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2018 in Horses

It was about a year ago that I dove back into the horse world. I started learning with my friend Marita’s horse Poppy in late October 2017, and it really helped me deal with some of the grief I was feeling over the loss of Napoleon. Even though I don’t really think Poppy liked me all that much (good lord that horse tried to bite me so many times, for offenses including “attempted to brush my dirty belly”, “made me walk somewhere”,  and “stood within range”), working with her gave me something I didn’t know I was missing. Something more than just being around horses and smelling their horsey smell, it was being outside and having to move and work my body in order to properly work the horse…it has tethered me to the physical world in a way that I needed, pulling me out of my own head where I tend to otherwise live. 

Poppy

Still, by the time Poppy moved to her new home in February, she had threatened to bite me enough times that I’d started to become a little afraid of horses, which is something Marita noticed when Poppy turned her head toward me curiously one day and I damn near jumped to the moon, expecting bared teeth approaching my person. It was then that Marita decided that I should start working with Africa, a half-blind Arabian mare being stabled at the same barn. Fresh off the Poppy fear and nervous about Africa’s blindness and what it might mean for her predictability, it didn’t help matters at all that Africa was extremely herd bound and so when I led her away from the other horses into her stall, she backed me into a corner and started screaming at full volume. I didn’t know that she was just upset about wanting to be with the other horses and was pretty convinced that she was going to rear up and knock my head off in the stall that day…and yet I STILL kept coming back to the barn so clearly, afraid or not, I had the bug. 

Africa

Over time, Africa and I became really good pals. At first she’d call and call and call for the other horses after I’d catch her and bring her in, careless if whether she was yelling at full volume directly into my ear (she was). After  a while and a number of disapproving looks, she settled on a hilarious compromise where she’d decide she wanted to yell, would look at me first, open her mouth wide and then issue this tiny whispery ⁿᵉᶦᵍʰ that no one heard or responded to. The best days were when she wouldn’t call for other horses at all, content to be with me and do whatever.  And we did a lot! I started learning to ride properly on her, I gave her her first all-over bath (her coat got this amazing metallic sheen), and we got to know one another through some games and liberty work. But I was getting a little anxious for more–Africa is not my horse, and I was not allowed to handle her when Marita was not present. That’s perfectly reasonable but I was itching to get some unsupervised/more horse time, and that’s when I started looking at leasing a horse.

Tiede Z, a Friesian gelding I looked at leasing 

…I stopped looking at leasing a horse shortly thereafter, because nothing felt like a good match, training philosophy wise or riding style or personality. Likewise with a co-op barn where people pay a monthly fee and get to hang out and work with their horses–I tracked them down, filled out an application, went for a three hour tour, and ultimately didn’t sign up because it still wasn’t what I wanted. None of these places or people or horses were bad, it was still just another situation where I would get to be with a horse but it wouldn’t be my horse. 

In the meanwhile, I had struck a deal with Africa’s owner–that I could take Africa off property on trail rides so long as I was accompanied by the barn owner, and the barn owner would haul us off to those trails if I helped her bring in and feed the horses once a week. You mean I get to pay for something I love with something else I love? SIGN. ME. UP. I got to go on a lot of fun trail rides this summer, and I got to pay for those rides by leveling up my horse handling skills, learning to lead two at a time through gates, deal with rearers and rope biters and one gal who was so tall I had to stand on my tippy toes to get her halter on (while she snapped at the rope). Unfortunately, the barn owner broke her ankle in the most horse person way possible, by falling down a few stairs while looking at a picture of a horse, and that was the end of our trail riding. I had already been doing some horse shopping, but this got me looking in earnest, because while I enjoyed my lessons in the arena, I had gotten a taste of the outdoors on horseback and I was loathe to give it up.

But when I started horse shopping, I was very picky because I wanted a fancy horse, a dream horse (and brother, I’ve had a lot of years in which to dream about this horse), on a medium-to-low fancy budget. A discount dream horse, because a dream horse requires a dream house modest apartment reasonable stall and dream tack and a dreamy vitamin intake and a dreamy massage regiment plus a pedicure every six weeks and no wonder my parents told me Santa had a prohibition against live animals on his sleigh!

If I’m going to be completely honest, while I was open to a lot of breeds and coats–I was looking at Halflingers and Fjord Horses and native ponies, what I wanted was a Friesian or a Friesian-Andalusian/Warlander. I adore the Friesian breed, especially the heavier, more baroque build. They’re almost always black, they have big, thick fairytale manes and tails, heavy graceful necks, a gorgeous floating trot and they’re known for their sweet puppydog in-your-pocket personalities. The whole package. Combined with the Andalusian, the horses tend to be that more baroque build, with beautiful movement and strong bone. A destrier-type, nimble and strong. But unless I won one or Santa changed his rules about live animals, my chances of owning a thirty to seventy five thousand dollar horse seem about as likely as my chances of being struck by lighting while riding the loch ness monster.

Free horses aside, although my heart would flutter for all those gorgeous Friesians for sale I’d see online, they tended to all be bred to be taller animals, maturing above 16h. This means that the top of their shoulder is 5’3″ from the ground. I’m 5’2″(barely, at the top of my head, not at the shoulder) and while I have the use of a mounting block when I first get on if I’m at the barn, if I have to get off at any point during a trail ride, getting back on can be a big issue. Plus, as a short person, I have short legs, and as such, my stirrups are short and thus hang higher above the ground. I don’t honestly know if I could ever be fit enough to be able to launch myself upward from the ground and onto a horse after somehow getting my toes into a stirrup that was dangling at face height. Like, at that point, I think you just have to be Superman and float yourself up while pretending you only used your insane core strength and buns of man-of-steel.

So my dream horse was fancy bred or the appearance of fancy bred, on the short side, heavier build, with strong bone, young but not green to middle aged, ideally dark coated, able to easily carry me and the additional burden of armor, brave, forward, friendly, a good awake mind, but on a budget. I can’t believe I didn’t add my childhood “wish upon a star” horse qualities of “doesn’t need to eat or pee or poop so it can live in my bedroom” for as exacting and needle-in-a-haystack as my wishes were.

The first horse I was really interested in was Shadowfax, a Morgan gelding. He’d already started training with mounted archery (which is a goal I am actively working toward), he was of a medium height (I can’t remember exactly, around 15 hands high) and what appeared to be a fit, heavier build. Unfortunately, I found him three days before I was set to leave for Atlanta and he was located in southern Oregon and I didn’t want to make a 13 hour there-and-back high pressure road trip snap decision. But that turned out to be my only chance to meet him, as he was sold by the time I got home.

Shadowfax

The next horse I looked at was Dragon, a 7 year old Percheron/Fell Pony gelding, 13.2 hands (“if he’s feeling himself that day”), built like a war horse in miniature, an absolute tank in pony form. I messaged the owner less than thirty minutes after the craigslist ad went up (my friend at Gnomeland Farm has an alert set to email her if any native pony breeds are listed), because I was head over heels about Dragon immediately.  This was just days before my trip to Chicago, and I told the owner that I’d be willing to pay earnest money for them to hold Dragon until I was home and able to drive to Portland to meet him. They were not willing to do that, but through luck in timing, I was still able to be the first to meet him.

He was charming and personable from the first moment, investigating my pants and playing with their fake motorcycle ribbing with his lip. He did OK in the crossties–he got impatient pretty quickly and started pawing at the ground but that’s not a dealbreaker. In the saddle, however, I could barely get him to walk around their indoor arena. “Kick him! Kick him! Kick him harder!” the owner called to me…but man, I don’t want a horse I have to wale on to move. That doesn’t feel like partnership. I don’t know if he got soured as a kids’ riding horse or what, and it’s possible that with time and training, his sensitivity would return, but it was a gamble I wasn’t ready to take. I didn’t ride him for very long to know that it wasn’t right, and when I got off so soon, the owner’s demeanor completely changed from nicey-nice to barely concealed hostility. I get that when you ride a horse you’re either training him or untraining him and getting off of him while he was being purposefully pokey (which is what he wanted) didn’t teach him anything good, but I also think it’s also not my responsibility to kick your horse into submission.

We hustled so fast outta there we ran out of gas, and I shopped my feelings away by buying a 13.2h stack of books at Powell’s.

Dragon

Things got really serious with Dante, a 7 year old 15.2 Andalusian/Friesian/Percheron stallion located about an hour north of me in Washington. His owner had bought him at auction after he’d been seized from his previous owners, but then she just let him sit for a few years aside from lungeing. I didn’t know a lot about him, and she didn’t know a lot about him. She knew he had been bred a few times and had gotten kicked in the jaw once which resulted in a cracked tooth, and that her vet was managing it with floats. Since he hadn’t been ridden for years I didn’t want to be the first to pop on his back, so I evaluated him from the ground. I liked him. When I worked him on the line, he was responsive and respectful. He loaded into a trailer easily, he picked up his feet willingly. His eyes were soft and sweet, and I felt quite certain that I wanted to buy him–here was the discount dream horse I was looking for! A horse fancy-bred for athleticism and looks that just needed someone to see his potential and get his brain and body working again! Hallmark Movie The Horse!

I started to make plans for Dante: he’d need to be gelded and recovered from the gelding before I could move him into my barn, and then I thought I might send him to Oregon to be retrained under saddle with other new geldings so he could learn to transition to a life of being with other horses rather than the solitary life he was living as a stallion. First, however, he’d need a pre-purchase examination, which was conducted at the big fancy equine veterinary hospital nearby, Pilchuck. Dante’s owner trailered him there from Edison, and I watched as the vet and his assistant put Dante through his paces, check his eyes, heart, lungs, and overall soundness. They asked me if I wanted to add the dental exam, and truth be told, I almost said no because so far the vet had found nothing out of the ordinary from what I expected–he was a bit underweight and undermuscled but he also hadn’t been working.

But the dental exam was such a reasonable additional fee and there was the aforementioned cracked tooth to consider. They anesthetized him a bit so he wouldn’t be stressed by the dental contraption that ratchets the horse’s mouth open, and he was a very good boy as he stood there and was inspected. Within two minutes the dental specialist vet told me that Dante’s cracked tooth had not been managed, had in fact broken and rotted in his head, almost penetrating the sinus cavity, causing several other teeth to turn and grow out of whack, which would require two to three dental surgeries at two thousand dollars apiece, all of which are extremely complicated as they have to go through the side of the horse’s face and since there were issues on both sides, they would have to be split up into separate surgeries. He needed the dental work immediately as he couldn’t chew properly: this is why he was losing weight and didn’t have a ton of interest in food. It probably also explained the empty-stomach-jouncing-up-and-down sound when he’d trot. The infection in his body meant that any of the surgeries had the potential to kill him and the vet emphasized that he would struggle for months in recovery if he ever recovered. With these dental issues unknown, he could have succumbed from being gelded.

Dante’s owner and I were left reeling, as this was obviously terrible news for us both. And poor Dante! At home, I cried myself sick over this horse who was a Very Good Boy despite all the pain he must have been feeling and what was likely to happen to him, how he’d been bred with hopes and went unnoticed until he was ruined. I thought on him and tried to justify “saving” him and cried some more. Ultimately, I did what I could and set his owner up with a few different horse rescue organizations that could potentially help with vet bills, including one with ties to my barn, but then I had to back off because he’s not mine and I’m not buying him and I’m just an overinvolved stranger. I hope that he got the treatment that he needed, but I don’t know and I don’t want to know. I think about him still. I hope a rescue helped with the bills and he’s alive and thriving.

Dante

Dante

Dante

Over the summer, I entered a raffle for a 3 year old Friesian Saddlebred cross mare, Ultra Heir, located in North Carolina. Raffle tickets were $65 apiece, with 100 tickets sold and the raffle taking place once the last ticket was sold, and numbers assigned in the order they were sold. I bought one ticket and strongly considered buying two but ultimately was too cheap, preferring the idea of “my $65 dream horse” to “my $130 dream horse” as though she wouldn’t have been an outstanding bargain at either price.

In late September the raffle board finally filled. My raffle number was 48. #49 won.

Realistically a 3 year old would have been too much horse for me to handle in addition to being on the tall to really too tall side for me but if I won her I would’ve considered using her as a broodmare for a perfectly baroque baby. After I figured out how to get her home from North Carolina.

Ultra Heir

After Dante, I had decided to pause looking for a horse for a while–I didn’t know how well I’d deal with another close disappointment, but my friends kept putting horses in my path, and ultimately I decided that I’d better shop for myself if I didn’t want other people to shop for me. I placed a couple of ads in northwest horse sale groups looking for “A heckin’ chonker or above” and got no bites that appealed–people pushing their unbroken, green, and in one memorable instance, the ugliest horse I’ve ever, ever seen at me. He looked like if Homer Simpson was an obese, flabby horse.

Continuing my search, I did a deep dive on Dreamhorse, dialing in my exacting parameters, and got so far back in the listings that the main photos expired and I could see was the thumbnail. But there was one that caught my eye. A 14.2 hand Friesian Sporthorse mare, 13 years old, located in Florence, Oregon. She was described as a talented, tractable, sweet mare with a great work ethic and lovely movement, with dressage movements built in such as collection/extension, leg yields at walk and trot, shoulder in/haunches in at walk, and pirouette at walk and trot. They also said she has a willing and engaged temperament and is eager to please, playful with just a hint of diva pizzazz, that she LOVES to jump, could be suited to the hunter ring, has no vices and that she loads easily and trailers quietly, is a lady for the farrier, ties, clips, bathes, and that she’s smart, athletic, and willing; a bargain at her asking price. My needle in the haystack.

I responded to the Dreamhorse message, but I didn’t know if the messages would actually go through since the ad had expired. The ad mentioned that I could find photos and video at the trainer’s personal facebook page,  and so I looked her up and dug through her photos until I found one that she’d posted publicly that looked like the mare in the ad so I could comment on it, asking if she still had her and if she could tell me any more about her. The trainer said that she no longer had the horse and that she’d gone back to her owners in Eugene and tagged the owner into the conversation. I messaged the owner AND commented to let her know that I’d messaged her and to check her filtered messages if she didn’t see it, because I was going to take no chance that this beauty was going to slip through my fingers. 

Navani

I drove to Eugene to meet her shortly thereafter. On the lead line she danced and called to the other horses. They lunged her briefly, and then their trainer showed up to ride her for me to demonstrate her movements and abilities, as she’s had significantly more dressage training than I have.  I climbed aboard and we did not communicate very well–she was used to being ridden with a lot more contact on the bit than I like to have, and at one point she broke into a trot and together we barreled down on the entire family who were seated and couldn’t easily flee, and my only option for not running over a person was running over my purse with my phone and camera inside that I thoughtlessly left on the ground near the mounting block. I hoped I remembered the way back to the highway in case my phone got smashed and did everything I could to turn her toward my purse.  After we managed to come to a stop and not kill anyone or break anything, I decided to buy her. I liked her gentle and interested energy, I liked that even though she didn’t understand what I was asking her, she kept trying. I felt confident that I could teach her an easier way of going and that we could be great partners. 

We set a date to come pick her up on November 3rd. Before that, I had a vet come out, check her teeth, and do a coggins test, which she needed in order to cross state lines. In the early dark hours of the morning, Marita, Jason and I rumbled away from her house with her truck and trailer attached and headed to Oregon to get my girl and bring her home. We made excellent time there. We made excellent time home. The three hours it took to load her on the trailer, on the other hand…

So that’s going to be something I work on with her over this winter so she’ll be ready to load up and go when it’s time to take her to some shows this summer. Or renaissance faires in the future. Or to rides on the beach. I’m excited to see the places we’ll go together, just us two chunky childfree middle aged goth ladies. I’ve renamed her Navani and she is wonderful. She’s taken to riding in a bitless side-pull really quickly, she sidepasses like a dream, and I know that once I get her focus and her trust, we are going to be great partners. I feel it in my bones. My dream horse.

Poppy Time

In November, I made my first horse friend! As I’ve talked about extensively before, I’ve always been nutters about horses, but mostly haven’t had the opportunity to work with the same horse repeatedly. Vacation trail rides are fun, but they don’t teach you anything about working with horses, and as long as you can manage to stay on top of the horse, you’re doing fine. I really would like to improve my horsemanship (both riding and on the ground) and get a real taste of what horse ownership is like, and luckily, my friend Marita was in need of someone to work her horse, Poppy.

Poppy is a ten year old 14h high Arabian mare (which means she’s so short she’s technically a pony!), she has the loudest neigh in the barn, and she has a lot of strong ideas about how things should be and some attention issues (she’s way more interested in where the other horses are going than any person)–which is fine, but Marita wants her to be more mannerly and understand that she’s participating in a conversation with the person working her, and can’t just issue orders (Don’t brush my belly! Don’t pick my feet! Don’t let your legs touch my sides while riding!). I’ve already learned a lot: bringing her in from the field and haltering her, leading her, and doing some liberty work–getting her to walk/trot/canter in a round pen in the direction I choose at the speed I choose with no physical attachment to her.

Working with Poppy under Marita’s supervision has also garnered some personal insights: that I can be too nice and let certain adorable horses (and less adorable people) bowl me over, that my asks tend to be wishy-washy because I want to please but that is a hindrance to communication, and that I need to be firm and establish boundaries. Poppy is smart enough that she will test those boundaries, to see if she can get me to move by jamming her head into my space, and it’s my responsibility to stand my ground and communicate to her that if she has a problem with something I’m doing or asking her to do, she is always free to make it stop by moving her body away from me, but that it is not an option to move me instead.  

As mentioned above, Poppy has some issues with being ridden and my horsemanship is not good enough to stick on her back if she decides she doesn’t want me there, so it’s going to be some time before that happens–if it ever does. In the meanwhile, there is another horse in the barn, Africa, whose owner cannot get out to the barn often and has given Marita and I permission to work her, so I’ll be spending some time with her as well. I don’t know if that means riding or not, and I’m not particularly bothered either way–I can always sign up for riding lessons and get more experience that way. I do know that Poppy day is the best day of the week–I’m excited to get up and go to the barn and see all the horses. The first time Poppy called to me from the field, I was on cloud nine. It just feels like fate that this short, loud, black horse and I (short, loud, wears lots of black) ended up friends. Prepare to see a lot of Poppy everywhere.

See you in January!

Hey friends and fiends: I’m on break until January, recharging the noodle, working on new art projects, and eating every cookie that has the misfortune of crossing my path. Wherever you may go this holiday season, I hope you find happiness and make memories to last a lifetime. See you in a couple of weeks!

Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Vast and Salty

After a night filled with dreams about car crashes (thanks, brain), I awoke to discover that my sore throat was not, in fact, the result of having yelled too much at deer about making poor life choices but was instead the onset of a brutal cold.  It may be worth considering that I’m spending too much time locked in my home away from the world’s germs if every time I spend more than a few days away, I end up succumbing to illness, and that maybe I’d be a little more robustly healthy if I spent just a little more time around other people. Or, I could stay home and play just as much World of Warcraft if I just asked the UPS guy to cough on me every time he delivers something I ordered via Amazon Prime. That’d work, too.

At that point, it was just a bad sore throat, so while Emily and Rachel finished breakfast and packed up their belongings, I struck out across the street in search of throat lozenges and found these totally adorable murals painted on the gas station and grocery store.

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Before we left town, I wanted to swing by and see the “giant shopping cart” at Honey’s Marketplace that I saw listed on Roadside America. Because a lot of their content is user-submitted, sometimes I’m rewarded with something truly awesome, and sometimes, well…

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My opinion on the shopping cart would have changed a lot if I was able to go sit up in the basket like an oversized toddler, but Honey’s Marketplace evidently doesn’t give a fig about my opinion. What they did have was yet another vehicle from the movie “Cars”, marking the third “Cars” vehicle we’ve seen in Utah. And this one talked.

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He also talked about their fine selection of french bread…ooh-la-la, managing to be both funny and creepy at the same time. I’m just jealous that there is no talking anything outside of my local grocery store. 

Kanab is the filming location of over 100 movies and a number of tv series, and I’d tentatively put a stop at Little Hollywood Land on the itinerary, but given that our scheduled endpoint for the day was Boise, Idaho, I didn’t feel as inclined to spend a lot of time in Kanab before we left, knowing that would definitely make for another very late hotel arrival and gas station dinner, and I was still feeling a little bitter about the previous day’s late arrival and gas station dinner. All I wanted was a steak the size of a wagon wheel, Kanab! From a sit down restaurant where I could also get a gin and tonic to help me forget about the terrors of the night cows! Or barring that, some goddamned fries and a frosty! We did pull off shortly to take some photos of the scenery, and when I stopped being struck by the view, I realized that there was an entire group of people behind us firing guns into an embankment, protecting us all from some encroaching dirt or something. ‘Murrica!

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I also found it deeply important that we stop at this place with ho-made pie, because I’m the sort of immature person who will always laugh at a sign like this. No one wanted to take a picture with me under a sign indicating that they were a woman both of the evening and of the kitchen for some reason that I can’t begin to fathom.

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Then I tied a bandana over my face* and passed out in the backseat for a while.

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When I awoke, we had stopped at a gas station in Beaver, Utah, and I’m glad that I woke up, because it’s possible that nothing will ever make me laugh harder than a sign for fresh beaver tacos. Because, again, I am immature.

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An hour or more outside the Bonneville Salt Flats, the landscape already was looking seriously salty. As in, the ground looks like it’s covered with snow but it’s actually salt. There were piles of salt so enormous that it was hard to fathom their size, piles of salt so huge they absolutely dwarfed trains and construction equipment. And here I am, paying a couple of bucks for a cannister of salt like a sucker, when I could have brought a bucket with me and filled up a lifetime’s worth of salt for free. Plus the cost of the trip. But that doesn’t count, right?

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And then there’s this thing, a erect pole with salty balls.

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And finally, we were there–the Bonneville Salt Flats, home of some land speed record runs or something. I was much more interested in taking off my bandana for a little while, breathing in some salty air, and checking out the scenery.

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But first, I checked out the flying penis monster on the Bonneville Salt Flats garbage can. Because flying penis monster, obviously that’s where my eyes would go first. It’s like you don’t even know me.

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The Bonneville Salt flats are 30,000 acres of nothing but salt and water. Or sometimes just salt I would imagine, since it’s hard to set land speed records in calf deep water. No insects, no plants, one dead tree. They were, in Rachel’s words, “vast and salty”.  And once we’d heard it described that way, it was difficult to find any other words to describe it. Large and salt-filled? Grand and, uh, high salinity? So vast and salty it was and is. Rachel was the only one of us who ventured into the water, and once again using her lyrical magic, described it as “warm and gross”.  So, vast and salty and warm and gross. That’s about the long and short of it. I was surprised at how many families were out playing in the water in swimsuits, and how many dogs they brought up to the edge even with numerous signs prohibiting it. I also briefly considered scooping some up and gargling with it to see if it would benefit my sore throat, but then almost immediately reconsidered it, because every once in a while, I can make a good decision. Not often, not consistently, but every once in a while.

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After we’d gandered enough at the vast saltiness, I was feeling well enough to take a shift behind the wheel, and I drove us from the salt flats the rest of the way to Boise, taking us through a corner of the last new state we’d visit on the trip, Nevada. This route took us on a number of two lane roads, which meant I got to recreate some of my favorite scenes from Fury Road and shout “WITNESS ME, I AM AWAITED IN VALHALLA” while passing Sunday drivers on their way to and from spending their pension at the casinos.

We drove into Boise just as the sun was setting, and since we were going west, that meant driving straight into the blinding sun. Straight into the blinding sun as wind shears were grabbing the car. Emily was looking up options for places to go for dinner and telling us about them, and it was right at that moment that my sickness fully set in. In case you’ve never experienced a special moment like this, I’ll do my best to explain. It’s the point where I go from “I think I’m getting sick” to “Oh fuck, I’m sick. I am so sick”. My ears close up, my eyesight goes to tunnel vision, there’s an overwhelming stuffy sensation of being a balloon headed monster in a world that hates balloons. So, to reiterate, I was driving directly into the blinding sun, wind was grabbing and shaking the car, my hearing went from fine to being able to hear very little but the underwater whooshing sound of my blood gravy rushing to my face in a hot sweat and my world has collapsed to that blinding tunnel in front of me. Oh, and for some reason, I also had simultaneous searing gas pain, the kind of fart that rips through your intestines with razor blades, only we’d just had a conversation in the car where I learned that Emily’s husband isn’t even allowed to fart in a room that’s not the bathroom so there was no way I was letting that motherfucker go. My anus was Alcatraz. And my poker face is so goddamn good that I’m pretty certain no one in the car had any idea that any of this was going on, inside of me and outside of me, all at once.  At least until the point where we reached our exit and I snapped that the directions were going to have to be given a lot more loudly because I couldn’t hear anything (and also because I was still holding in The Devil’s Fart and he was angry about his imprisonment). I remember very little from the rest of that night. There wasn’t much to remember for me: as soon as we checked in, I went straight to bed.

 

 

*Why the bandana? They say hunting humans is the most dangerous game. I would like to posit that the most dangerous game is trying not to get sick when trapped in a car with a sick person and recirculated air conditioning for fourteen hour days. Considering there were two other people in the car who needed to get back to work and school and not take still more time off for illness, I wanted to do everything I could to keep from infecting anyone else. The bandana was my best option for making sure the worst of my germ goblins stayed with or on my person, even if (when) I fell alseep and wouldn’t be in control of coughs and sneezes. Basically the car version of how I treat Jason when he’s sick. AND IT WORKED.

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Getting Better With Age

Last April, when I set a goal for myself to run a 5k within a year’s time, I didn’t put a ton of thought into it. I’ve never been good at running, and it would be cool to be better at it. Sure, I was able to walk (and complain through, let us never forget how much I complain) a half marathon, but run it? Hell no. I was always the kid who came in last when the time came to run the dreaded mile in gym class, wheezing my way over the finish line and making Arnold Schwarzenegger weep into his pillow at night over my lack of physical fitness.

I’ve tried and failed before. This time was going to be different. I’d develop one of those easy, self-assured strides, not elicit a single snicker when I go out in public suited head to toe in technical fabric, and should I ever find myself in a Jurassic Park dinosaur escape type situation, I’d be able to do more than shamble a few steps before giving up and bellowing “Jesus, just eat me already, running is worse than death!” After all, I had all of the knowledge of what made me quit in the past, so I’d effectively be able to avoid those pitfalls this time around. First, I reasoned, it would be best to lose a good chunk of weight before I began seriously training, to reduce impact on my joints and avoid injuries. To that end, I’ve lost sixty pounds (and counting). When I’d lost a reasonable amount with still about six months left on the calendar, I started the couch to 5k program, the premise of which is that they can take you from sedentary to fit enough to run for thirty minutes straight in nine weeks.  Not outside, where there are both monster hills and soggy weather to contend with, but on a teensy elliptical machine. It’s not the same as actual running, certainly, but close enough for government work, and with the added bonus of less stress on my knees since I’m still preeeettty fat. Good enough to get my heart pounding, my legs working, to sweat buckets. I dutifully did the workouts three times a week, shifting them to avoid holidays that I knew the lazy golem inside of me would use as an excuse to not work out at all. I finished the nine week program in January, and I definitely found it challenging and made progress through those nine weeks, pushing each workout until my legs wobbled when I stopped. My 5k is scheduled for early March, so I felt it was imperative to get out there and run on actual ground, just so if there was any deficit from training on an elliptical instead of outside, I’d have time to train to make it up. So, naturally, it poured out for two weeks straight.

greenlake

On the only nice day in the immediate forecast, I slapped on my running clothes, took my headphones, and headed to Greenlake Park, a 2.8 mile loop that’s relatively flat. As I drove up, I began to psych myself out a little. Is that how long 2.8 miles is? That lake is huge, I don’t remember it being so large. But I firmly and resolutely told my inner worrier to shut the hell up, that I’d been training and going well beyond 2.8 miles in my practices at home, so this would be no problem. Cake. I began to believe it once I pressed play on my c25k podcast. The familiar cues told me to warm up for five minutes, and when the warmup was done, I was ready to go.  I started off great, taking measured, powerful strides. First song down. I’m doing this! I’m doing great!

…Then the second song started, and that’s when my lungs filled up with warm glue, my legs began to burn, and I was forced back into a walk, wheezing audibly. Really?! I’d run, what, half a mile before my body gave out? I felt sick and frustrated. Just how much had I been deluding myself about the progress I’d been making on the elliptical? I blinked back hot tears and choked back my shame barf, not wanting this run to be exactly like high school. Little old ladies ran past me while the podcast continued, congratulating me on running for ten minutes and telling me that I’m doing great. A wave of shame so great rushed over me that I momentarily contemplated drowning myself in the lake, but ultimately decided that even as an abject failure, I had more dignity than to suck a lungful of icy water filled with goose poop in front of a dude sleeping on a bench and a group of fit jogger moms whose strollers cost more than my last car.

At this point, it’s safe to say that there is no way I’ll be ready to run a 5k in five weeks, given my general crapitude and what seems to maybe be some undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma. I don’t even know if there’s a point to showing up if I’m just going to make an ass of myself and get shuffled off the course because I can’t make their pace, and accomplish nothing other than make my wet rattling breaths sound like I’m a member of the undead for days afterward.

Maybe running is one of those things I’m just always going to be naturally terrible at. I guess I’m never going to be one of those easy-breezy people trotting down a trail, sweat free and fabulous. What I can do is glare at them from my hate cave, sweating away on my elliptical. The good news is, should we ever find ourselves in a Jurassic Park dinosaur escape type situation, I’ll  go a long way toward filling up those rampaging dino bellies so you can escape. Think of my noble and lazy sacrifice.

What’s the point of having a Hyundai if you can’t show it off a little?

“You know, I used to think a car was just a way of getting from point A to point B, and on weekends, point C, but that was the old me. That man died the moment I laid eyes on the 1979 Honda Accord.”

hyundai

This is something that’s been in the works for a while. The Ford Taurus Assault Wagon had long ago gone to that big rubik’s cube of crushed cars in the sky, and while we’d been making do with one car, it was far from ideal, especially since the other car is approaching legal drinking age and has decided that a number of its functions are now optional, like air conditioning and the radio. Not really ideal on summer road trips, especially through desert areas, or really even on cross-town trips now that Seattle is getting the population of a major city without the supporting infrastructure. Sure, we get to advance the fields of scientific study involving human sweat, but sometimes the cost of science is just too high.

We’d done some test driving and tire kicking, and I had my heart fairly well set on the Hyundai Veloster since I first test drove it way back in August 2012. It’s a hatchback that doesn’t look too “sandals with socks” hatchback-y, it gets killer gas mileage, and it still has a functional backseat (unlike the also-ran Honda CR-Z). The only problem? I’m so damn cheap. The thought of buying a brand new car and having it lose significant value the second I drove it off the lot galled me deeply. But I also felt like one of the best selling points for Hyundais was their extended warranty, so buying a depreciated used one didn’t seem like a great value, either. Thus began my search for a “sorta used” Veloster. I believe I typed the word “Veloster” into Craigslist every week between August 2013 and June 2015, and most often, I turned up cars that were a year or two old with extraordinarily high mileage (we’re talking 80-100k miles) and not much cheaper than a brand new model would have been. I didn’t want to pay nearly full price for a car someone else had beaten to shit over a twelve month period and was now out of warranty, so I kept searching. I found a couple others that had low mileage and a relatively low price but had a salvage title–hell no.  Eventually, I found my white whale–a Veloster that was less than two years old (which qualified it for a better financing rate), with only 5,000 miles and was selling for significantly under blue book value. I was so suspicious of the seller, figuring that it had to be a scam. I ran carfax: clean. I called the title department: clean. I checked the guy’s driver’s license against the title: match. It was the situation that everyone hopes for when buying a used car–it was senior owned, and they rarely drove it because they spent most of the year out of state. SCORE.

 veloster front

veloster

There are still a few things the car needs to be perfect (for me), like a phone mount so I can better use it as a GPS–right now, the cubby under the control panel is too big, and the cupholder places it too far back for glancing at the screen without taking my eyes off the road which is a huge no-no. I think I’ll also end up getting a couple of blind spot mirrors for extra visibility and safety’s sake because the blind spots in this car are sizable. But I’ve already made my first non-essential mod, a screensaver with the new name of the car, the Velosteraptor:

velosteraptor

If only I could figure out how to get it to make a raptor sound instead of the startup music, then I’d really be in business! It didn’t really feel like it was mine until I outfitted it with the best keychain ever, though:

keys

It’s been a total dream to drive, the interior is really roomy and the seats are comfortable even on long stretches. I’ve already put on a couple thousand miles on it, and I hope it serves me well for many, many, many more thousands.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Golden Joan of Arc in Portland, OR

 golden joan of arc

portland joan of arc

Shining and golden, Portland’s Joan of Arc looks ready to lead a charge into the traffic circle, which may be a little confusing to the cavalry (“Do we exit here? Keep going? Do we yield to those cars or do they yield to us?”) . Donated by Dr. Henry Waldo Coe in 1924, this Joan was cast from the same mold as the famous Parisian Joan and gilded with actual gold leaf, which makes it really expensive to repair her when pranksters do things like epoxy unicorn horns onto her charger. Man, city officials are going to be pissed when someone gauges Joan’s ears.

Spotted in Coe Circle in Portland, OR

Bits & bobs from the week

11081389_10152842194198940_6746867744265110191_nI’m  always poised, waiting for the shutter release so I can close my eyes and take the least-flattering photo possible. That’s where I’m a Viking.

 

* Jason’s family was in town last weekend, so we did a ton more eating out than normal. First, we went to the Portage Bay Cafe for breakfast last weekend, where the slogan is “eat like you give a damn”. They’re all about organic, sustainable, ethically sourced foods, which is how they can get away with charging twelve bucks for oatmeal. I ordered a goat cheese omelet, imagining pillowy eggs slathered in creamy, tangy cheese. What I got was eggs with about an eighth of a teaspoon of goat cheese on top. I think I would have had to break it apart at the molecular level to get it to spread across the entirety of my eggs. Now I have to assume that was the ethical portion of cheese to include, and every other restaurant that uses more than a whisper is using cheese from a goat who has been waterboarded into giving up her cheesy bounty. If you haven’t already imagined the sounds a waterboarded goat would make, give it a try. It’s been cracking me up all week. BAAAAAWHARRGARBLE. BAAAABLLLLLL. BAAAABGBLLLLLL.

* We also hit up my favorite breakfast place that weekend, Mon Amie bakery. As it turns out, the owner goes to the same church as my brother and sister in law (formerly often referred to as a ‘cult’ in the news, so hey, that’s something). I’m used to being recognized by the employees there, but I was surprised that the owner recognized me as well, because I think she’s maybe helped me once. And when she said she recognized me, it didn’t come out in what sounded like a positive fashion, so now I’m wondering what I did or said. I always tip well, I’ve never gone in crabby, so I’m at a loss. And then when one of the baristas came to the table to clarify my drink order, I heard the other one call out “I told you so, that’s what she’s always gotten for like the last year.” Uh, maybe I need to change things up a little bit. For the record, it’s an iced blackberry white chocolate mocha and it is the fucking bomb and I only get it like once a month.

* I got my brand new camera from Olympus this week, which wraps up that saga. It both turns on AND focuses so it’s already leagues ahead of the previous two cameras. There’s a small issue of the battery catching inside when I try to remove it, but I think I’m just going to let it go for a couple of reasons: one, I am so tired of dealing with their CS (and I’m sure they’re tired of dealing with me), and two: there’s no way I could get the camera to the repair center and back before my upcoming trips. Let’s just call it good enough. For now.

* A friend recently announced her upcoming birthday theme: Jem and the Holograms. I somehow missed this one as a kid, so I’ve been watching through the series on Netflix and have subsequently been way overanalyzing a show for seven year olds. I have spent a truly outrageous amount of time thinking about the show’s message and underlying themes and rolling my eyes at myself. I’ve also been watching a lot of Walking Dead, and last night, the theme songs blended in my mind in a truly, truly, truly horrifying way.

 

Snow Day

This winter has been super mild in the PNW.  The only snow we got was one light dusting and even that was gone after a day–heck, it had started melting by the time I bundled up and went outside. (Sorry to rub it in, east coasters!) Spring is on the horizon. The breezes are blowing warmer, the days growing ever so slightly longer, and the frogs living across the street sing me to sleep every night with their lusty croaks. My mind is occupied with thoughts of things that grow. Still, I couldn’t resist one more look back at winter and thumbing my nose at the season.

How would you like it, if ten years from now, people were laughing at things you did?

Ten years ago today, I packed up my car with everything that would fit and moved into an apartment in Redmond, Washington sight unseen to live with with a friend I’d made at a community college in San Diego. The Northwest had been calling to me for a while: I’d been offered a sizable scholarship from the University of Puget Sound, a friend had suggested that the PNW might be a good fit for me, and another friend had already moved up and given me a standing job offer. Moving here seemed inevitable. What blows my mind is that if I had taken the scholarship from UPS, I would have never met a single one of the people I just mentioned. Possibly none of my friends. Probably not my husband. Change one thing and the entirety of the last ten years (actually, twelve, if I went to UPS immediately after returning from Taiwan) would have been different, even if the place was the same. I never would have gone to Drexel. I never would have quit Drexel. I never would have gone to Palomar. I never would have met my roommate and gotten my first job in the game industry. That same roommate took me to a party for Digipen students, where I made the friends through whom I eventually met Jason.

When I got here, things were touch and go at first. The friend who had offered me the job was transitioning out as I was transitioning in, and it looked like there wouldn’t be a job for me after all for a while. I was dating an abusive liar. I spent my last dollar and insisted that I be hired based on the promise that was made. And somehow things worked out for me: I got the job, I was able to cast off the asshole, I eventually got on my feet with the help of some friends.

Now I’m married. A homeowner. I have made some of the best friends of my life here: a chosen family. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful, and it is a good fit. Sometimes it’s gloomy, sometimes it’s snarky, sometimes it’s passive-aggressive…and so am I. It’s been good for me.  I was not the most open-minded, whole, adult person when I moved here, and through people’s patience and kindness, I’ve learned better, to be better. Obviously I could still learn a lesson or two about being less self-centered but that’s neither here nor there. I may not live here forever. There’s so much to see, and I want to see everything. But I wouldn’t give up the last ten years for anything.