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Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas List (post 100!)

Norman Rockwell
So, this isn't going to be my best Christmas ever. I miss my family, we just got hit with an ice storm, my daughter and I have the flu and my ex is trying to shoe-horn a last-minute person into our "family dinner" at Kotos. I have usually spent hours making gifts and ornaments to send to family members, and am enjoying the knowledge that they are done and sent by now, but not this year. Have I mentioned we've had the flu? Nothing is done. I just spent the last 20 minutes or so walking/sliding/falling down the same 20 feet of sidewalk with an under-exercised (98 pound!) dog trying get him to "do his business" before I coughed both my lungs free from my chest, ejecting them forcefully onto the icy sidewalk. So no, not the best Christmas ever.

But so what? Christmas isn't our only chance to be happy, to get it right. Through this understanding, I've reached a level of acceptance and even the ability to laugh at what a monumental mess things are this year. It has freed me from any and all expectations, and I'm going to call it "The Blessing of Freedom from Expectations" and turn it into a good thing instead of the real f***arow that it has actually become. Come on guys, this couldn't have gone more pear-shaped if I had planned it! It really IS kinda funny.

How would things be if my Christmas wishes were granted?

First of all, my parents would be here. I would have a house to host the festivities and I would have spent the last few days enjoying their company, making cookies, drinking hot chocolate and the like. I think it goes without saying that my daughter and I wouldn't have the flu. Our dogs would take themselves out into their yard, where they could get their frolic on without taking down any people. My gifts would all be sent, and I would be really excited to hear about what folks thought of them. My tree would be surrounded by gifts for the loved ones enjoying Christmas at home.

Dinner would be a fun meal cooked with love by those of us who were sitting down to enjoy it. My ex would still be there, but would have some social perceptiveness. Christmas would be a day to look forward to, not a day to grin and bear it and remember my manners (my new mantra; be polite, remember your manners).

Gifts for me would be simple: a gift card to my favorite clothing store or book store. A Vermont Teddy Bear (silly, REALLY silly, but I've always wanted one. This one, actually, with honey colored fur and blue jammies). A pair of LL Bean Wicked Good slippers. And you know, a pony. Some things never change :-)

But there are days that come after Christmas too, and in fact, endless possibilities to make good things happen all year round. The flu is going away, and the ice storm is behind us already. There's a start. I can do this. WE can do this. Please refer to my previous post about gratitude, because it's still true.

I hope everyone has a blessed and wonderful holiday, and that at least one wish comes true for you this season!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Grateful

Photo: en.wikipedia.org
Yes, I know the photo is of "grapefruit" and has nothing whatsoever to do with being "grateful", but it's a device. "Grateful" is one of those words I habitually misspell (I want it to be "greatful", which is like "grateful", but with aspirations) and the word "grapefruit" is how I remember to spell it correctly. Just work with me here. Trust me, it's a good device, and furthermore I couldn't find a single photo of "grateful". But I digress...

As always this time of year, I'm struggling to maintain a cheerful demeanor.  I love the season, but it's incredibly painful too. Last year was okay because our mom visited from Florida between Thanksgiving and Christmas and it really took the sting out of it, but it's back to the crushing longing for home and family this year. Oh, I have a place to live. But a place to live and home are two very different things. If you don't know the difference, you can consider yourself a very lucky individual. I haven't been "home" for a very, very long time. No visit from the parental units this year, so it's back to Koto's for a Japanese Christmas for us.

Okay, well, this can go one of two ways: I can succumb and just melt into a pile of gelatinous goo until after the new year (tempting!), or I can take a long hard look at all of the things the past year has given me, the pretty terrific people in my life, and the things I have to look forward to, none of which are dependent on having a magical holiday. I think I'll take what's behind door #2.

I've had a pretty incredible year. I had my book published, at long last. The way it happened was pretty cool too; the right opportunity came up at exactly the moment I was ready to go. How often does that happen? And the feedback has been pretty awesome! I think most writers have moments of doubt. I know I had more than a few days of thinking that everything I wrote that day was useless garbage. Most often, the next day it all seemed okay, but in the moment I was convinced that every word sucked. The reviews have been pretty great too. So far, so good, and if I get a bad review I can handle it because of all the great ones I have to fall back on. I even had my picture in the local paper, which was a pretty neat experience too :-)

The thing I am most grateful for though (and considering what an anti-social being I am it may come as a shock) is all the people who have supported me and buoyed me to where I am now. I have a long way to go yet, and it's my own initiative that I need to rely on for that, but I am overwhelmed by how many people supported me through this journey thus far: friends, family (mostly) and even complete strangers have been there, promoting, encouraging, buying my book, liking my fan page, and generally just being THERE. It's meant the world to me, and I'm still in awe. I've become very used to "Little Red Hen-ing" it (please note there is no political nonsense implied by this statement) for the most part and with rare exception, so the overwhelming support and positive feedback has been...just wow.

THAT will be my focus. Yup, I'm still going to feel sad. But I'm so grateful to have had (and to have) people in my life who were/are so amazing that it hurts this badly to miss them. I am grateful to have hope for the future, to know what "home" really means, and know that someday in the not-too-distant future I will finally be able to put down roots again and feel like I'm home. It's what I'm working my derriere off for!

So THANK YOU, dear folks, for helping this lumpy, middle-aged Weeble along her path. My gratitude is sincerely eternal:-)

On that mushy note, I leave you with a mushy video (I've become a video embedding MACHINE). It's a song that makes me cry because it reminds me so much of my dear grandfather and his wonderful tenor voice, but it's a good memory, and it means Christmas to me:



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Apples and Oranges

Photo: www.integratorsacademy.com
I have been asked to clarify the difference between working and show line dogs. I would be happy to! I will use Dobermans as my example, because they are "my" breed :-) I have often said that the two dogs are so different that they might as well be separate breeds and that's true. They should both be love bugs with their families, stable and safe (especially applies to working line, for reasons you will see!), and neither of them should be inherently aggressive. They bear some resemblance to each other too, of course, but that's where the similarities end. Once upon a time, Dobermans had a well-earned reputation for fierceness. Even the show-dog Ferry had such a bad reputation that no judge would touch him. Sadly, he was eventually killed in self-defense by a kennel hand. Breeders subsequently decided that stability and at least some degree of tractability were important assets, and today's Doberman, both show and working lines, reflect that emphasis. In my experience, Dobermans are some of the kindest (if the most cheeky!) dogs out there.

I like nice examples of both working and show lines, so my intent here isn't to show a preference for one or the other (though Murph is primarily of the "working" variety) but merely to highlight the difference. I think the best way to do that is through videos. The first video shows a well-know and quite lovely show Doberman named CJ strutting it out in the ring. CJ will show you a great of example of a show line dog, doing what show line dogs are bred to do:


She's really quite a beautiful dog!

The next video will show a working line dog doing what working line dogs were bred to do. Because so few people understand Schutzhund, I feel like I have to qualify a few things first. This isn't a mean sport where dogs are forced to attack people and become dangerous. Quite the opposite. For the dogs, this is a fun game that they've learned through careful training (about 95%  or more +R, btw) over many months to a few years. Schutzhund trainers are some of the best in the world, and their dogs are almost always beloved family pets. The dogs aren't "attacking a person", they are going for the sleeve which they've come to know as a reward for obedience. The high prey drive inherent in these dogs means that a toy is often more of a reward than food. The stick is NOT for hitting the dog, but is known as a "clatter stick". It is usually hollow bamboo slit lengthwise, and its intention is to make a lot of noise. The example I'm going to show is the "protection" phase of competition, but know that a Schutzhund-trained dog is also highly proficient in obedience and in tracking. I don't know the woman or the dog in the following video, but I chose it because the pair of them approximate Murphy and I proportionally (I think Murph might be a smidge taller), the dog looks a lot like Murph's dad, and his gormy mannerisms are very "Murph like" :-) Please take note of the amazing obedience on this dog, despite his obvious power and energy:


 As you can see, they are very, very different animals, each having a very different mindset and impact on the world around them. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges (ergo the title of this post, lol).  I hope this helps, and feel free to ask questions!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hammering Home the Point

Photo: www.professionalequipment.com
Okay, before I go on I'm going to warn you that this is going to be yet another post about dog-equipment "discrimination". I personally don't advocate anything specific, or shun anything specific, so I have no real skin in the game here. So, why does it grate my cheese so thoroughly when people dis things like prong collars? Why can't I just let them have their point of view and get on with it? Well, simply put, I love dogs. I mean, they are the best people I know, and they deserve our love and respect. Does that sound incongruous to you? The fact that I love dogs and still have no problem with things like prong collars? Well, if you have any kind of foresight at all, it shouldn't. Quite plainly, by adhering to a singular training mindset and vilifying tools that, used CORRECTLY, have legitimately useful applications for some dogs and promoting your narrow viewpoint, calling all others cruel, you are KILLING DOGS. I have a real problem with that.

Don't believe me? Guess what, many experienced rescues (I don't mean folks who love dogs and have been doing rescue for a couple of years, I mean folks who have really seen it all) would agree with me. I have seen perfectly lovely dogs put down because some a**hole "trainer" couldn't expand their thinking enough to work with the dog in front of them. They were too interested in proving their own theory, and the dog simply didn't "fit". I have seen it over, and over again. My own personal (service!) dog would probably fit into that category for being nothing more than he is: A perfectly normal working-line dog. I really like the prong collar info that these folks put out: Bad Rap . I think the comments are pretty great too. Worth a read! Here's another one from Doberman Rescue Unlimited, a great rescue who 'gets it'.

It's such a divisive issue and it shouldn't be. Folks post pictures like this:
Photo: www.dogbreedstraining.com
Photo: www.k9kindness.org 

And then they use them to prove that these "devices" are cruel. Oftentimes injuries like the one seen on the poor pupper on the right are chalked up to "burns" from a "shock" collar. Guess what? That isn't even a possibility. Injuries like this are (in my experience) most often caused by folks who use underground fencing and never take the collars off the dog. The injury is caused by the incessant rubbing of the contact points on the dog's skin. INCORRECT use. For the record, I detest underground fencing on many levels, and am regularly flummoxed by the number of people who think "shock" collars are cruel but have no problem at all with underground fencing. What IS that? Incidentally, as soon as you say the words "shock" collar you are pretty much just highlighting how very little you know about they work. I hear someone say "shock" collar, and I know the rest of what they have to say is coming from emotion (and attempting to work on emotion), and has nothing to do with education, logic, understanding or experience.

The applications for prong collars are many and varied, and I believe well-covered in the links that I posted. Perhaps my favoritest-ever electric-collar use that I've seen was in working with a deaf dog. For her own safety, she had never been allowed off leash unless she was in her own fenced yard. Her world was consequently very small. Her trainer started working with her with the electric collar, using low-level stimulation as a reinforcer (replacing the clicker), and the vibration setting as a come command. Her first hike in the woods was a very emotional and joyful experience!

The anti-folks like to label and tell horror stories. They like to cite worst-case-scenarios and misuses as proof that certain tools are cruel. They post pictures and misrepresent the facts to prove their point. They say things like "A dog's neck is very sensitive" (It isn't, or they would tear each other up just playing...duh!). As long as we're posting pictures, here are some from "humane" training tools:
Photo: http://dogsintraining.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/not-so-gentle-leader/ 
And here's some good reading from the same blog: Dogs in Training

I understand that life "in the books" and in the bubble is a beautiful place. There is always support, dogs always want to do the "right" thing and there is always plenty of time and space to get things done the "right" way. But in the real world, outside the bubble, people don't have endless resources to surround themselves with training help. They have dogs that need exercise RIGHT NOW and don't have spaces of their own that they can control. In the real world, folks with tough dogs aren't getting support, they are getting blamed by "trainers" who aren't familiar (and don't want to be) with their dog's confident and determined mindset. The problems never get solved, the owner feels like a failure and back to the shelter the dog goes. That is the reality outside the bubble.

If you love dogs, then ask yourself: What's most important here? If you are a trainer, look at the dog in front of you. Look at the family. What does this dog and his/her family need to be successful? What will keep this dog's needs met, and keep him/her out of the shelter? If a family needs to be able to walk their dog down the street calmly and right now, and you are teaching them to "be successful" in the driveway because that's all your limited training theory will allow, you have failed.

Before you scrunch up your mind into a little tiny knot of very-specific training theory, remember that at the end of the day, dogs are individuals and they simply don't all respond the same way. They just don't. Have enough respect for their being-ness to understand that and take individual need into account. The happiness and success of the dog and it's family should be the real goal. Always.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday is Black

Photo; www.huffingtonpost.com
I wouldn't be lying if I said I don't know WHAT the hell is up with the holiday season these days. Chalk it up to a sheltered upbringing in rural Vermont, or to a very real "evolution" into the current...well, whatever passes for holiday spirit these days, but I just don't get it. Furthermore, I refuse to participate. My poor daughter, as a retail employee, isn't quite so lucky. Fortunately she is blessed with a much more sanguine temperament than I possess. If I'm being perfectly honest, while optimism comes somewhat naturally to me these day, there is nothing sanguine about me. If things go to hell, I go to hell. Working on it, but it's a work in progress. Throw me into a grabby, greedy and loud situation and you will get a straight-up, full-on melt down from hell. And why would anybody want to be part of that?  Is saving a few bucks really worth all that?

When I was little I will admit that I was really into getting my Christmas presents. I'm not going to pretend that it was all about altruism and the birth of our Lord and Savior for me (Catholic). HOWEVER, that spirit that my family so lovingly passed on to us was certainly what made the holiday magical for me. I know all about the logistics re: the timing of Jesus' birth not being in December, no snow falling in Bethlehem, etc. but it didn't ruin it for me. It was still a day we set aside to acknowledge something special and we felt that presence throughout the holiday season. It was about home and family; a fun and raucous good time. And yes, I was gifted with many toy horses and a few dinosaurs, and it made me a very happy little girl.

I know it's never going to be the same. Too much pain and loss has occurred, and the old saying "You can never go home again." certainly applies to me. But it doesn't mean I can't retain some of that spirit and magic within myself. For me, that means not allowing the more materialistic parts of the holiday to sully the good. I don't mind at all that folks start celebrating right after thanksgiving (especially this year with the first day of Hanukkah coinciding with it...cool!). I'll admit that I kinda dig the whole season, and I'm a sucker for all those colored lights and cheer. Bring it on! But the stores opening on Thanksgiving and black Friday starting at midnight really gets my skivvies in a bunch.

Oh well, there's nothing to be done about it. we all celebrate in our own way I suppose. Which brings me to another point: What is the deal with all the intolerance? Why do we have to be all offended by the different ways people do things? Seriously? I've said this before and I'll say it again: Let's adopt an all-inclusive policy instead of trying to eliminate EVERYTHING. MERRY CHRISTMAS. Yeah, that's right. I F'ing said it. And you know what? HAPPY HANUKKAH. Yup, there you go. And HAPPY KWANZA. I'm on a roll here, and I have yet to explode! HAPPY SOLSTICE. And for my atheist friends, well, YOU HAVE A NICE HOLIDAY. See how that's done? There's never any harm in inclusiveness, in wishing good things for other people. It takes nothing whatsoever away from your own personal experience unless you are an intolerant pri**.

Look at what happened to the South Park Holiday Play:

 There you go. Is that really what you want?

Please enjoy the season. Take your time, be kind to folks (especially poor, stressed retail employees!), and try to remember what the season means for you. Till next time!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The REAL Zombie Apocalypse

The calm before the storm...
I spend a lot of time people-watching. I don't mean in a creepy, voyeuristic sort of way, but just observy.  I am my daughter's ride to and from work so I spend an inordinate amount of time just sitting in my car and waiting. I pass the time by listening to the radio and watching folks to-ing and fro-ing about their lives. This time of year, I am struck by the large number of people who accessorize their cute, woolen hats and puffy coats with incredibly sour faces. I get it, I really do. The frost sets into my bones right about this time of year and doesn't fully thaw until sometime around mid-May or so despite my best efforts to keep warm. I've lived in Vermont my whole life (except for three years I spent in Maine) so you'd think I'd be acclimated by now. Oh, I suppose I am. But 'acclimated' and 'happily adapted' are two very different vibes. Mostly, I suck it up and deal, just like the folks I watch on an almost daily basis.

Early mornings are the most entertaining time. Many people have yet to imbibe their morning caffeine and the combination of lack of coffee AND puffy clothes is pretty amusing. The usual winter shuffle is accentuated significantly when folks are still half asleep. These slow, lurching and only half-aware folks that I see on a regular basis have given rise to a theory: The zombie apocalypse will not be brought about by reanimated corpses, but by bundled-up, pre-coffee Northerners on their way to Starbucks.

Imagine if you will, the frozen North if not a cup of Joe (not even at Starbucks!) were to be found. It would be disastrous, the casualties immense. It would start at local Starbucks locations, but it would spread from there as even the (usually very caffeinated) baristas join in the desperate, lurching mob. The words "coffee", "tea" and "latte" would be grunted repeatedly with ever-decreasing enunciation as the now mindless hoard overtakes the city. Those few who had stockpiled their coffee and were therefore coherent run screaming in confusion as the slow but relentless mob continues on their tenacious course to find the one thing that sustains them...a cup of coffee. I can picture the scene: Glass breaks as Abercrombie and Hollister employees (who subsist almost entirely on Starbucks) break free from their respective pods and join the lurching mob.

Where will it end? It could end several ways I suppose. The best case scenario is that someone, somewhere is able to provide these "zombies" with their much-needed caffeine before too much damage is done. But the most likely conclusion is all manner of mayhem and shenanigans occur causing much damage and destruction, and then everyone falls asleep because they didn't have their coffee.

My daughter really needs her own car.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Power of "Sorry"

Whenever I hear that word in my head, it always sounds like the Canadian pronunciation 'sore-y' :-) I can't help it. I used to like playing the game and have heard it shouted that way over and over again. I only bring it up because it's a word that I've been hearing a lot lately, and I think folks can easily misunderstand the power of this word. It's not a magic elixir, or some kind of tonic that allows a person to miraculously forget all. If accepted though, it IS the beginning of a healing process, and that's a pretty powerful and wonderful thing. Let me tell you a story that helps to illustrate what "sorry" is and isn't capable of:

When I was in high school, a friend of mine NAILED me in the shin with a field hockey stick. I mean, she really clocked me good. She hit me so hard that it damaged the area and left a permanent dent in my shin. She said she was sorry, and of course she really meant it. She had no intention of hurting me and I knew it. I readily accepted her apology, even while I was writhing in pain on the wet grass. Accepting her apology didn't mean she didn't hurt me like crazy. It didn't mean that I wouldn't be scarred for life. I STILL have a dent in my shin. It will always be a part of me now, and I've accepted that and moved on. I don't look back on my friend with anger. I no longer have any emotion whatsoever about that event. It was simply something that occurred that I don't think much about anymore. But that doesn't mean it never happened or that the scar is suddenly gone. it is what it is.

So when I think of the kinds of transgressions that generate an "I'm Sorry", I think of them in a similar light. If I forgive you, you are absolutely forgiven. It doesn't mean I didn't feel the pain and it doesn't mean the scar disappears. It just means that some things are more important and that I've moved on. I don't think you can really expect much more than that from anyone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday

Photo: www.the-scorpions.com
It's a weird and wacky Wednesday. I woke up early to bring my daughter to work and subsequently opted to mess around on Youtube for a bit until the sun could come up and I could fully engage my sleep-addled brain. I sleep like a stone most nights and last night was no exception. It's the one time of day when my anxiety can't touch me, and I invariably conk out shortly after my head hits the pillow. I feel blessed in this regard, but it means I'm a bit slow to wake up. Lots of coffee and some good music usually does the trick, though.

You may or may not know about my "dinosaur" status, but many of you know that I love me some 80s "hair bands". Yup, I'm a former leather-clad groupie from way back, half-deaf from standing too close to too many speakers, and a permanently-creaky neck from too much head-banging. My big hair was DA BOMB :-) One of my favorite bands in general was/is the Scorpions. Say what you will about these guys, but they 'do' good music. One of my all-time favorite songs is "Wind of Change". I love it for many reasons, not the least of which is the memories it brings back to me. Those I won't share, but I WILL share the song with you guys via my mad new video-embedding skills. Happy Humpday!!!!!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Money Thing

Photo: www.wall-street.com
I've always had a strange relationship with money. Not only have I long felt like I was courting a lover who really didn't have much interest in being with me, but I felt on some level that money might be an EVIL lover. I didn't care, but I felt guilty for wanting it, anyway. After years of this awkward dance, I've realized that money wasn't really a thing with a life or an intention of its own, but instead a means to an end. It is only as good or evil as its holder, and only as illusive as we think it might be. Yeah, okay. Still working on that last part.

I have seen money used as both a carrot AND a stick. I have seen it used to artificially propel people into positions of power they didn't deserve. I have seen people use it to control others, to amass great quantities of 'stuff', to create a competitive advantage over those who had less. I have seen it withheld as a punishment, and have seen the acquisition of it prioritized over people and the living of life. It's no shocker at all that I see the evil side of money, and no surprise that I have had such mixed feelings about it for so much of my life. None of the usual reasons for acquiring money held much appeal for me, so I didn't really see the point of trying to amass wealth.

Years ago I had friends who tried to hook me into a multi-tiered marketing 'thing' that they were Very Excited about. They were pretty vague about the details for awhile, but ultimately told me the name of the company (I won't say who, but it rhymes with Bamway) when they realized I wouldn't listen to anything they had to say until they did. They asked me if I had time after work to go for a ride with them one day, and I reluctantly agreed to go despite the fact that they refused to tell me what it was about (these were friends, remember). After a couple of exhausting (and utterly confusing) hours of going to car dealerships, high-end clothing stores, furniture outlets and the like, they informed me I had been on a "dream quest", and that if I joined their company I could have all the beautiful things I just saw. All I had to do is pay some amount of money, use some products (sorry, this part was all vague) get friends to join and then PROFIT, and OMG, how exciting was that?! I never laughed so hard in my life. I said "Are you kidding me? WHO'S dream? I don't give a flying F*** about any of that crap! Have we MET?" followed by "Can I PLEASE go home now?" Seriously, anyone who knows me on even the most basic level HAS to know that anything that involves needing some type of disposable income AND the ability to sell stuff on the phone or in person (no online back then) was never, ever going to happen. And the way they came at me couldn't have been more wrong! They were trying to appeal to a sense of greed that I didn't have. If they had taken me to a warmblood horse farm, they may have gotten further, but probably not much :-) All that stuff remind me of South Park's "Underpants gnomes profit plan":


Either they were continuing to be intentionally vague, I was exceptionally obtuse or they didn't really know how it worked, either. In any case, I was not then and am not now interested in earning my money in a way that depends on what somebody else earns. It just feels icky to me.

Having said that, I have grown to see the very happy and uplifting side of money. I have come to understand that money can mean many genuinely good things. It can change and improve peoples lives, it can help the Earth become a healthier place, it can provide stability, help a family member or friend in a time of need and it can help someone go from a complete nobody to the person who eventually cures cancer. Money can be a blessed and beautiful thing, and it feels like it should be shared. I think its only ugly and evil when its hoarded and guarded over by the hunched gargoyle of greed and self-importance. Inviting resources into your life doesn't have to mean inviting the gargoyle. The two things are entirely separate events! What an astounding and liberating discovery that is! And lets be clear here, it was my own potential gargoyle that I feared. I have friends with lots of money who aren't the least bit greedy so I know it's possible.

But knowing and feeling aren't always the same thing. Now, I can keep some room available on my dance card for money, and not feel anything but good about it :-)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Facetubeinstatwit#$%-what?!

Photo: www.theguardian.com
I don't usually feel old or outdated. My daughter would happily tell you I'm like a dinosaur, but from a personal perspective I don't feel much different than I did when I was twenty. With one exception: All the tech-stuff baffles me.

Let's be clear here; I am a reasonably intelligent person who is capable of learning new skills and integrating them into my life. The fact that I have this blog that I almost know how to use correctly AND I'm accessing it through a computer I sort of can make work is proof of that. But it isn't easy for me, or comfortable. And now I'm really trying to utilize social media to promote my book, and it's creating quite a stir within my psyche. I feel like I'm trying to learn a new language, and in a way that's almost exactly what I'm doing. Historically, my language-learning hasn't gone so well. I used to know a fair bit of French (of the Canadian variety. I grew up on the border.) but forgot most of what I knew just by moving a couple of hours south and never hearing/using it. I tried to learn Russian for a minute, but couldn't retain any type of motivation so I put it aside and didn't go back to it. Not the most excellent track record. But this "new language" is about marketing and survival in a technological world. It's a language that the kids innately know, and when new things crop up they assimilate them at an astounding rate. I may not feel like a dinosaur, but I suppose in some ways that I am.

To be fair, I grew up in a very different environment. I was born in 1969, I was a child in the 70's, a teenager in the 80's. I also grew up in a small town in rural Vermont, so however behind the times were, my part of the world was even more so. I remember being really stoked because we had a color TV with three channels. I remember how awesome it was to have our own, private phone line (vs a party line). I remember telephones with dials, the long, twisted cord that held the receiver to the body of the phone (which was screwed into the wall.) and fighting over it because there was only one in the house. There was no such thing as an answering machine. People were home to answer or they weren't. There was no call waiting, just a busy signal. I remember in the 80's when VCR's first came out. The idea of being able to watch a movie in your own home was mindblowing. You could rent a VCR with your evening movies. They were really expensive so very few households had their own. There was also something called "Beta" that was like a smaller VCR tape, but they didn't last long. I remember playing "Pong" and "Pac-man" on my uber-modern Atari video game. The first portable phones were enormous car-phones that only the very important and the very wealthy had. They were sort of a status symbol, and I only ever saw them on TV. They were big, blocky things with antennas. When I was older and took my first computer course, the discs were actually floppy and what we were learning was MS DOS. I'm telling you, the world was an entirely different place.

It was sort of a trade off I suppose. I miss people actually looking into each others faces when they talk. Now, everybody always walks with their heads down because they are looking at their phones. Manners and people-skills have completely disappeared. THAT feels like a real loss. Nobody really connects anymore, but I've kind of gone off on a tangent I hadn't intended to go on.

Connecting in today's world means being proficient with all the social-media options available. And it's not enough to be proficient with just one. You have to be able to navigate most of them, AND make them talk to each other to reach the maximum number of people. YEAH for how small the world has become as a result of all the new ways there are to connect, but woe to those of us who struggle with the logistics! I think I sort of did it though. I figured out how to post this blog on Twitter and have it automatically post on my fan page on Facebook. I like the fan page idea, because it gives me a place for my shameless self-promotion without bombarding my friends who may not give a rat's furry behind about my book. Cool Beans :-) But I realize that the small bit that I've managed is just that; the tip of the iceberg. There is much left for me to tackle, and I feel like a tyrannosaur trying to do it with my ineffective, tiny arms.

 Don't worry about me though. I'll figure it out :-)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Focus

Photo: diabetes.niddk.nih.gov
You may have noticed that I changed up the blog a bit. No worries, I'm not going rogue and getting all serious. I've decided though, that I should probably focus on making the lighter side more consistently lighter. I may have mentioned that I'm doing this thing around creating a public persona (which, unfortunately, is likely to be much like my private persona, but RIGHT OUT THERE). That's all well and good, but I'm realizing that I can't suddenly pretend I'm all businessy and pulled together. For one thing, I could never pull off such a monumental fallacy, for another, I suspect I would seriously strain something if I tried.

The truth is, I'm kind of a train wreck, and furthermore, I'm kind of okay with it. I may fantasize about being as creative and pulled together as Martha Stuart, as brilliant as Stephen King with all the innate kindness and ability with animals of St. Francis of Assisi, but...not so much. The cucumbers in my garden grew in corkscrew shapes to squeeze between the weeds, I can't grow a pea to save my life, my greatest culinary accomplishments usually involve following directions on a box and remembering to remove plastic wrap from things BEFORE they go in the oven. Stephen King I am not, and my patience and tolerance is...variable. The closest I come to sainthood DOES involve animals, but as accomplished as I am in that regard, I have still been dragged down an icy sidewalk on my belly by an enthusiastic Doberman, and I have started a ride on a horse only to end it in a pucker brush. My favorite clothes are my pajamas and my most beat up T-shirts. My favorite music is 80's hair bands. I read EVERYTHING from "Gray's Anatomy" (yes, it's a book) to "The Dirtiest Toilet Humor Book Ever". I love watching nature documentaries and sometimes I cry when animals get eaten. Nobody's perfect. But fortunately, you don't have to be perfect to be your own kind of awesome, and that's sort of what I'm counting on. Really, really counting on.

So, will there still be rants about irresponsible dog owners? Posts about dogs and horses? The occasional, long-winded, meandering and pensive brain-dump? Um, probably, yeah. But I do promise to work very hard at keeping my content more light-hearted while remaining honest.

Thank you, and stay tuned!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Paradox

Photo: en.wikipedia.org
The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense. -Tom Clancy

What Mr. Clancy said is great thing to keep in mind, especially when you're writing fiction. But human beings really seem to be the most comfortable when their reality makes sense too.

Sometimes I drive myself crazy trying to solve puzzles that apparently have no solution. I don't mean the physical kind like the little wooden balls and cubes that come apart or the Rubik's cube (which also comes apart with a little determination;-). I had a handle on those a long time ago. And really, if you solve them or don't, what difference does it ultimately make? The puzzles that intrigue me the most are the ones I can't seem to sort out no matter how hard I try.

One of those apparently unsolvable puzzles is the basic premise of the things I write about: The paranormal. As I'm beginning to do the research for my next book, it's easy to understand where legends begin and how they persist. There is really no mystery there. What I DO find mildly baffling though, is the consistency of information from widespread and seemingly unrelated sources. I might even be able to explain that much without straining myself; stories pass from one generation to the next, but people don't stay on one place. That's the simple answer, and most likely the right one. But the stories are just so darned consistent.

Let's make something clear; I don't believe in the paranormal because I want to. I have a very uneasy relationship with the paranormal world. I was just an average, relatively normal person, minding my own business and living my life the best I knew how when this happened. It's easy to read books like mine, to hear stories and to dismiss them outright as total BS. I know because I've done it. I've nodded politely, made the right noises (something along the lines of "Oh, how interesting...") but secretly thought to myself that it was a monumental crock of sh**. But I wrote this book, I was there and I know it's not a crock.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said "One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."  

Okay, that's all well and good, but what do you do if your mind is blown? What if you have seen with your own eyes, things you can't possibly explain? And things that have never been adequately explained by anyone? Well, I know what I'm doing: I'm throwing myself into it in the hopes of finding some answers while carving out what I hope is an entertaining niche for others. It's fun, and let's face it; it helps me to embrace the illusion that I have some kind of hold on this stuff and therefore some manner of control over it. Now that is a crock. But it helps me to sleep at night.

But here's a hell of a question to throw out there: HOW can this stuff be explained? Oh, I've seen all the 'investigative' shows and heard about all the spiritual aspects, but what is the real, tangible explanation? Is it possible, given all we know about the world in general, to find real answers? As much fun as it is to tell stories and speculate, and as much as I hope my scary book is a success, my sleep would be much improved if I knew that real answers were on the horizon.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Kristel Show

Photo: Tom Coggio
in·tro·vert  (ntr-vûrt, ntr-vûrt)tr.v. in·tro·vert·ed, in·tro·vert·ing, in·tro·verts
1. To turn or direct inward.
2. Psychology To concentrate (one's interests) upon oneself

Yup, that's me. Let's face it, I didn't become a writer because I was a social butterfly who loved being out and about. Out and about in the woods on a beautiful day, especially on a horse? YES. In public, where people are? Not so much. Sure, I've done lots of socializing, but I usually would only go out if I knew the band or I was drunk (or more often, both). I would love the music and hang with folks, but even so I felt like I was still in my own little bubble, jamming to my own wavelength. Check out the photo on the right: I'm the sullen-looking one in the middle, flanked by my very outgoing sister and very outgoing daughter who felt entirely comfortable smiling for the camera (as per the usual). Lets be clear though; I'm not ACTUALLY sullen, or shy, or insecure, or any of those other undesirable qualities that folks tend to equate with my hermit-like behavior. I'm sort of awesome in a twisted and humorous way. I'm just not much of an attention seeker. But that needs to change, and I need to find a way to do it well, my way :-)

Our whole lives, we all called my sister the "Kerrie Show". Whatever was happening, she always had to be at the center of it. My mother is also very outgoing, having no trouble whatsoever giving lectures on humor and health to large groups of people and unerringly creating a joyful and happy atmosphere. I spent much of my time pouring over books of all kinds at the library, or hiding in the barn cleaning my saddle while rocking-out to 80's hair bands on the radio. Then I had my daughter, another outgoing personality in my orbit. How do I compete with that? Historically, there has been no point in trying, and furthermore I have never felt the desire to be the center of attention. My brain is SO busy that I LIKE being observy, I like having the time to process what's going on without all eyes on me. THAT is why I write; because I can do so in relative isolation, in a bubble of quiet (and in my dinosaur pajamas, dammit). But hiding under a rock doesn't sell books. I believe that it really aught to in a fair world, and if it did I'd be a marketing GENIUS, but alas it is not to be.

I have to get out there. And I'm realizing that in order to do that I need not compete with any other "Show". I just need to create "The Kristel Show", a stand-alone unit of entertainment and fun that is unique and present and selling books :-) I need to get comfortable with the idea that promoting my work is part of my job, not some narcissistic need for attention and praise. So I'm going to do it, and I'm not going to apologize for it. I've worked really hard to own and occupy my space. So, welcome to The Kristel Show :-)

By the way, here's me book: "In Stone"

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Darker Side!

Photo: Taylor Baranova
I set up this blog with the intention of having an outlet for my 'lighter' thoughts and ideas. For the most part, the meandering and varied topics have provided just that. While it's true that other appropriate names for this blog might have been "Verbal Incontinence" or "Proof That I Need Editing", I have been very pleased by the number of folks who have read my posts. Whether you read my blog because you find it interesting, or because you find it relateable, or even because it's like a train wreck you can't look away from, I appreciate you. THANK YOU for the continued support:-)

If there is a lighter side, then a darker (edited!) side must exist, right? And so it does: In Stone , my first book, is now available! Here is a taste:

"The house looked innocent enough. There was nothing to distinguish it from any other quaint, older home nestled within the rural Vermont landscape. For Liz, Charlie, Donna and Willa it was a dream come true; exactly what they needed. Each of them had escaped hardship longing for the comforts of loved ones, hearth and home. The spacious house, the location and the timing all seemed so perfect. But none of them could imagine the horrors that awaited them as the house revealed its secrets. "

Yes, it's finally an honest-to-gosh 'thing'. To all those who regularly witnessed me skulking about in my dinosaur pajamas while talking to myself and gripping a cup of coffee like it was my last friend on earth, there really was a point to it all :-) And now, it's time to knuckle down again and write another one.

I can't tell you much about the next one, just that it was inspired by a nightmare...


Friday, October 11, 2013

Perception

Photo: Taylor Baranova
I've spent much of my life trying to be realistic. Also, trying to manage my expectations so as not to be disappointed, to find satisfaction in my current situation and to, essentially, 'take it where I can get it' because "life is what it is". I've always believed that magic happens to other people, that I can only fantasize but never realize amazing possibilities. That I simply am not enough because other people are better at anything I could ever hope to achieve. I have always believed that the best I can hope for is the opportunity to work hard enough at doing something I hate, that I can afford at least a taste of the things I have a passion for. Having that psychic baggage has given me a view of reality that isn't realistic at all, but actually PESSIMISTIC. It's not a perspective that provides energy for great things or for change. It is a perspective that has kept me small, kept my thoughts small, kept my expectations small. In short, not helpful in any regard. And I know better.

And what is reality if not perception? What gives us the energy to do great things? Certainly not by believing that great things are beyond our reach. Most definitely not by focusing on managing nothing more than the minutia of our day to day lives. There is a proverb that goes "If you aim for the moon you may reach the top of the highest tree, but if you aim for the top of the tree you may never get off the ground". It sounds about right to me. It also implies that we have some power over the direction we take. That was perhaps the most difficult lesson to learn: I have power. I have been told by so many people in so many ways (some subtle, some not-so-subtle) that I don't have any power, that my opinion isn't worthwhile, that I don't have a right to my beliefs for one reason or another (and how DARE I be offended by that!). Learning where my strength comes from was a real breakthrough, and I had to learn it for myself in my own way and in my own time. The truth is we don't need someone to tell us what we're worth, we don't need pieces of paper to tell us that we're smart, we don't need money to have influence. A truly powerful person, though they may have those thing, doesn't NEED them to own their place in the world. It's a work in progress for me, but I've shed the worst of it.

I believe this idea can be taken a step further. Not only do we create our reality through perception on a philosophical level, but likely in a tangible, physical way as well. Several years ago I was introduced to Dr. Masaru Emoto's research on the effects of emotion on water molecules. It was a unique perspective on how the energy we project into the world acts on the world around us. Super cool :-) It's old news at this point but still sticks in my noggin as a reminder. Again, a work in progress for me.

One of the difficulties in 'changing shape' is that it makes the folks around us uncomfortable. Sometimes those who are the closest have the most difficult time. We don't just see ourselves as singular entities, but by who we are in relation to others, at least on some level. When those others evolve, it can be genuinely difficult to accept and assimilate the changes, sometimes to the point of outright refusal. I've seen this played out occasionally and it's weird, but common enough that it appears to be a legitimate pattern.  I feel lucky to be, and to be surrounded by, flexible, secure people who are amenable to positive changes in other folks. I feel all kinds of observy right now :-)

I guess this post was my long-winded way of saying if there is anything you want to do (well, anything that doesn't cuase harm to yourself or another, hehe), do it. Don't wait for the stars to align, align them. Don't wait until you have more time, make time. And I say this as much to myself as to you. I know sometimes the things we want most don't always pan out, but it doesn't mean failure. It means hammer at it some more in a different way. Don't let it go because you are distracted by the day to day. DO IT. :-)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jarring

Photo: en.wikipedia.org
I think I may be going through an over-sensitive period of time in my life. Either that, or circumstances are conspiring to converge on a singular point in time with the express aim of making me profoundly uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong: I am on the verge of success. No matter what happens or how it ultimately plays out, I am about to be a published author. That is reality. No matter how much money is involved or how much criticism I might receive (which is 'none' on both counts, currently), I have accomplished that much. I am proud of that, especially in light of the obstacles I have needed to plow through to get there.

I love writing. In person I don't express myself frequently or well. I have difficulties with emoting. Part of it is vulnerability, I do realize this, but part of it is that I just don't know how without sounding like I have some form of Tourette's. It is what it is. Sometimes I come across as unfeeling though, and that has been to my detriment. But on the rare occasion I express emotion, I have often been told that "I shouldn't feel that way because"...fill in blank, or "It could be worse so consider yourself lucky", so why bother? And why give people the tools to hurt me, anyway? Any one thing might not touch off this little crisis of confidence, but when they pile up a bit (which they sometimes do...what IS that?) it can feel like a football tackle. Metaphorically, of course. Well, mostly. But I'll get to that.

I love the people in my life. I usually feel loved, too. No small accomplishment considering how isolated I am, but I'm fortunate to be surrounded by good people. Sometimes I feel left out, and sometimes I feel left out and lied to. And sometimes people I care about unwittingly promote viewpoints that are actively harmful or insulting and they are so far removed (read: lucky, fortunate, etc.) from the reality of others that they can't even see HOW their opinion is harmful and insulting. How do I handle that? Most of the time I keep quiet. I know these folks are good-hearted people and just don't know any better. Lately, I can't keep quiet. I didn't go so far as to say "That point of view might make YOU feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but it kills dogs" or "Pretending to be poor for a couple of weeks and writing about how awesome you were at it is insulting to folks who are actually struggling and don't have the choice", so kudos to me for having at least that much restraint. I'm working on it. Yeah, I know. It's MY behavior I need to worry about, nobody else's. Someday when I have the resources, I will actually be able to DO something about the things that drive me bananas and not just whine impotently to myself.

I was going over these sorts of thoughts in my mind the other night, sitting at a red light in my car and listening to the radio. My thoughts were a gazillion miles away (it's a real number, I swear) when WHAM; I was rear-ended by some dirtbag. We were at a busy intersection, so when he came swaying up to my window, smelling of booze, I told him to pull ahead, out of the traffic (and under some lights). What he did instead was just take off. It was jarring. It was jarring on both an emotional and physical level. Yes, my car is damaged. No my insurance won't cover it (all I can afford is liability). So now, I will just drive around in a broken car until whenever. Thanks dirtbag, for slamming into me, for hurting me and breaking my sh**, and failing to take any responsibility for it at all. I know, I "shouldn't feel that way", so I'll just do what I usually do and lick my wounds by myself, and put the rest of it 'in the vault'. You can just go about your life slamming into people and taking no responsibility for it whatsoever. Lucky you. Okay, that got a little deeper and a little more 'inclusive' than I intended, but it is what it is.

Okay, that concludes this pity party for one. Onward and upward!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Publication

Photo: scotlandpubliclibrary.org
So, it looks like I'm getting published. Like for real. It's strange how 'weightless' I feel about the whole situation. In my fantasy world, my scary little book would come out right before Halloween, and it looks like that is exactly what is going to happen. It's strange to think that I actually finished the "marathon".

It didn't go smoothly for me. There are some writers who can sit down, focus and be brilliant in six months. I am not one of them. Perhaps part of it is lack of experience. Who knows. I am not one of those naive individuals that believe in the 'waiting for inspiration' fallacy, either. Writing is work. It is awesome and largely fulfilling work, but work nonetheless. At least for me. I suppose it's different for everyone. I will admit though, that on a good day I struggle for every bit of focus I am ultimately allowed. So what. It takes as long as it takes. And it probably took a lot longer than it should have. I wrote the last line on 11/11/11. Everything else since has been clean up, editing, etc. I finally had to admit that it was never going to be perfect, so waiting until it was was futile.

I don't think my book is beautifully written. I don't think it's supposed to be. It's a narrative about the most terrifying six months of my life. There were beautiful moments, but they were fleeting and buried within the greater horror of the rest of the story. It is what it is. As the writer, I'm completely incapable of being objective. I can only hope that you are entertained and engaged by my story, and that you come away from it feeling some of the abject terror experienced by the characters. Such a noble goal, hehe...

I have had the book and all work related to it in my life for so long that it seemed strange to just hand it over. Now comes the second most terrifying part: Putting it out there for the world to see. Sure, I do that in increments with this blog and have done it on a small scale with little things that I've written. I was really encouraged by how many people read the short story I wrote for you folks last Halloween (and a little frightened by how many more hits the end got than the other parts...so dark and twisty!). Anyway, thank you for that. It helped to give me the courage I needed to say "Here, go put that out into the world for anyone to access". I feel like I just bought a sort of lottery ticket, but one where I risk considerably more than a couple of bucks. But that's what it's about. Sometimes the only way forward is to look fear in the face, tell it off, and move forward anyway. So this is me being brave.  Stay tuned to this spot for the shameless self-promotion to come, and thank you for, well...being you :-)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Morgan Horses and Making Due

Photo: Jane Kennedy O'Neil
When I'm stressed out I like to think of 'other' things; things that are far removed from all that's worrisome. I think about horses a lot. I always have. In one form or another, horses have been a bastion of strength and protection against the intrusion of life's occasional unpleasantness. There's something about a horse that makes us more than we are. They offer us their friendship (if we allow them to) and lend us their power and speed. There's something in the spirit, the soul of a horse, that connects with the soul of a human being in a way that is unique and special. When I feel cursed with the absence of this connection, I need to remind myself what a blessing it is to know such a bond and to have the capacity to experience it so fully. I don't have a horse right now, but I will again. It's not something I hope for, but something I know on a soul level. My connection with horses is my connection to the 'real' world, the source of my strength and my greatest passion. People like me don't thrive without horses.

I'm filling my horseless days ruminating about my next horse. Who will he be? What do I want to do? It is natural for me to immediately assume I will look for a dressage horse, and that would be fine. But the idea of spending all or most of my time in an arena makes my insides feel restless and squirmy. Yes, I would like to do some showing. I didn't get to do nearly enough of it as a child. There's still an itch there. But I also fantasize about dirt roads, corn fields, miles of trails through the woods. I remember seeing the world through pointed ears, an explosion of fall color, the soothing, rhythmic sound of my horse's footfalls, the sharp aroma of leaves and refreshing fall air. I'll never get tired of that, and as a child that is what I loved the most. My sister was always right there too, a ready riding buddy who shared my enthusiasm. Our farrier used to comment on the wear of our horses' shoes; they could never be reset because the daily mileage had worn them so thin. We would ride in all weather, getting caught in the rain more than a time or two. We rode bareback as a matter of habit; youth is fearless with an effortless balance and agility. Back then I had a Morgan.

I hadn't considered a Morgan again until recently. But why not? My show-trained Morgan was up for everything I was into and well suited for it too. Isn't a Morgan a natural choice? They are beautiful, strong, sensible, versatile, respectful of those who respect them. They have energy to burn and endurance to spare. You get an awful lot of horse for a fairly reasonable amount of money (exceptionally reasonable when compared to the cost of a warmblood) .When I was a child the good Morgan ads read like this: "Morgan for sale, rides and drives, excellent family horse, old (fill in blank) lines". As it turns out, that's still largely true. As a Vermonter, not only are these the 'horses of my people' but they are everywhere. That's kind of awesome. How great it would be to actively seek out the right horse for me as an adult, knowing what I know now and participating in the process. I look forward to that day with anticipation :-)

When I was a child, each horse that I had was a stroke of luck. Each foible was a lesson learned the hard way. I think about how children learn about horses today. How different everything is! I am so grateful for my daughter's experience with Pony Club, and I highly recommend it. Pony Club doesn't just produce pretty riders, but real horse people who know as much about safety and the care of their horse as they do about riding. It seems these days that many children are being taught to ride but know nothing else. They have to have perfect footing in their well-tended arenas, the most fashionable tack and clothing, and a coach at their side for everything they do. I think it's sad. Those children are missing out on a lot. It's hard to have a real relationship with an animal that you don't understand, that you have relegated to nothing more than a competition vehicle. Without that relationship the best part of the experience is lost.

My sister and I didn't take a lot of lessons. The ones we took we paid for ourselves with money we saved from birthdays, Christmas, mowing the occasional lawn. We didn't come from a horsey family so lessons and showing weren't a priority (or at least not a priority to those who held the finances!). We were very fortunate to have the horses at all. After years of begging, we started out with free-leased ponies from a local summer camp. My grandfather had put up a fence and built a barn and run-in, and that's what we had from that point on. After having more free-leased ponies and horses than I can count, my family finally purchased two horses. Kudos to my Mom here; she was a single, non-horsey parent and we had horses. That in and of itself was impressive.

Most of our education was provided by horsey neighbors, working at the summer camp (if we got all the chores done, we could RIDE! Thank you Mom for getting up early to fed us breakfast; thank you Papa for all the rides to the farm!) and a pretty terrific 4-H leader. This same woman helped my Mom find our horses and helped us to get set up with tack. I mentioned that my Mom was not a horsey person. So it is really no surprise that she bought us a saddle (yes, one for us to share) from an ad in the paper for $50. I think we even tried to use it, but it was pretty scary. I think it was a polo saddle, and part of one of the panels was missing. Eventually the torn stirrup leathers went to shoe repair to get sewn back together. This is when our 4-H leader stepped in and helped out :-) It couldn't have been easy to buy our nice tack and it was done piece by piece.

When we took our lessons, my sister and I had to ride to the local park and use an outdoor hockey arena as a riding ring. My sister had her saddle before I had mine (the first saddle just fit her horse better) so the instructor would kindly bring her saddle for me to use during the lesson. We thought nothing of this, it was just the way it was. We eventually participated in horse clinics at the local fairgrounds. I remember my saddle arriving by bus the day before the clinic started. I was SO EXCITED to get my new saddle (I had never had my very own saddle before!). I was beside myself. My wonderful Morgan took all the strangeness of the clinic environment in stride and performed beautifully so I could focus on my riding. All my friends were there, we got to sleep in tack rooms and we were able to focus on nothing but horses for a whole weekend! The clinics were awesome.

We eventually did some showing, but our participation at shows was limited by our lack of transportation. We could often hitch a ride with friends if they were going, but it didn't happen nearly enough for me. It didn't matter to my horse though. His lifestyle had changed completely when he came to live with us. He was living the life of a mere backyard pleasure mount. But when he entered the ring he became a different horse. He knew his job and he strutted his stuff like he had never been away. Perhaps that is one one of the things that fascinates me the most about Morgan horses. Some interpret versatility as an ability to perform in different tack. The truth is, horses aren't terribly mindful about the style of tack we choose for them. It's really only important to us. But the versatility of my Morgan was an adaptability in his performance, an understanding of what is needed in a given moment. This horse who would take me calmly down the trail (and through the occasional frog-pond) knew when and how to 'turn it on'. I always felt so proud of him in those moments, and the smile I wore in the show ring was genuine.

That's what I need. I need a tough, flashy little fellow who's up for anything. So why not a Morgan? Why not an animal I have a long history and share a kinship with? Why not the 'horse of my people'? It's certainly something worth considering. Thank you for joining me on this trip through memory lane :-)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Another Day at Calahan Park

Murphy
This morning I wished Karma Girl and her Shillelagh of Doom were real things and that they existed outside my imagination. Of course, it's not the first time I've had need for them, or they wouldn't exist. While I am capable of being more than a little..."prickly"...myself, I would rather not have to be. I would much prefer it if others would manage themselves then I could simply manage myself and then we could all just sing songs and tiptoe through the tulips in a state of blissful serenity. But alas, it is not to be. People, especially when it comes to their dogs, seem to be relentlessly obtuse and inconsiderate and it is an almost daily trial by fire for Murphy (and the many, many others who actually possess the mental acuity to comprehend and obey leash laws). Today was the WORST day in that regard that I can remember for quite some time.

I have had numerous encounters with the legally-challenged during my mornings at the park with Murph, some of them are even funny when I look back on them. For instance, one day we went and did our thing peacefully enough, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, we were accosted by an overweight boxer. Murphy doesn't appreciate a rude approach since he was attacked, but doesn't react 'bearishly'. Mostly he just tries to get away from the rude thing jumping on his head, but he does have a limit. My fuse is much shorter and I tend to do whatever I need to to keep loose dogs away from my dog. It's entirely not fair for Murphy to be forced to put up with these shenanigans! Finally the owner caught up with his dog and, predictably, had no vocal control over it whatsoever. I was getting really frustrated with his complete uselessness in managing his own dog, when out of nowhere a second overweight, out of control boxer joined the first in tormenting Murphy. In my mind, all went silent. Then the little dude who manages the switches in my brain unceremoniously switched on the "bitch switch" and control was no longer mine. I unloaded on this guy in a way that almost never happens, but I think it made a dent in his "leash laws don't apply to me" idea. Oh, I'm not proud of it. I'm perfectly capable of being "prickly" while being perfectly under control. In fact, under-control-pricklyness is far superior to white-hot-rage-pricklyness both in structure and effectiveness. But this jerk had not one, but TWO out of control dogs in a public park with a leash ordinance, AND they were actively harassing my dog AND HE WAS NOT FIXING THE PROBLEM. I grabbed each of his dogs and handed them to him myself so he could leash them up (they were still squirming and trying to get to Murphy...grrr...) And this upstanding citizen and responsible dog owner had the nerve to say to me "Looks like somebody should have stayed home today". Apparently, this dude knows absolutely nothing about women, or when it might be pertinent to shut the hell up. He had no idea how close he came to being on the receiving end of a throat-punch. It took every once of self control I had left to say: Yes, and since you're the one breaking the law, I'm assuming you are referring to yourself."  He left the park and I haven't seen him again. So THAT'S alright, anyway. Maybe I scared him. I certainly scared ME a little, hehe :-)

But while the encounters are rarely this bad, they remain frustratingly frequent. I do what I'm supposed to: I avoid dog parks, I follow the laws. I just want to exercise and play with my dog in peace. But some dog owners think all parks are dog parks. All dogs in public want to be accosted. How is this possible in this day in age?

Some of the weirdest things I've encountered are almost too rude to be true. For example, one day I was heading back to my car with Murph and saw a woman get out of her car (parked near mine). She glanced at Murphy and then she opened her car door to let her dog jump out. Of course it made a beeline for Murphy, who had moved behind me and started whining by this point. I walked toward it and bellowed "NO" as loudly as I could. I used to sing a bit so I'm pretty good at projecting my voice, but I always feel a bit of disdain when it sounds less melodious and more 'raging bull'. Oh well. It usually does the trick. It did the trick long enough for Murph to jump into my car. The woman was close enough for me to ask "What were you thinking?!" She replied that "My dog needs exercise and some manners so I thought your dog looked like a good playmate". I can't make this sh** up.

My other favorite person had to be a guy with a Rotti who walked around the park for a bit, then let his dog off-leash to wander about while he lay down and took a nap in the middle of the park. Unfortunately his chosen napping area was between me and my car and the Rottie's chosen wandering location was pretty much wherever the hell it wanted to go. I had to holler loudly enough to wake the guy up to grab his dog so I could go home. Seriously.

I've talked to the police about all the loose dogs (they like my dog and sometimes will come over and talk to me about Dobermans) and they are frustrated too. They issue tickets and people just keep doing it. In fact, the fines just doubled, and people are STILL repeat offenders. I keep Murphy on a long line so he is free to wander about and sniff, we play a bit of fetch, we wander a bit more but we comply with the laws. I actually had a police officer chuckle at me for using a line on a dog as well-trained as Murphy while untrained dogs are running loose all over the place. At the same time, the police appreciate my respect of the laws. It's good to feel validated. I feel validated by other dog owners too. As ridiculous as some of the dog owners can be, most of them are conscientious and are as frustrated as I am. I recently even saw a fellow with a young, obviously well-trained German Shepherd. This guy was walking around the park with his dog on a long line. Kudos to this young fellow! He smiled at me, I smiled back. it was a warm-fuzzy exchange of respect :-) Some have suggested we find a new spot, but there are no spots where this isn't occurring. I look forward to the day when we have our own yard (and I can put a big fence around it, and perhaps a moat), but we aren't there right now. I depend on public spaces, as do many others. Having consideration for other people is the only way that works.

Truthfully, despite all my bluster and blow, I have no problem at all with the loose dogs who are under control or actively engaged in a game with their person. My problems begin when my dog is being interfered with, and I think that's perfectly reasonable. I have ZERO tolerance for the folks who wander around in oblivion while their dogs do whatever, wherever. When I asked one of these people why they let their dogs run at others the response was "Well they have to greet". No, they don't. I'm not even sure where that idea comes from. Thankfully, most people know better!

This morning it was just a loose-dog onslaught. One guy had two dogs he let loose, then a woman arrived and let her dog go. Then a golden retriever dragging a guy behind him joined the melee the instant it was released. Somebody threw a ball and all hell broke loose. When all hell broke loose, the owners all stood around and watched placidly and didn't do a damned thing. That was all I needed to know, and Murph and I cut our play time short. Oh, no worries. He's just a service dog with a few minutes to himself to have fun and be a dog. What right does he have to enjoy himself unmolested? OF COURSE it's more important that you aren't inconvenienced by pesky little laws. Having to manage your animal in public is just so unfair.

Okay, enough snark for the day....

Friday, August 2, 2013

Goodbye, "Sweet Prince(s)"

Ok, not really the Prince I mean...
I was talking to my mom the other day about relationships. I think she is secretly relieved that I am legitimately happy being single, given my history of...impulsiveness. The reason I'm so happy is because I have a theory: There are only so many types of guys out there, and I've dated most them already, often several times over. They are different ages and shapes, but share a few similar and predictable behaviors and characteristics. My mom thought my descriptions were hilarious (okay, she's my mom and she has to say that, but I dig the reinforcement just the same) and she encouraged me to write about these "Princes". I will do one better; I will say an individual "goodbye" to each of these dudes (who represent many) and in setting them free from my psyche, leave that space available for a new kinda guy. I know you guys like it best when I talk about dogs or kill people, but I though I would go a little off the rails just for fun. Here we go...

Goodbye, control-freak "Prince". While I appreciate the idea that chivalry is not dead, I feel perfectly capable of choosing my own food, clothing, occupation, etc.  In fact, not only capable, but much more capable than you. No, I definitely do NOT like a guy to take charge and have no desire whatsoever to be "taken care of". Have I mentioned I'm a grown up? I also don't respond well to you volunteering my time to your friends prior to discussing it with me...BOO! No, Kristel will NOT cut your friend's hair because you did NOT check with Kristel about it beforehand. I will admit that I am too old now to be a "trophy" to wear on your arm, but would still like to point out that I'm too good and too smart to be relegated to "ornament" status. Always have been. Feed your ego via your own accomplishments; just sayin'. While I "appreciate" your insidious nature and the way your control-freaky-ness gradually snuck up on me, you will not be missed. Fly free!

Goodbye hot but manipulative "Prince". Yes, there was a time that your hotness could buy my forgiveness for just about anything, but alas, the time is gone. I have learned that you will say or do whatever you have to to get whatever it is you want or need in the moment. You also have a knack for dating really...simple (that's the nicest way I can think of to put it) women so you can maximize your manipulative prowess and be the smartest person in the room. SURPRISE! Bet you didn't see me coming;-) Even when I learned exactly what you were, I still hung around for the fun parts. You're cute, you're fun, we click and you have a great sense of humor. HOWEVER, your tendency to cause trouble and then run and hide like a little wimp instead of being a grownup, using your words and learning to cope with confrontation (that you cause!) is such a major turnoff that it entirely negates anything good about you. Auf Wiedersehen!!

Goodbye to you too, superficial "Prince". You and I had our moments, but being blamed personally for your shortcoming gets incredibly old, as does the weird ego-thing that allows you to believe that you are the center of my universe, even when I've strongly indicated otherwise. It took a long time, but I finally realized that a woman could have a PhD, be a millionaire, have a successful career, be smart and beautiful, but the only thing you would say about her is "She's got a big ass and I don't like the color of her eyes". You have a massive blindspot that extends in two directions and you may never be able to understand that. It's true that some incarnations of this prince are attractive, but just as often they are total trolls. Oh well. No longer my problem! Enjoy the single life, and keep on dreaming of that supermodel (who has your ideal hair and eye color!) who loves to clean, is a first rate chef and wants nothing more than to take care of your every need. I just know she's out there waiting for you. Take care!

Goodbye buff "Prince". The size and shape of your man-muscles was interesting for a bit. But then I realized that you love yourself more than anyone else could ever measure up to. You need to be worshiped. I just wasn't up to the task. I learned quickly that the whole "muscle-thing" was pretty much ALL you were about. Once, you failed to see someone trying to steal my purse because you were too busy looking at your reflection (re-flex-tion...hehe) in a shop window. Oddly enough, you were pretty quick with your fists when someone insulted your car. Go figure. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but a tool nonetheless I suppose. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted (when I say fun I mean "fun" in the way that it was not actually fun to sit around waiting for you while you finished your workout), but...have a nice life! Give yourself a kiss for me (or you, if you haven't already).

Goodbye coyote "Prince". I don't mean that you are an actual animal, more like you are the coyote to my roadrunner. You chase relentlessly, almost stalking but not quite. You are filled with compliments and you miraculously love all the things that I love. You pursue and pursue, you are relentless. You buy gifts. You "work it" until I finally give you the time of day. The moment I give a damn, you're like "Yeah, maybe I'll call ya". On the upside, you tend to reveal your jerk-ness rather early on so I don't really get invested in you, but you're also the type that likes to pretend that I was chasing you. Seriously? You're a tough one because interactions with other humans are just a game to you (in fact, I almost lumped you in with hot Prince, but you aren't always hot, just persistent) and seem to involve some low-self-esteem issues, or something. I want to send you a gift from ACME a la Looney tunes, perhaps something explosive or an anvil, but in true coyote fashion I suspect Karma will help me out there. Spank your inner child, grow up and have a nice life!

Okay, there at least one "Prince" who I haven't dated yet. He is genuine "Prince". He wants to be in a relationship because he is ready for that sort of thing. He doesn't need someone to make him happy, fix his life or my personal favorite: to "complete" him *shudder*. He is a whole person who likes and respects himself, and by extension, others. He has no hidden agenda. He just wants a best friend (that he is attracted to, obviously;-) to share his life with for no other reason than because life is better that way. My personal version of this fella is also bookish, kinda nerdy with a nice face and a sense of humor. I know I've seen this fella around, but he's not known to exhibit attention-seeking behavior due to his lack of need to have his ego stroked, so he is tough to recognize. But he does exist!

Phew! That was kinda fun :-)