Sunday, December 31, 2017

Is It Over Yet?

The last quarter of this year has been something else.  Something else beside relaxing, productive, or fulfilling from where I stand.  I wish I could say that tomorrow everything will be better, but really, that isn't up to me and that one point--that it isn't up to me--is what  has been the hardest for me through the past several months.  2018 is bringing, for me anyway, maybe more uncertainty than it is promise.  Mainly uncertainty pertaining to where my grandkids will reside on a regular basis (which affects my schedule, working, and riding to varying degrees).

This past week we had the grandkids from about bedtime on Christmas Day until roughly 3:00 Friday afternoon (Dec. 29).  Thank goodness that DD1 was also here for a good portion of that, DH had the entire week off (although he did have prior commitments taking up most of Tuesday and Wednesday), and DD2 also was home the entire week.  Because I could not possibly have taken care of the kids without their help as I had previously committed to not only my regular hours at the dressage barn when I work, but also filling in for morning feeding and stall cleaning at the eventing barn where I used to work. And, to top it off, I had agreed to ride someone else's horse daily while that person was out of state for a week.

The extra riding was nice, until it wasn't.  On Wednesday, the last day of that particular commitment, I suffered a rather large crash.  The kind where one minute you are trotting around nicely, then suddenly you feel the horse start to scoot while your brain registers that the horses back feels like an enormous buck is eminent and you think Oh shit, I'm going off and the next thing you know, you are lying flat on your back staring up at the rafters of the indoor arena while someone is kneeling over you calling your name.  It was the kind of spectacular crash where you get knocked out and no one allows you to move, they just cover you with layers of horse blankets and pack rolled up polo wraps around your neck while calling 911 for an ambulance.

Thankfully I am hard headed enough that my brain didn't seem to sustain any more trauma than a concussion and I was able to (repeatedly) tell the paramedics not only what day it was, but my name, home address, birth date, etc, etc that they ask you in order to judge how loopy you might be. palpation of my skull, neck, spine, ribs and hip didn't indicate anything broken, so they allowed me to make the choice whether I wanted to ride in the ambulance to the hospital for more examination or just go home and take it easy.  Being that I felt pretty much normal, not counting the growing headache and the feeling in my right hip and lower rib cage that clued me in to exactly which body part I hit the ground with first, I declined an ambulance ride.  I did promise them that I would let someone else drive me home in my vehicle, and that if I were to start vomiting, I would go to the emergency room immediately.

I spent most of the rest of Wednesday and a good portion of Thursday taking large doses of anti-inflammatories and laying on the couch as much as possible with young kids in the house.  I never did throw up, which is good because I couldn't see how the grandkids would get taken care of (they currently cannot be at home unless their father is there) if I ended up needing DH to take me to the hospital.  My body felt like I'd been in a car wreck: all stiff and achey when I moved the wrong way--which was pretty much any direction requiring reaching, twisting, or bending. Needless to say, I was unable to do any barn work on Thursday and Friday.

By Saturday morning I felt normal enough to attempt driving and grocery shopping.  I took DD2 with me, just in case.  Other than the fluorescent lights of the grocery store messing with my head (what a strange spacey feeling they induced), that went fine. Today I feel good enough that I am contemplating getting back in the saddle (need to dig up a helmet to wear, mine should probably be retired after that crash), and plan to resume my regular work schedule.

Needless to say, with the family turmoil of the last few months, and my bordering on famous unplanned dismount from the horse on Wednesday, I'm not sad to bid goodbye to 2017.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Just Breathe

That's kind of been my mantra for most of November.  Just breathe.  Inhale.  Exhale.  One foot in front of the other. 

November has been an incredibly challenging month.  Its always a little tough, trying to deal with firearm deer season (and DHs resultant live-in company), doing all my normal daily work plus trying to fit in time of my own out in the tree stands.  This year, however, even more shit  other peoples bad decisions craptastic challenges have made November a month that was predominantly depressing, suffocating, overwhelming, and very busy overall.  I cant really go into detail on the major cause of such a titanically difficult month, but suffice it to say that for approximately one third of November K3 and Toad were with me day and night.  They are back in their own home now, but our lives aren't quite back to normal and probably wont be for months to come.  When a train wreck happens, the recovery period is long, and the time it takes to rebuild trust can be indefinite.

Anyway,  I have really missed posting on this blog.  Kind of ironic that my last post, so early in the month, was about five good things that had happened.  Quickly after that post, so many many bad things occurred, or came to light, and as much as I wanted to just get on the computer and blog another five nice things, I couldn't. 

No time.  No nice things.  No breathing space.  No creative brain.  Anger, quite a bit of anger, actually.  A blog isn't the place to get out anger. At least, not this blog.  I want this little place here to be a refreshing place, a relaxing and inspiring place.  For me and for my readers.

On top of all the time, mental, and emotional challenges of November, our laptop seems to be sending DH and I increasing signals that it would like to be replaced with a newer model.  primarily the letter p hardly ever works any more. Every p you see in this post I put in using copy and paste from a spell checked word that had the p automatically added in! Which is also why none are capitalized.  The grammar nazi in me is having fits over that and the missing apostrophes on certain words. 

As the days go by, additional letter keys seem to be joining in the strike.  There are other issues too, but when the computer is actually on, its the lack of certain keys/letters that are the biggest challenge to typing anything.  Just try logging into an account where the name or password contains a p.  So hard to make an online payment on time in that case!

perhaps its time for me to breakdown and put the blogger app on my phone so I can finally write posts and blog from there.  I've been resistant to that for a few reasons, mostly because I hate using the itty bitty touchpad keyboard on the phone.  I can type super fast in person, on a normal size keyboard.  plus I haven't figured out how to watermark my photos on my phone before adding them to the blog.

Hopefully soon I can get back to all the long list of posts I wanted to write, and actually get some new content put on here on a regular basis.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Five

I am going to implement a new weekly themed post at this little place here.  Might just be for the month of November, or I might (if I'm successful at regular posting) keep it going for an undetermined length of time.

It will be the Friday Five, in which I will give five highlights for the past seven days in my life around this little place here.

For this week, here's my five:

1. Finding out about, and meeting DS2's girlfriend!  He is such a private person, and doesn't feel the need for a lot of social interaction, that DH and I have long joked that we will only find out if he's dating someone when we receive an invitation to their wedding.  So it was kind of a surprise to have him come home for dinner last weekend and bring a young woman we've never seen (nor heard of) before!  Even more of a surprise to learn that they met nearly three years ago, and have been carrying on a long distance relationship (she lives on the East Coast).  And yet more of a surprise to hear that he will be bringing her with him for Thanksgiving, and that she plans to move to Michigan next year and transferring to college here!  So many surprises that I'm leaning toward making her official blog name Surprise, as it seems like she will most likely be joining the family and becoming a regular here.

2. Carving pumpkins with K3 and Toad.  Not just carving the pumpkins, but walking through our garden and letting them each choose exactly the perfect pumpkin for themself.  Also being visited by them on Halloween before they made their trick-or-treating rounds in the nearby village.

3. Our first snow of the season.  Nothing that actually stuck, but it was a real snow, nonetheless.  And Mayhem's first snow; it was quite entertaining to watch her try to figure out what the white fuzzy things flying around were, and try to leap and catch them.

4. Good rides on the California Horse this week.  Definitely a week where I feel like we are making progress.  Lateral work is getting more natural for me; we even managed 3-5 consecutive strides of good leg yield at trot in both directions.

5. DH got a decent six-point (4 on one side, two on the other) buck with his crossbow, so now we have red meat for the freezer!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

One Step Forward. . .

. . . Two steps back.

That is how my riding has been feeling for the past month or so.  Somehow I've gotten myself into another uncoordinated phase.  Things were progressing so well, with better contact, better sitting trot, nice transitions from trot to canter, unkinking myself to do more accurate lateral work. And then. . .

--lateral work that is stuck in place.  Either no forward/sideways at all, as if the horse's legs are twisted up too like my body used to be, or lateral work that is very steep and rushed, but mostly the non-moving version.  Kinda like a halt and a half-sideways step combined.

--twisting my torso.  WHAT?!?  Sometimes I can see it in the mirrors, it's that obvious. Like my right shoulder being higher than my left. But most of the time it's slight, like I somehow only breathed with one lung and the other isn't inflated and neither are my ribs on that side.  However, the horse feels it and reacts to it.  Hence the shitty lack of true lateral work.

--an inability to get the canter strike off.  Or, strike off on the wrong lead.

It has felt like I've totally forgotten how to ride.  Like somehow I went from decent First Level quality work, eyeballing Second Level, to rank beginner-can't-make-the-horse-go.

Well, not quite can't make the horse go, just can't make the horse use it's body properly, with impulsion from behind, contact in the bit, and flexibility in the middle.


My trainer and I have had a few discussions about my frustration with my regression as of late.  Part of it is a sticky hip (mine) that needs to be more supple and able to be used (or removed) with the proper timing.  So. . . I need to get back to doing yoga at least once a week like I used to do several years ago.  Aging bodies don't stay limber without a little encouragement.

Another part of my issues is that, as my dear trainer reminded me, she has upped the bar for me and we have been working on refining my aids.  Which means more slight corrections that are applied in quicker succession.  Timing is a big part of this.  Timing is kind of a nemesis for me, as I've always struggled with moving gracefully.  I can do the slow one-two-three-four of a waltz, and I can ride very well in the same sort of slow dance of the Training and early First Level of dressage.  But I can't mambo, and that's kind of what I need to be able to do--the increased number of movements in the right timing and fluidity--to be able to make the jump to the next level.  Not only the increased movement and effort from me, but also draw that out of my horse at the same time.

Which means that even though right now I feel awkward and uncoordinated, and am having some trouble performing some movements (like lateral work and canter transitions) as well as I was in August, it's not because I've forgotten how to ride. It's because now I'm being asked to do them with lighter, politer, more invisible aids, while keeping my horse balanced, in contact and with more impulsion from the hindquarters.  Which is a challenge for him, too. He's got to pay more attention to 'hear' my quieter requests. He's got to work a little harder to carry himself (and me) with a rounder frame.

Yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I actually felt like maybe we made two steps forward in our riding session and only one step back. There were some things we could have done better, I could have done with better timing, but overall, it was a ride that I'd classify as positive. For one, we didn't get stuck in the lateral work.  It wasn't as fluid or technically correct as it could have been, but it moved in the right direction without losing much impulsion.  We had decent canter departs in both directions on the correct lead.  The trot is getting bigger as well rounder, and I can sit that fairly well.

Best of all, one of our downward transitions was the absolute best I've ever felt.  Even though we were changing gears from trot to walk, the change actually felt like we were going up.  Not one iota of impulsion lost.  Not any of the energy leaking out the forehand and flattening the horse's body.  Not any tension in my hands or arms blocking the energy flow. Instead, I merely sat a little deeper while keeping my arms elastic and yet not giving away the contact, asking for the downward gear shift and when he changed, I felt the forehand unmistakably lift .  Hard to describe, but an awesome and hugely rewarding feeling.  Definitely a step in the right direction.  A step up to the next level.

His body might be pointed toward the arena,
 but he'd rather be out back with his friends lazing in the pasture.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

First Frost

We had our first frost of the season last night, which is very much later than usual--usual being sometime during the first week of October.  We've really been luck with having warm weather so far this Fall, and only started heating the house about a week ago, when the cool nights coupled with cloudy days wasn't keeping the ambient indoor temperature above about 63 or so. 

Last night's frost, for however late it might be, did not go easy on us.  It may have been a first frost, but it was a good solid hoar frost, coating everything white and fuzzy.  On first glance, you'd almost think we'd gotten a dusting of snow.

frost crystals on the deck railing

As the sun rose higher in the sky, things lit up.  Like the leaves on the huge old oak tree in the field.  Even with the bright sun, it took a few hours for all of the frost to melt away.

Friday, October 20, 2017

U.P. Getaway

I've been wanting to take a 4-day weekend for a while, and my favorite place to go when there's time is the Upper Peninsula.  DH and I decided to combine a "let's escape from our everyday lives" getaway with a visit to DD2 (since her birthday was earlier this month), and we ran away to the U.P. for a long weekend of beautiful fall weather and colors. (Although it started out rainy for our drive up.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Five Years Later. . .

In the Fall of 2012, I took part in a quilt block swap at the homesteading forum I was a part of back then.  Each person in the swap made a 12.5" (unfinished dimensions) block in their choice of pattern, using "Fall" or "Autumn" colors, for each of the other participants in the swap, so that we all ended up with sixteen different, but coordinating quilt blocks. 

I blogged about being excited to receive my packet of blocks way back here.

The next month, DD1 moved back home from college in MN after just one extremely homesick semester.  That was, I thought, just a slight adjustment, and that I'd get to putting those blocks together into a quilt by the following summer, so that it would be ready when Fall came again.

Ha ha.  Boy, was I wrong.  Looking back from five years, and many (more than slight) adjustments to our living arrangements later, DD1 moving home from MN was not a small blip in a radar that returned to normal. It seems, instead, to have been one of many bumps that sent me way, way off course.  Because other than a few Christmas or birthday presents here and there, and two baby quilts (this one and this one), I really haven't done nearly as much sewing after 2013 arrived.

In fact, for most of this year, my sewing machine has been pretty unreachable, buried against the far wall of the room it's in, with a whole bunch of other stuff (quite a bit belonging to people other than me) between it and the doorway.

Kind of how I feel, buried in tasks, quite a few 'dumped' on me by other people.

This past weekend, when DH was up north helping his mom with a project yet again (the fifth weekend he's done so since--and including--Memorial Day weekend) and DD1 was also out of town, and I decided that for once I was not going to bust my butt doing tasks all weekend while everyone else was gone.  Not a whole lot of things have gotten done around here this summer in my opinion, and I'm totally burned out on trying to accomplish tasks on my own.  Instead of working on something on the to-do list or the project list, I waded my way (OK, maybe more like bushwhacked, as there was quite a bit of shoving involved) to my sewing machine and retrieved it from the mess in what was once, oh say five years ago, my sewing room.  Then I dug out those quilt blocks from that swap in 2012.  And the fabrics I'd bought, in 2014, for borders and backing to make those blocks into a finished quilt. Oh,and the batting I'd also bought, in 2014, when making those two baby quilts (I had bought extra, with the plans to finish the Fall 2012 swap blocks as well as another set of blocks.)

I hauled all that, plus my ironing board and iron, rotary cutter, mat and ruler, downstairs to the dining room.  Then, I commenced measuring, cutting, and sewing.  And doing math, and more cutting, and more sewing. 

I thought I would have this quilt finished by Saturday night. 

I was wrong.  First off, the fabric I'd bought for the backing ended up being a wee bit short of what I needed.  Like, not even half a yard.  Since it had been purchased three years ago, at a quilt shop on hour away, running out for an extra half yard just wasn't possible that day. Probably not possible any day, as the fabric probably was no longer available. So I had to improvise with what I had on hand.  That required a lot more math.  But I got it figured out.

Reassessed my timeline, and I thought I would have the quilt finished before DH (or DD1) got back home on Sunday.

Nope.  My machine jammed up.  Because, of course, it's been sitting in a pile of assorted boxes, books, clothing, etc gathering dust, all year.  And it hasn't been oiled in several years.  So, dust plus dry machine plus about eight hours of sewing going on in two days equaled having the needle stuck in the down position and nothing moving when I pushed the foot pedal or tried to manually turn the flywheel.

Do you know, it's about impossible to find info on taking apart and servicing your own sewing machine?  How frustrating!  Finally, I found one video of a guy (who does sewing machine repair) taking the front and back off of the exact same machine I own, although for a different reason than why I was hell bent on getting to the guts of my machine.  I did manage to free my quilt by using a pair of tin snips to cut the needle and then lifting the quilt off the piece of needle that was still stuck in the sewing machine

So, the quilt didn't get finished Sunday, and it didn't get finished Monday either.  BUT, with DH's help, I did get my machine opened up, cleaned, oiled and fixed.  All without having to take it to a service place.  Yay me!  Saved some cash there!

Today, I finally finished it.  Several days, and many more hours longer than I'd planned.  I quilted it by stitching in the ditch around the border, the sashing, and the design in each individual block.  The back has it's own border made from the same fabric as the border on the front (how I solved the problem of my backing fabric being scant) and the different blocks can be identified by the quilting.

It is 60" x 60" square. I intend for it to be a seasonal throw on the back on the living room couch.  Doing double duty as both decor and a nice warm blanket to snuggle up in on chilly Fall days

front, partially quilted 
(taken yesterday once it had been freed from the machine!)

front, with quilting finished
(I think the quilting makes the blocks really pop)

back, showing quilting
 (still needing thread ends trimmed)