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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Token

He glared at me with such anger, such disappointment; I could barely keep myself from bursting into tears. With sadness in his eyes, he walked away. Twelve years old, in tan corduroys, a plaid button-down shirt and worn loafers, this boy who’d been so kind to me, couldn’t look at me again. I’d betrayed his kindness. And I lied to him.
Arch was my friend.  He was a Mormon boy, tough as nails, sweeter and kinder than anyone else I knew. Me, I was lost, broken and mostly friendless. We couldn’t be more different if we tried, but we somehow managed to forge a friendship. I adored him.  Seventh grade me, in hand-me-downs, often teased, mostly ignored, loved Arch. But I also feared for him.
Arch was a bit sweet on me. Of course, I didn’t realize this then, when I was still too obtuse and young to know these things.  But later on, it came to me, far too late to figure it out; far too late to come out with the truth and to somehow try to erase that disappointment in his eyes that to this day still remains vivid in my memory.
There was this other boy, my mother’s friend’s son. Chris was the kid everyone made fun of, the kid that wore elastic-waist-band jeans and who was often found wedged bottom-first in the garbage can, thrown in there by bullies.  He was the kid nobody would help. They would walk by laughing. It was decided between mothers that we should be friends.  During that time, I was absent from school quite a bit. Chris’s mother offered for Chris to bring my books to my mother’s work so I could have them when I was home.  My locker combination was winkled out of me. My schoolwork followed me home to my dismay—not as if I ever really did anything about it anyway.
The locker combination. It was what caused everything.  It started with a Valentine’s day surprise. I opened my locker to find chocolates and a flower.  Arch was with me. I exclaimed my annoyance at it. I grumbled about Chris having my locker combination, and about Chris's mother colluding with him to make this gesture.  Arch was angry, but of course, I did not know this. All I did know was that during science class, it was announced that Arch was suspended. That he’d thrown Chris into a locker during gym and given him a concussion.
Sometime before then, Arch had given me a dried starfish. A little token. It was pretty cool. I kept it in a little box in my locker. I had showed it to Chris before the whole locker-incident. So it was inevitable that I came in one day after Chris’s face had been made black and blue, and opened my locker and found the little starfish crushed to bits. A little piece of it fell out when I picked up the box, unbeknownst to me at the time.
Arch was back in school by then. I didn’t want to tell him about the starfish, because he already got in trouble for attacking Chris. So I didn’t tell him.  But he found that little piece of starfish somewhere, and he came and stood before me and asked me about it. He thought I'd broken it, discarded it. He thought I didn't treasure it. I lied to him. “It’s fine,” I told him. “I took it home.”  He said he found a little broken leg, and I declared it couldn’t be the one he gave me. It was safe at home. The idea of him getting suspended again for his temper, for his ire against Chris, it was too scary.
He didn’t believe me, naturally. It was insulting to his intelligence, I know, but when you’re a kid you just grasp at straws. He never spoke to me again. I went to a Catholic intern school that next year and I don’t know where he ended up. There are days, when I wish I could send him a little starfish. An apology. I wish I could go back in time to tell him the truth so I could fix the disappointment in that boy’s eyes.
But what can you do. He’s a grown man now, somewhere, probably with a healthy crop of kids and a successful life, a stunning wife, and happily ensconced with the LDS somewhere in Utah.  A good soul—maybe with a bit of a temper issue, but he was a kid, it’s forgivable.  He probably doesn’t even remember the stupid starfish. Here *I* am, at forty, still finding myself sometimes lamenting that lost childhood friend. How pathetic is that? LOL.
To my friend Arch. I’m sorry I lied to you.  And I’m sorry for Chris too, wherever you are.

Tofu and Titties.

My boss phoned my office yesterday laughing himself into stitches.  He called to tell us about something he discovered while buying coffee. A local paper published an article about a desperate struggle going on in the neighbourhood here around SouthEast Portland. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Portland, Oregon; there's a particular fondness for strip clubs in this city (and state, but especially in and around Portland), and there is a great fervour brewing right next door to an existing strip club called 'The Acropolis' which is apparently quite famous for its excellent steak-bites (and crotch crickets).

Apparently, in a shuttered, shut-down building on a lot right next to an existing strip club, the owner of another strip club in northwest Portland wants to open a 'franchise' in the southeast side of the city at this location.  What makes this whole thing even more hilarious than it already is, is that the new proposed strip-club (called Diablo) is a VEGAN strip-club. Yes, a VEGAN strip club. I'm sorry... but that's funny. It's so... Portland. And what's funnier?  Look at the pictures in the articles below... especially the one in the second part (click the images to enlarge if you need to):

"Our daughters are NOT for sale!!!!"

"Stop Animal Cruelty!" - "Stop Vegan Hatred!!!!"
I don't need to explain why this is so damned hilarious.  It speaks for itself.  While children are being abused, while war rages, while the economy drags one middle class family after the next into poverty.... vegan strip clubs make the front page on the local rag.  Seriously! Lawlz.


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