Thursday, February 24, 2011

Horseback Riding-the new Tap Class

When I was in the throes of my tap dancing fetish (An object of unreasoning devotion or concern, Webster's Dictionary)I was happy, I was exercising and I had a great time. Since my neuropathy and other health issues have caused me no lack of pain and frustration, I have not been tapping for a good long while. I miss it every day. I have experienced all those things again, and to my surprise, it involves a 1000 lb. animal. I am thrilled to report that I actually DID something I have been thinking about for a long time, and it turned out to be better than my imagination could have prepared me for. My good friend Melissa and I have been discussing all the ways to get out of our winter doldrums, and horseback riding has appeared on our collective list for awhile. We were set to get out for lunch on Wednesday, and as I was a bit early for our established time of 12:00 noon, I decided to swing into the stable I was passing by and get the particulars. Wednesdays at 7:00 PM, there was an adult beginners class. One hour for $20. Not bad. I can blow $20 very quickly and without even batting an eye at the expense-most of us can. So this price seemed fair and worth our while. When I reported this information to Melissa, we were in a quandry because she was already committed to her Wednesday night Bible Study, and so it seemed that I might have to go it alone. As the day progressed, and my powers of persuasion (of COURSE God is in the stables with the horses, it's just a different place of worship) took over, (all of which I do believe in truth), it became apparent that we would be taking our first horseback riding lessons as adult beginners. We arrived at exactly 7 PM, because although we are both timely adults, I was involved with Allison and was her ride to her friends house. We would have been early enough to witness the class before ours, and perhaps get a few pointers, but instead, pulled up to the farm at precisely the stroke of seven. Going inside the barn, which is not heated, we were greeted by our instructor Ron. He is the epitomy of a cowboy, in my eyes. I'm sure he was wearing wrangler from head to toe, but not in a fashionable way. It was strictly business. His clothes were dusty and dirty and clearly his job is in a barn. No doubt that he has a "hands on" type of job. I have been acquainted with Ron since 2008, when Allison took riding lessons in a young people's group. He was a character then, he is a character now. Inside the arena were two people on horses, riding and working with their own horses. I guessed that they board them there. Sitting on a chair right outside the arena was the cutest Jack Russel Terrier, watching all the proceedings with an acute eye, but not a sound. Melissa and I were joking with each other, because we both have that same sense of humor, which is to use jokes to cover fear. We were awash with humor. I have ridden before, but always in a very controlled and pre-planned environment. I've done trailriding on horses that were so sick of their trail they were doing it with their eyes closed. The rider could have been screamiing "WHOA, WHOA" and the horse would only have followed the lead rider, because that was the plan. This was a different environment. We would be learning to communicate with horses in order to have them (and us) understand what it was that we wanted them to do, and in turn, they would do it. This, for me, was new. For Melissa, this was REALLY new, because she had never before been on a horse. Not even at a fair where the horse rides in a circle the way you do as children. This was her first time. Scary. I admire her for stepping out and taking it on. That's a big deal. Anyway, we followed Ron, who had saddled up two horses, into the ring. He led the horses over to a double sided stairway, which I followed up to the top, three stairs, at his direction. We got me onto the horse, where I saw while he helped Missy onto hers. My horse, Smokey, was gentle and docile, and stood waiting for my direction. I had none. Once Missy was up and saddled on Jordon, we were ready for instruction. The first instruction was all about holding the reins and being "In charge". We learned to get the horses to walk, stop, circle, reverse, faster and slower. It was the first half hour where all the instruction went on. The next half hour, we put it into practice and circled the arena over and over with our charges. The other two people on their horses in the area would make some joke, and we would laugh, and it was all pretty special. Ron got on a horse and joined us circling the ring. We spent the rest of the class just riding, talking, relaxing and conversing. The beautiful and powerful horses would just move at our direction, quietly, while we held our conversations and took it all in. This is where the magic hit. It was the best time I have experienced in a long time. I am excited to report that these rides can turn into trail rides through the Adirondacks and upstate New York. Ron rides with a group who will trail into the woods and spend full weekends riding. Learning to be comfortable on the horse and hearing about all the possibilities, once we learn to really ride, was an exciting and heady thing. Being in the barn, which was a cool 15 degrees, with the lights, and the other riders, and the barn animals (yes, there were barn cats here and there, sitting on stable walls and watching us) and of course, the little jack russel who eventually came into the ring and quietly joined his master up in the saddle. It was all a beautiful experience. We finished up and carefully got OFF our horses, on the same steps, and finished up a very exciting and powerful hour. Walking after sitting on a horse for an hour requires as much effort as getting ON the horse did an hour before. We did it. High fiving each other in the parking lot was just the first of many congratulations to ourselves for actually doing something we had talked about for a long time. We were proud, thrilled and exhausted. At that point, I started to feel the cold, but it was managable. I hadn't even thought about it in the arena. When I got home, I was so happy, sharing my experience with Jerry and Allison, I felt wonderful having a new experience to share. It was just that great feeling that you have when you spend a really wonderful time in a productive and enjoyable activity. I had done something quite physical, and my legs weren't even hurting. Actually, it was probably healthy for me to get up on that horse an do something really physical. It was a thrill. I know now where you will find my on Wednesday evenings. And yes, God was there. Can you tell?

Monday, February 21, 2011

War of the Roses-or, Bailey vs. Angel

It's been a long weekend. Our dear friends Dan and Jennie had dropped off their dog Angel, while they went away for the weekend to dance their little feet off. Angel, if you've read past blogs, has been a guest at our house many times. In fact, we don't think of her as a guest, she is just one of the pack. Her personality is very much like Bailey. In fact, she and Bailey spent the weekend playing one-up. When it comes to food, Bailey is still Alpha. Angel is too well mannered to even mess with him over his food. We established early on that Bailey had food issues, and have allowed him to work it out on his own, as long as he plays nice with the other dogs. No chomping allowed. But Angel is very well mannered about food. That's not the issue. The issue is the couch. Since we have a leather couch, I have now loosened the law about no dogs on the furniture. If no one is sitting on the couch, it's fair game. This has caused problems when someone DOES want to sit on the couch, because Bailey feels that they might be sitting in his seat, and a little correction is necessary. Dogs intimidating people about seats is not OK. When Angel comes over, the couch is the first place she heads for. I think it is a security thing, she likes to lay there and hide her face. This makes Bailey crazy, because if he isn't sitting on the couch when Angel arrives, he loses that spot. Score: Angel 1, Bailey 0. Now Bailey will spend the rest of the hour monitoring Angel's activity, so that as soon as she steps off the couch, he can jump up and claim ownership. Score: Bailey 1, Angel 1. It went on like this all weekend. The chewies, after-dinner scraps, bowls of water. You'd be amazed at how many bonuses can be counted and weighed. By the end of the weekend, Angel was up by about 15. Bailey was losing sleep over this calculation. He was staying awake just waiting for Angel to make a move, and then he could make a move a bit further. Quite comical, but it wasn't my beans being counted. By the time Angel was picked up on Monday morning, Bailey was exhausted. When Angel left, he immediately placed himself upon the sofa, without challenge. It just wasn't any fun, because he REALLY likes to sleep in my chair, because MY chair is quite comfortable. I worked it out that way. After being thrown off MY chair three times, he finally settled onto the dog bed and took a much needed nap. Counting beans is exhausting. I came into the living room a while later, and found that Bailey had settled himself back on my chair-he just couldn't help it. But the difference this time? He was facing the back of the chair, purposefully not moving. I know what he was thinking. If he couldn't see ME, then I couldn't see him. Good plan, except it doesn't work that way. I told him again, to get off the chair. He seemed a bit surprised, but got down immediately. This morning there was a bit of a scuffle in the bedroom. I believe that someone had a bit of food or something, that's usually the cause for scuffles. Jake went to bed immediately, because that is how he handles conflict (not a bad policy) and Bailey came into the living room as if nothing had happened, although he wasn't looking anyone in the eye. Spring anyone? I think it's getting to all of us.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stay on the road

Dear Newport News. If you'd like to sell me a bathing suit, please don't put it on the size four "I haven't eaten in months" model named Bambii. It doesn't make me happy, nor will it sell the suit. I've gone in search of bathing suits at Cabelas, in hopes that they will have more to offer me. signed, Jen I'm doing the catalog surfing these days, and I'm having a lovely time. I've set up orders for bulbs in the garden, seeds for the vegetable patch, a new spring wardrobe and cruise wear. I'm having a ball. Thank God I don't use credit cards, or this could be dangerous. I prefer to pay on time, which means that I'll be able to wear this years spring wardrobe in 2021. Our television watching has changed as well. I now tend to watch a certain channel right through their evenings programming. Is it that I am enjoying the programming or is it that its simply easier than changing the channel to search for something else that I like. After all, if I liked the first program, chances are that the second or third that follows it will be in the same type of humor "family". It's a long shot, but it boils down to the devil you know vs. the devil you don't know. In other words, my standards for watching TV have gotten pretty low. My other choice is going outside, which these days is treacherous. The snow is melting off the roof, which could come crashing down on you when you least expect it, and the snow on the ground is twice as dangerous. Never has a surface been so smooth. Zamboni would be jealous. yesterday when I was returning from a meeting in town, I pulled into the driveway from the north side, turned the wheel to follow the circle and land in front of the house. My wheel was turned, but I was going forward, and then the whole car just slid to the right towards the pond, which now was blocked with a wall of plowed snow. We gently bumped into this plowed safety, and the car came to a stop. I waited until dusk, when the temperature had dropped, and moved the car easily to where I was originally planning on parking. These things don't phase me much any more. I guess I'm used to winter here. That's good, because it lasts until May.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

good bye winter!

I haven't written in quite some time. It's been a difficult time of year for me, and writing it down seemed doubly offensive. You d know the old saying, "if you haven't got something nice to say, don't say anything". Well, generally I change it to "if you haven't got something nice to say, come sit by me". When you're trying to take the high road, either way won't work. We have just come off Valentine's Day, a double holiday for us-our wedding anniversary too! Valentine's Day was always special for me-giving and sharing valentine's with your children is so sweet. Seeing the new loves and sweeties as they get older, from Kindergarten on. it's a loving holiday, and I love it. We married on Valentine's Day because it was symbolic for us to be Valentine's forever. Nine years. We are still each other's valentine. And so, the darkness of winter seems to have broken, and anticipation for spring is rampant. People's Christmas decorations are coming down (only to the level that can be reached due to the snow) and St. Patrick's decorations are going up! The year is moving along, and most people will say of the winter of 10/11, "don't let the door hit you in the arse as you leave". We're all ready for spring. I have been planning my garden, and also planning the landscaping for the pond. I plan on taking it on this year. Last year it was overgrown and ignored. I am feeling stronger day by day and will win the pond wars, I'm sure of it. Pick your spring battles an take them on. Let the games begin!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spring thoughts

Hey friends! The blogging has been hard due to the arthritis in my hands. Sometimes typing is not the most favorite activity to choose. And so, I choose to read. Lately I've been tearing through books very fast. Some good, some great, some I don't get past the first chapter. I can usually tell by the first chapter whether or not a book will hold my attention. Either its the style of writing or the content. Some books I choose thinking it will be the best read ever, and after just a few pages I'm gone. It's hard to tell. But the truth is, I can usually tell a book by its cover. I know that is not the way its supposed to go, but I can look at a book's cover, read the back summary and usually know whether or not I'm interested to read any further. The great books I have read lately are "Water for Elephants". I recommend this book highly. It was hugely entertaining. The story of a young man who loses his parents and decides to head out with a circus. It's a wonderful story and is in the process of being made into a movie with Reese Witherspoon and Rober Pattison. I saw the coming attractions when I went to see another movie. It looks promising. I am now reading "the girl with the dragon tatoo". I have had this book recommended to me for months, but just started it yesterday. It's great. The beauty of winter, for me, is that I can settle into my comfortable chair and decide what it is I want to do today. The day is mine. I have been crocheting as well, because it doesn't require the nimble fingers that knitting does. I'm hoping that the warm weather that comes with spring will bring the relief for my hands and legs, but for now, it's one book after another. On another note, Daphne is thriving with her insulin shots. She seems much better. The other dogs are sleeping alot too. I guess winter has that effect on all of us. Hang in there. Today I planted some herbs for the kitchen, in little glass containers. Getting my hands in the potting soil was very therapeutic, and I recommend it. Plant something in your window. Soon it will be blooming with the rest of the stuff outdoors. I'm sure of that. It happens every year, just when I think I cannot stand another moment of dirty snow. Something will smell fresh and soily, and it is spring. I'm counting on it.