The shoe is from the early regency (1790-1810), with the pointed toe and a tiny, precious little heel.  At pre-sale price, they're only $80 and they're made of dyable white leather. Regular price is $95.

Pre-order today so she can continue to sell these shoes in her boutique! Every lady who does Regency costuming needs a pair of these. :) Gentlemen, this is a lovely Christmas gift idea.




Order yours here:


Monday, November 21, 2011

The Flying Turkey



Family. You can’t live with them, you can’t live withou.. ::pauses to imagine life without selected family members and sighs wistfully:: Family. You can’t live with them, and you’d probably be blissfully happy every day without them. ::sigh:: Family.


It’s the holiday season, a time of particular bitterness for me. On my side of the family, the holidays meant stress, screaming, arguing and accusations topped with cooking, decorating for no reason except to see it destroyed by my brother, and all around ill-will. Thanksgiving at my home was always a rich time of passive-aggression, topped with resentment with a side of f*ck you.

When we moved back to the US, for some reason, Thanksgiving fell on me. Mind you, I have to say the cooking bit, I LOVED. To no end. I miss being able to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I would get up early (which is a big deal for me) and I’d be in the kitchen all day; whipping together dish after dish because I wanted to try them.

Usually, because my brother likes to grab food out of other people’s plates and fling food sometimes, we did not have guests for Thanksgiving. So I was cooking for Satan Mom, Papa, my brother and myself alone. So while everyone slept or ignored me, the kitchen was mine to do with as I pleased, with the occasional control-freaking moment from my mom, who had given up on cooking the meal, but still felt it necessary to tell me how to do it in spite of my cooking being WAY better than hers.

I digress... I’d spend all day in the kitchen whipping together my stuffing, sweet potato casserole, delicious gravy, the turkey, cranberry apple sauce, fluffy mashed potatoes, pies and whatever else suited my fancy. Then I’d roust everyone from their rooms where they’d be hiding (Mom & Papa had their own rooms) and try to round them up to sit down for the meal. They’d eat and then boom, I’d be standing in the kitchen alone with the mess.

A couple of years before I moved out and got my apartment, Thanksgiving rolled ‘round and once more, it was up to me. I was excited to cook the meal, so I went shopping the day before. My mom on that Wednesday night before, decided to go to the social club she frequented at the time, and sit at the bar with her cronies, suck on cigarettes and flirt relentlessly with the rickety old dudes until the wee hours of the morning, so she got home sometime between 2:30AM and 3:00. I heard her come in, and she yelled something slurred about whatever, and went to bed.

That morning, it was snowing. It was particularly snowy before Thanksgiving that year and it was white and beautiful outside. I had a Boston classical station on, and I was up putzing around, cooking, doing my thing. Papa wandered in to pick at things I’d already cooked or chopped, and I shooed him away and then wandered away to his Ham radio to chat with his Hungarian friends. All day, I spent it alone. And come time Thanksgiving dinner was ready, I was already kind of worked up into a bit of a grump. So I went and pummeled on Mom’s door, and she responded with a gravelly, hoarse voice that she was coming, and I called Papa, who barely acknowledged me between CQs, and John was medicated and out like a light since I’d made him breakfast.

I stood there for half an hour and waited. I pummeled on Mom’s door again, and then called Daddy one more time, the irritation quite plain in my voice. This time my mom deigned to get out of her post-drunken slumber, and she came out looking like she’d rolled down the Matterhorn and Papa came shuffling out in his slippers. The first thing they do is start to bicker. It was over something completely inane, I can’t remember, but the bickering escalated as it naturally did in our household, and next thing you know my parents are screaming at each other at the top of their lungs and threatening each other and calling one another names.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but I kind of snapped. I was already upset at how taken for granted I felt, and then on top of that my hung-over mother and my oblivious father could not be bothered to behave like civilized creatures for the sake of the flipping holiday. I’d spent all day trying to make this nice meal for what? For this? I can recall the burning ire in my belly, and I can recall the sear of the tears in my eyes as my parents screamed and yelled at one another, and I just lost it. I picked up the turkey, and carried to the sliding door to the deck, carried it out through the thick layer of snow, and I threw the turkey off the deck into the snow. I then stormed inside, threw the tray on the table with a huge crash, and went into my room and locked the door. And that’s how I spent Thanksgiving.

Daddy was horrified and went downstairs and fished the turkey out of the snow, dried it off and they apparently ate some of the meal. Their argument was of course promptly curtailed by the flying turkey, but there was no apology, no assurances... nothing. They just ate and went back to their rooms,

A few years later, after I bought my house about 40 minutes away, I wanted nothing more than to host my own Thanksgiving dinner. I spent months beforehand collecting little doodads, service ware, candle stuff, whatever. I planned a menu, and invited friends; I was SO excited to have thanksgiving dinner with actual guests. I called my mom to tell her about it, and her response was to turn into a screaming freak. “WHAT? YOU ARE COMING HERE FOR THANKSGIVING!” she screamed. Her reaction was completely off the scale. Her voice was so loud I had to hold the phone a good eight inches from my ear, and I could still hear every spittle-laden expletive and vitriolic accusation. I think back on it now, and I still can’t believe what a horrid, selfish person my mother is. She expected me to de-invite my guests and to come to her house to cook HER thanksgiving dinner. I mean, seriously? And what’s worse? I DID! ::shakes her head in shame:: I moved my dinner to Saturday (losing three guests in doing so), and went to her home and made dinner again. And it was EXACTLY as it always was. I’d cook all day; they’d appear, eat, bicker and then go to their rooms leaving me with the mess.

My dinner at my place, in spite of it being on Saturday, was a revelation. To know what it was like to host a holiday dinner with nothing but good spirits, to cook in the kitchen with people you care about standing around, sipping wine, laughing, sitting around table, engaged, talking and sharing stories, to break bread without spite or anger or resentment... It was momentous for me. It proved that it could happen; you *could* have a happy Thanksgiving. One of the things I did was to put little votive cups at each place-setting, and with a thin taper, I had each guest state one thing they were thankful for, and then light their candle, and pass the taper onto the next person. It sounds kind of lame, but it was one of the most honest, loving moments I’ve ever experienced during the holidays. Man I miss those guys.

This year, I have family nearby again. A sister who I haven’t shared Thanksgiving dinner with since... Oh god, probably before we left Belgium, and Satan of course. We are splitting the cooking. I’m doing savoury and she’s doing desserts, with some minor exceptions here and there. We are driving to her house. It’s one of the rare Thanksgivings I’ve had since I moved to Oregon where I am not just a guest of someone else’s traditions... it’s my family. It’ll probably be a dance of humouring and manipulation to keep my mother under control, but my sister and I are pretty sure she’s going to say at least one offensive, accusatory thing, but we’ve agreed to let it roll off of our backs, and strive to distract her with other things to keep her mouth shut. It’ll be just the five of us and the dogs. I’ll let you know if there are any more flying turkies.


HA!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mumbly Mondays are the Worst.

My Halloween costume. Took HOURS for me to put
together. I call him Nommy the Skull-Eating Shark.
Ignore my huge eyebrows. I'm growing them out for a culling
and weeding session.
Our septic is failing.  Yes, yet another pitfall in the trials and tribulations of the Mt. Hood-Johanesen household.  Our finances in edging on ruin, we barely scraping by, and lo and behold, let the wastewaters rise, let them breach the surface, and spread their aromatic scents across the land!  Of course, even as this huge expense raises its monstrous head, the universe is sure to make it as difficult and challenging as possible, making sure that the simplest solution is simply not good enough.
You see, our home is sitting on a bed of glacial sands; likely deposited there by a lahar that came sluicing off of Mount Hood during its last eruption sometime just before Lewis & Clark came mincing across the Cascades.  The whole area is composed of this sort of soil. It sucks terribly for gardeners. Anyhoo  Naturally, because it’s a rural area, we do not have public treatment works available to all. And of course, since the aquifer below us supplies our community well, as well as many other individual wells, we are now forced to install a system that will cost about $mucho$.  Once we had the county come in to assess our test-pits, they were made aware of the contraption that the previous owner put in and marked it a violation and demanded we fix it immediately.
When we were buying the house, we were told that the previous owner had installed a new septic system, and she disclosed as such on the sale, however, she did not disclose that the septic system she installed was not code, and done without the county’s knowledge. She did not share that it may have been built by a half-wit tweeker village idiot, who cobbled it together out of sticks, rocks and pinecones*. She installed a septic tank (with a gravel bottom) with a couple of perforated pvc pipes splayed off of it as a leach-field.  The county however, is pretty particular about this area. The sandy soil, the aquifer and the river nearby are huge considerations for them.  No home can install a septic system these days that is not a small self-contained wastewater treatment system.  So no tank will do.  They came in, saw the disaster that is what is in place now, and demanded that we install a specialized system that includes two tanks, a pump and a ‘bottomless sand filter’ bed that takes up a good hunk of our property.  We will have to reshape our driveway and knock down a couple of trees to boot. ::grrr:: *may be a slight exaggeration.
So yeah.
Our weekend was spent getting quotes from septic companies.  Oy vay.
It’s Halloween. For us, that means very little. We will not get trick-or-treaters (unless we count the dbag kids who ran over our fence last week, except they didn’t ask for Candy).  We got two bags of fun-size 3 Musketeers just in case some freak thing happens (after seven years in our home) and a kid knocks on our door... but we really got two bags of fun-size 3 Musketeers  because they’re 2 points a piece and they’re DELICIOUS. Nom.
If any of you partook in my rant about Pacific Northwest Snow Drivers, then you’ll know where I stand on the use of studded tires on PNW roads.  Come November 1, the lazy people who don’t want to be bothered to learn how to drive properly in snow will choose to change out their regular tires for tires with metal studs that gouge out the road for the five to six months they’re permitted to use them.  Newly paved roads are virtually ruined over one winter in Oregon. Studded tires cause an estimated $40,000,000 in damage annually, and guess where that money comes from people. An enlightened Portland man, Jeffrey Bernards, is also sick and tired of hydroplaning on the highways from driving in the ruts filled with rainwater; he is tired of having his windshield immersed in water during rain events as other cars cause 55-gallon rooster-tails as they navigate the twin rivers in each lane. Oregonians should be using pontoons and those big fan-motors they use for swamp boats to get around the streets during rain events with all the damage the studded tire makes on Oregon roads. The ruts are so deep on HWY 84, you can let go of your steering wheel and your car will continue on like it’s on rails. You have to get a running start to change lanes.
Mr. Bernards is hoping to get enough signatures on his petition to BAN the use of the studded tire in Oregon.  And I’m standing with him on this one. They are an unnecessary, destructive crutch for people who probably shouldn’t be driving in inclement weather to begin with.
So if you are an Oregonian, and are not so lame that you need to have little studs in your wheels to make you feel better driving, please sign this petition and send it in! Save us some tax dollars and maybe they can direct that money being poured down the studded tire toilet towards our failing educational system.

Horse: Has ANOTHER injury. His foot injury is still lingering, but now the barn owner has gone against my wishes and let him out with other horses, and naturally, he's been beaten up. A swollen rear leg at the knee, bit marks, and another nasty cut on his hip. I'm so sick of this! ARGH!
Weight-wise: I'm STILL hovering for the third month between 25-29 lbs. I have not broken the 30lb mark as of yet. But I am working on it. AFTER Halloween and 3 Musketeers, obviously.
Sewing for the retreat wise: because of my chronic procrastination problems, I have not advanced much in the sewing department. I have ALMOST finished one of the more involved projects, and that is my new set of smaller stays.  I gave my old ones to S2, and she complains the busk is not comfy for her. I'm tempted to ask her for the busk back and making her a shorter rounded one.  I need a busk! And my husband is stonewalling me. But ultimately, I have the bulk of the stays finished. I just need to add grommets and shoulder straps (and a busk naturally).  Here's a picture of my OC the murder-cat helping me sew (by helping I mean batting at my fingers with his claws exposed).

I did some rudimentary jute cording in this set, mostly reinfocing the circumference
and under the gussetted cups.  It looks nice, except one part. I didn't pay close
enough attention to matching the line as it crossed the back closure. Oh well.

I bound it badly in cheap binding for now.  I was too impatient to wait to go to the store and get simple white binding. I may cover it in lace. Not sure yet. I just wanted it closed because I'm OCD.

I also secured a pair of half-booties for the retreat. They were $7.99 on eBay. Shipping made it $12ish dollars. Big deal. Until I can get those Robert Land boots I want, these will do just as well (after lysol spray and Gold Bond treatment--they're used).

Yay for eBay. :D
Anyway, happy Halloween all.  It’s a beautiful Halloween day here in Portland. Sunny and lovely.  Sorry for all you folks back east who got whomped. How unusual is that? A storm in October. But since you fall-hogging New Englanders get all the beautiful autumns all the time, maybe nature thought you ought to get some less-than-savoury weather for a change. Truly, I hope all my friends and loved ones over yonder are okay!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I have anger issues. Big news.



Very few people in my life have seen me truly angry. My life has been an exercise in control, from my childhood on. I’ve swallowed a lot of my anger, and I have smiled and kept my cool in situations that would have set many others off like a moon-rocket. It’s a side effect of growing up in a violent, abusive household. We all learned to avoid conflict in the most creative ways, even if it meant stuffing your own feelings into a hole somewhere until you could find a suitable outlet for your anger (if at all). Those feelings fester and turn into little creatures that nibble and gnaw at you. They want to matter. They want out.


When I do get mad, I have a ridiculously horrid temper. My filter is turned off. When I’m angry, truly angry, the gates that keep the unkind thoughts that I’ve been fostering for years to burst open, and everything I think of you might be poured out in the most hideous way. I’ve destroyed a number of good friendships and relationships losing control of my barely-contained ire. Most of the time, when I am angry, I’ll retreat and retrench until the fire in my belly cools enough to avoid having a meltdown on some hapless fool who’s poked me with a sharp stick. But that doesn’t mean the battle is over. It’s still boiling. It will continue to boil.



But there are ‘innocent’ triggers too; the things that make those repressed monsters inside me start growling and roaring; things that cause me to have to do my retreat thing and to pace my breathing and to close my eyes and bite it all down. And all those are signs of an impending Thermo Nuclear explosion. If I go quiet on you, it’s not a good thing. If I’m yelling at you and it’s not devastatingly cruel and you’re not humiliated or crying, you’re probably okay—you haven’t been affected by my true temper and will probably be forgiven. There’s no mistaking my true anger. It’s hellacious.

Three things that will light the fuse of hellfire inside me:

1. DO NOT call me hon. This will likely turn me into an instant bitch. I will snap at you and treat you horribly for doing it. This isn’t the worst of the offenses, but it definitely will piss me off.



There are two kinds of ‘hon’ frequently used by strangers (often younger people) towards you (mostly older people). The one where the speaker is haplessly thinking they’re being personable and cute and the kind where the ‘hon’ or ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie’ that is meant to knock you down a notch; where it is a thinly veiled insult; a passive-aggressive patronization. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference. The hapless ‘hon’ is dispatched with impunity in the customer service industry. Servers and retail workers will use terms like ‘hon, sweetie and sweetheart’ unknowingly, and have no idea they’re irritating the shit out of their customers instead of ingratiating themselves to them.

“What can I get for you hon?” ::chewing gum like a bovine and gazing at you vapidly, pen poised over her pad::

“Are you finding everything you need sweetie?” ::tucking a trendril of her helmet-like hair away from her foundation-slathered forehead before thumbing through more sales racks::

“Thanks, hon” ::said in a flat, uncaring monotone while shoving your purchases into a bag and then subsequently into your face::

The Passive Aggressive term of endearment is delivered with more acidity:

“Hon, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”::said with an arched brow and a smug smirk::

“That’s not sage, it’s green, hon.” ::said with an arched brow and a bit of a disgusted smirk::

“Sweetie, you should be happy I’m telling you this now, because if I waited until later...” ::said with a barely controlled voice and a forced smile::

As a forty year old, I find it especially annoying when the speaker using the term of endearment is many years my junior. You are not my sweetie, hon or darling. It’s disrespectful and presumptuous. You certainly are not qualified (qualifications are: You are a member of my direct family or you are a dear friend) to use a term of endearment with me. You certainly are not qualified to use those terms with people who are older than you, and you sure as hell should not use those terms of endearment with strangers. It’s obnoxious.

If you want to avoid some crazy woman snapping at you, don’t call me hon.


 
2. Do not give me commands or make demands of me.

I hate it when people tell me what to do. A command will send a patch of instant razor-sharp hackles to bristle from my back and shoulders the moment it’s dispatched. If you cannot ask politely, then don’t open your mouth because then I will deliberately *not* do something just to prove you can’t tell me what to do. It’s irrational, but it’s the way my brain works, and once that switch is flipped, it’s hard to get control of it. DO NOT try to engage me immediately after you’ve set me off, or there will be a knock-down-screaming fight (this is not to be mistaken with a pissy argument, these are distinctly two different things). Remember, I’m half Puerto-Rican and I grew up in an abusive household. I have no lack of passion and temper, and I can reach some pretty high volumes and be pretty mean. And 99.9% of the time (family is generally exempt from the following part) I will no longer have anything to do with you after I spill my ire on you. I won’t even want to see your face. You will be shunned from my life and I will make it my business that everyone knows how much I despise you. Spiteful? Yes. Evil? Yes. Do I care? No. At that point, you have been scrubbed from my list of viable human beings worth interacting with and that’s that. So do not push me into a fight if you want anything even remotely to do with me or things that involve me. Approach me with caution if you want me to do something for you, or let me offer. But you sure as hell better not demand it of me or you’re pretty much guaranteed not to have it done and to lose any remaining respect I might hold for you while you’re at it. Learning to use the word please will save you a lot of misery. That *should* be a general rule for everyone, but not everyone has even basic manners or common consideration these days.


3. Do not make passive-aggressive or plain aggressive statements to me in settings where my sensibilities prevent me from making a spectacle of myself in front of others in response to it.

If you’ve made a snotty statement directed at me in mixed company and I haven’t responded, please know that you haven’t won your little snotty battle. You’ve ended your battle in all truth. You’ve guaranteed your demise in the most humiliating of fashions, but you don’t even realize it. All you’ve done is merely add reactive fuel to the possible, subtle implosion that is going to occur sometime in the future. What you’ve guaranteed is that you’ve made yourself useless to me at that point. I do not respond well to cattiness. At all. Once you’ve made yourself disposable, it’s only a matter of time before you are winnowed out of my life. When I go quiet, and I do not react, know that a little mental note just went into your file; and my memory is long, and I have stopped caring about you. After the first passive-aggressive attack, I will be focused on it whenever I interact with you. I’ll be looking for reasons. I will be watching for more fuel. Time? Not an issue. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes, I will even bait you for more fuel; bait you to make an ass of yourself, finding or making reasons to justify why you should be ejected from my life forever and for others to see it for themselves without uttering a word to influence them. I’m evil and unforgiving in a mean, insidious and smiling way in this situation. So if you’re a douchebag who can’t keep their mouth shut, I offer a sound beware. When the inevitable happens, it’s open season. But what I’m especially good at in those situations is letting the offender dig their own grave—and because I’ve remained tight-lipped and kept smiling, I end up the classy one while the offender has only revealed the depth of their snottiness and lack of couth. It’s my best ‘death’ strategy and it has worked very well for me over the years. People ultimately reveal themselves for what they are. Just keep cool and give them time. No Thermo Nuclear explosions required, yet you still get that same satisfying, devastating fallout.

That’s a little insight into the less than peachy side of me. It’s there, I’m sure you are all well aware. But it’s the direct result of my upbringing. I may be grumpy a lot, but that’s not even remotely close to what I’m like when I lose my temper and write people off. I have the capacity of shutting people out who are very close to me, and pretending they don’t exist. It’s horrifying, imagining what that would be like from the other side, but it’s part of who I have become over the years. After living with unkind and cruel people, you learn to filter that sort of thing out of your life in effective ways as a personal defense mechanism. Either with fire and bluster, or with a cloak and dagger, I will achieve my ends. These are three guaranteed ways of making it happen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Living with renters, not so peachy.

What's it like, one might wonder, to live next door to a rental cabin. Okay, maybe you might not wonder, or even think of it, but since anyone could be a renter at any given time, It thought I'd share this little tale of what happened just last night and this morning:

Yesterday, several cars pulled into the rental cabin. We don't usually fuss about renters unless 1) there are too many of them, 2) they are noisy or 3) are douchebags.  Although the booming auto-tune music around 9PM was annoying, it was early and we were tired, so we just thought nothing of it, and figured if it got out of hand, we'd get up and figure it out.  We went to bed.

All through the night, the dogs were restless.  They were 'boofing' and growling and jumping in and out of bed. The neighbour on the other side's dog (Jessie the abandoned one) was barking hysterically.  Finally, at about 3:40 AM, my husband got up because the noise was out of control.  There was shouting, cars running, motors revving and other inexplicable sounds.  He came inside to tell me that someone had run over our fence.  We got up, looked outside again. The kids were trying to get away, and they were backing up, and got stuck in the driveway. Someone couldn't get out so they ran over our fence and left through our driveway.


We called the cops.  A policeman arrived shortly after, sending a number of the kids scurrying away. I went outside to speak to the cop and bumped into a kid in the dark lurking in our back yard trying to sneak away from the police officer.  A parent had been phoned at some point and was up there before the police officer got there. He was trying to offer platitudes, but honestly I was in no mood for it.  A bunch of the kids left, and the ones that remained were quieted down and they went to sleep.

Come morning, our neighbour across the street, angry that he couldn't get out of his driveway because one of the little idiots had blocked it with their POS car, pummeled on the door until someone woke up and made them move the car.  I collected the trash thrown into our driveway and put it on the windshield of their car.



I had emailed the rental company Vacasa rentals at 3:45 AM when the really out of control stuff was going, and told them we would be holding them responsible for damages and repairs.  However, this morning, the kids' mother came over and yelled at us as if we had somehow caused this.  She said something inane about a gang of Mexicans raiding the party, and then claimed that prior renters that already had the lock-box code broke into the party and beat her son up.  I don't care what happened. How that has anything to do with us is beyond me.  She somehow expected sympathy for her son, how apparently got into a fight. I told her he is responsible for the consequences of his own choices.  I told her that I don't care how she handles it through the rental company, but I told her that it was up to them to fix our fence.  She was livid that her kids got kicked out by the rental company--acting as if it was excessive of the rental company (and us) to expect them to go. I just shrugged and arched my brows with a look of 'oh well'.

Ridiculous.  This has been a disaster since the beginning.  Weekend after weekend we are subjected to loud parties, cars coming and going at all hours, people shouting in the hot-tub at all hours of the night and obnoxious idiots trying to justify it.  I wish these people would see this as a neighbourhood and not as a camp site.  The police officer said that some properties can be classified as 'nuisance' properties with enough complaints against them. Maybe I won't be so tolerant any more. Maybe it's time to get this property classified as a nuisance.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What horsemanship means to me (and then some)


Hubby has managed to get himself into a bit of a pinch.
Sunday was our sixth wedding anniversary. Our celebration? All-you can eat seafood extravaganza Sunday brunch at Salty’s on the Columbia. I ate SO much. I’m not used to eating like that anymore. In spite of my two-month weight plateau odyssey, I’ve tried to stick to the WW regime in hopes that my metabolism with knock it off, and allow me to start losing again. At least I’m not gaining. But Sunday was a special occasion. I think I ate something like: five crab legs, five oysters, two scoops of steamers, a moderate pile of shrimp, one muffin half of eggs benedict, two sides of a mini bagel with lox and cream cheese, a half waffle with a small dollop of whipped cream and hazelnut maple syrup (as delicious as it sounds, trust me), scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon, two crawdaddies, four sushi roll slices, a tiny pear tartlet, a teeny slice of raspberry cake, a small scoop of fruit loops (don’t ask), one strawberry and a tiny little block of rice crispy treat. Yes, I ate ALL that. Trust me, I paid the price. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!

After that, I rode Tag for the first time in over a month. His foot wound still persists, but at least now it’s drying out a bit and the muzzle has helped keep it from getting worse since the horse is a dork and chooses to mess with his wound. He is no longer lame, and I worked his ass off. I had him sweated up. He was being obstinate to a fault too, really rebellious and after all this time without being put to work, he felt it necessary to test me. His behaviour was considered shocking to some who were present, but I expect it from my hot-blooded brat horse. After I worked his socks off, he was more compliant. I took some time to flip my leg over his neck and to ride ‘sidesaddle’ in my Stubben all-purpose, just to see how he’d do with my crop as the far-side aid and how he’d feel about my foot being crooked up on his shoulder/neck. Yeah, I was sitting uphill a bit, but it was just for experimentation purposes. He was totally fine. I also did some other trust exercises, like lying backwards on his croupe, and forward onto his neck with my legs going down his length. I like ‘snuggling’ with him that way, and it builds trust.

That was of course after I’d made him canter his butt off after defying me a few times. Poor baby, how evil of me. People say I work him too hard, but Tag needs it like a juvenile delinquent needs discipline and structure. Tag definitely needs an experienced rider on his back, that’s for sure. When Sharon, a barn-friend, suggested that I allow other people to ride him on trails when we were camping at Timothy Lake at the end of July, I had to bite back the urge to bark out laughing. 1) NOBODY rides my horse. And if I allow anyone to, they will do it with my direct supervision. Especially someone with no experience who can ruin all the work I’ve done with him, and *especially* people who would be an automatic liability, who my horse would take advantage of. I know people who would say that if my horse were better trained that anyone could ride him, but that’s not true. Even the best-trained horses can hurt people who have no idea WTF they are doing in the saddle.

Those people are in ample supply where I ride. No offense to the ladies at my barn, but MANY of them ride scared and fear always influences how horses interact with their rider. Most of riders at my barn use their western saddles and other tack/hardware as ‘safety crutches’ and all of them are so terrified of falling or the horse ‘acting up’ that they hardly enjoy themselves and spend their rides in a state of low-grade terror, waiting for their horse to freak out. When riding tense and jumpy, how do they expect your horse not to feel that and reflect it? Or worse, to test your limits? Many of the riders do not really know how to be the support for the horse. I see a lot of horses manipulating and acting out against inexperienced riders, and the riders choosing to use a cruel bit, or some other piece of hardware as a solution rather that learn to actually ride a horse in any way besides just sitting in their Western sofas and holding on for dear life, whimpering every time the horse spooks, kicks a fly from their belly or farts. I just don’t condone that kind of ‘horsemanship’ (and I use this word loosely). Most of the women I see at my barn who are like that would not be encouraged to buy a horse, to ride alone, or to ride outside of the lessons at our stable until they were better riders. But a lot of people own horses they can’t handle where I ride; and apparently that’s allowed. You can say that as a barn owner, that it’s an individual person’s responsibility to make safe choices for themselves, and wash your hands of it, but truth be told, as an instructor and an owner, you should be responsible for the people under your care, and you should certainly apply your experience towards making them as safe as possible as riders before you let them have free rein (excuse the pun).

I’m especially concerned about a lot of the ‘Western Pleasure’ riders at the barn. Western saddles are useful when you are roping cattle and driving them for days and days across the badlands. There are many people who use them with skill and intelligence. But the greater part of Western Pleasure riders don’t know what the hell they’re doing. In truth, these huge, secure saddles should not be used for pleasure riding. This is my firm belief. These big saddles with the horn to grip and the deep seat can fool a lot of people into thinking that they’re excellent riders, and don’t realize how much they rely on them rather than their own skill. I believe this mostly because too many people rely on the saddle’s ability to hold them on the horse, rather than learn to hold themselves onto the horse. And too many people use the huge, terrible shank bits that come with Western Pleasure (scourge) as a control device to cow their horse into submission with pain and discomfort rather than earn the horse’s cooperation and trust with skill and ability. Many of these pleasure riders can’t even recognize certain behaviours that can be warnings, or understand that their horse doesn’t respect them. A lot of people get hurt because they have a great deal of false confidence from learning to ride without really acquiring enough foundational skill and knowledge of what horsemanship is really about.

Falling is not the end of the world. And once a rider accepts that 1) it’s going to happen and 2) it can be survived if handled intelligently and without panic, then there is a great deal less to worry yourself about when you’re in the saddle. I’ve met a lot of people who are very proud that they’ve never fallen from a horse. That’s great, but it’s not a mark of a good rider by any means. Neither does it mean that experienced riders are invulnerable to being hurt, but they are less likely to be taken advantage of, and more capable of controlling and understanding their mount. Riding without being crisped up like a mummified corpse is a start. Riding a thinking, instinctive animal that outweighs you several times should not be considered a hobby like scrapbooking, this is a skilled sport and should require teamwork, not dominance; and teamwork means the horse has to trust YOU as much as you trust it. In order to gain the horse’s trust, you must earn its respect as a leader, not as a master (and yes, there is a distinct difference). It should willingly follow your will, and be eager to please you, rather than follow it because you will punish it otherwise. That’s a wobbly and unstable relationship that is very likely to crumble quickly and dangerously.

I’ve taken a few falls from Tag. I’ve torn my cruciate. Throughout my lifetime in the saddle, I’ve fractured ribs, broken an arm, foot and leg, and once, while bringing a whip to a friend who was longeing her horse, I got kicked in the head and achieved a nice concussion & internal bleeding on my skull that landed me in intensive care. I have fallen without injury more times than I can count. Granted, many of those falls were the result of youthful fearlessness mixed with cockiness. I see a lot of that in the teenaged girls at the barn now. But I was lucky. I had an instructor who taught us all our very first riding lessons as small children on a full sized horse, on a longe. He taught us confidence by doing those exercises (leaning back, forward, sitting backwards, standing on the horse’s back, sitting sideways, learning to trust the horse), teaching us to sit the gaits first with no saddle but just a surcingle, and teaching us that when we fall (an inevitability), that we should always let go of the reins, and always ride with only the ball of your foot in the stirrup—and definitely never to rely on the stirrup all the time. Hell, he even made us post without stirrups to build thigh strength. He taught us to ride with long stirrups, and sit deep in the seat, saddle or no, and to visualize our spine connected to the horse’s, to pay attention to muscle bunching on the horse and to understand their body signals. Only after a few lessons of confidence training and balance training were we allowed to graduate to a saddle and bridle, to group lessons and to ponies.

If you are going to spend your time in the saddle living in constant fear of falling, you probably shouldn’t be riding a horse, I’m sorry to say. It’s too dangerous a sport, and if you give the 1200lb animal and idea that he is the one in control, you’ve already lost. Being dominant and punishing is a way of showing fear to your horse. They will eventually rebel against it. Horses feel fear. In every muscle in your body---even through those massive, leathery sofa chairs some call a saddle. No amount of tack is going to keep you from risk—in some cases, it will increase it. And when and if you decide to buy a horse, know what you’re getting into and know what you’re capable of. Too many inexperienced riders are sitting on horses they are not equipped to handle. It’s a dangerous combination. We’ve had several pretty serious falls and injuries in the two years I’ve been at my barn because riders were too inexperienced to handle their horses.

So whenever someone admonishes me for making Tag work harder the more he pushes me, or when someone says I’m taking unnecessary risk riding in my postage-stamp saddle on trails (or anywhere), or when someone thinks I should give up horseback riding and be scared just because I’ve fallen, I have to just bite my tongue and keep doing what I do, because when Tag is acting like a d-bag, it means he’s testing me, and when he knows I can gain his cooperation and teach him by gentle and rewarding means, he’s learning.

My sister rides Western, but when I say she rides Western, she actually gets on her horse and ropes cattle. Her custom saddle is spare, and light and strong enough to tie a roped calf to. My sister can also do a Prix St. Georges level dressage proof, and train horses without any forceful means at all, with her eyes closed. People ask me why I don’t use a Western saddle, and my answer is why? Why would I add unnecessary bulk and weight to my horse’s back when what I have now works fine? I’m not going to rope cattle or dodge barrels or whatever else people do using those saddles. There’s no point except to add back the 27lbs I’ve lost to my horse’s burden in the form of a saddle. I think not.

Tag and I, pre-roach (before I shaved his mane off)
This past year, since Tag was never taught safe mounting, my sister gave me an exercise to teach it to him. When I’m mounting and he tries to move in any way, I make him circle me. Eventually, he’ll let me mount when he’s ready, and has grown tired of my making him circle every time he doesn’t do as I ask. Gradually, the mounting time is growing shorter and shorter; his circles are growing fewer and fewer. He was green and was never properly trained from the moment I got him. Now, he’s learning. But every time I perform the safe-mounting process, someone invariably asks if I want them to hold him, or if I want the barn owner to mount him to teach him to sit still in her own forceful way... I can barely keep from rolling my eyes. Everyone seems to have the ‘fast-cure’ advice to offer. Horsemanship is not instant gratification. Horsemanship is patience and persistence. It cannot be advanced by draw reins or huge spurs or a bit with shanks that are longer than my forearm. I sure as hell am not going to take advice from people who buy into that philosophy. I’d rather take six months teaching him to be a good boy when I’m getting into the saddle than make him look at me as anything but his teammate. He has my life in his hands, so to speak... I need to know my horse trusts me.

I found on Sunday that with work, Tag is going to make an excellent sidesaddle horse. He’s balanced and strong, and over the two years I’ve had him (10/31 is our second anniversary together) he’s come a long way. I remember that first day I rode him, when he didn’t even know how to move forward on my leg, and the doors of the stalls scared the bejeezus out of him. I remember getting into a battle of wills just to let me ride him out of the arena. Now, I can do yoga on his back and he doesn’t give a crap, he still has trouble collecting his canter, but that will come in time and with work. He has bratty moments, but that’s okay, I’d rather have a horse with a mood and personality than some defeated, lip-hanging plugger with a leather mouth and spur-worn sides. Besides, he looks so awesome and powerful when he’s being a douchbag.

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