Saturday, March 24, 2007

Directionally Challenged

I have mild dyslexia and it manifests itself in a very specific way: I have trouble with left and right. If I had a dime for every time someone has said to me, “No, your OTHER left” (or right), I would have a whole lot of dimes. Seriously, I have to really think about it and half the time I get it wrong anyway. I’m one of those people who have to turn a map around until it matches the direction that I’m going or I just can’t follow it. I’m better without a map but even then, if my directions say TURN LEFT I have to really think about which way that is and get in the appropriate lane. I almost failed my California driving test because I was going to turn right when the guy asked me to turn left. D’oh.

You’d think after spending half my life marching and teaching marching (in bands and drum corps), where you always step off with the left foot, I would have figured it out, but noooooooooo.

Speaking of directions, if you ask D how to get somewhere he will invariably give you what I call Boy Directions. For example: go north on Baker Street for 3 blocks then turn southwest onto Thunder Road, follow for half a mile. As opposed to the directions that I would give (Girl Directions): turn left on Baker Street, when you see the big yellow house turn right on Thunder Road, the driveway is on the right after the big oak tree.

What the hell does “go north” mean, anyway? Let me just whip out my handy-dandy compass or GPS and I’ll be right there.

Anyway, my point here is that my problem with left and right has seeped into my riding. My trainer will say, shorten up your right rein a little bit, and I’ll go to shorten up my left, you get the picture. More specifically, this affects my posting to the trot. When you post to the trot, you rise up out of the saddle for one beat, and then sit down in the saddle again for one beat, while gripping with your knees to stay on, so you aren’t being bounced around mercilessly.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m having trouble posting to the correct “diagonal”. As the horse's front outside leg (the closest to the fence) goes forward, you should be rising in the saddle. As that leg goes back you should be sitting in the saddle, and so forth. The horse moves its legs in diagonal pairs at the trot; that's why it's called "posting on the diagonal". This is one of those things that you just have to keep practicing until you get it right, I guess, and I’ve heard and read a lot of people have trouble with this. The weird thing is, when I think I am on the right diagonal based on looking down at the horse’s front leg, I’m always wrong. So today my trainer said, stop looking and just feel it, and I was actually right more of the time than not, but I think it’s a 50/50 chance and sometimes the dice rolls more in my favor.

Does anyone has any tricks of the trade to help me with this?

I lunged Miss today and she started out fine but got spooked by something and started racing around in a tiny circle, then when I tried to slow her down she stopped facing me and reared up. Not.a.good.thing. Especially for a horse who is still recovering from some mystery infection and swelling in the legs. I made her walk to calm her down then threw in the towel. I washed her hind legs (which are still a little swollen) with beta-dine scrub just as a precaution. We’ll see how she is tomorrow.

On a happier note, Spring has arrived and the flowering cherry in front of the house has brought forth her lovely pink blossoms overnight. I took these pictures last Spring.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Follow Up

My thanks to everyone who voiced their concern for me and for Miss. She’s doing much better, has her appetite back but is still a little foot sore and two of her legs are still a little swollen. This little episode pushed back once again the start date for Willow getting on her back, but I guess there’s no hurry. I’m just becoming a little impatient to ride my own horse. I do everything else except ride her! Willow is letting me ride on my own now and I’ve been riding my new friend Tommy, the flea-bitten gray I talked about before. He’s such a sweetheart, one of those bomb-proof horses supposedly, although he is half quarter horse and half Arabian, so he can sometimes spook at the little things (like small pigs).

Following up on some other questions that have come up in the comments lately:

DinoD and Thalia asked about my letting go of the infertile label. Honestly it doesn’t make me feel any better about our childlessness, but it does somehow make me feel better about myself. You would think it would be the other way around, if I kept the infertile label, that would have meant that it was “out of my hands”, whereas if I just waited too long, that was my decision. Go figure -- another paradox. As they say, living well is the best revenge, and I’m really trying to do that.

DinoD also asked about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. First, let me say that the author did a wonderful job in getting the voice just right. The book is written in retrospect when the narrator is an 80 year-old woman, recounting her life in rural China in the 19th century. This was during the time of foot-binding and arranged marriages, and reading of the women’s inferior status even after marriage was difficult for me. A successful foot-binding resulted in a foot no more than 7 centimeters long, about the size of an average man’s thumb. A foot of 14 centimeters was considered big. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been to have all your toes broken underneath your foot and then be forced to walk on it for hours on end. Once married the women were expected to produce sons, and if they just had daughters, or even worse, no children at all, their lives were even more difficult. The one extravagance they indulged in was a secret language called nu shu, a way for the women to communicate without their husband’s knowledge. I’d recommend this book for its historical voice and insights into friendship and hardship.

I’m currently reading House of Sand and Fog but I’m not really enjoying it that much. The fact that it takes place in the Bay Area is a bit of a plus but I’m finding it pretty slow moving. D and I got gift cards from a national bookseller for Christmas and I already spent them both on 9 new books! Now I have to decide which one to read next.

Finally, Ramona indicated she could get behind only having 4 periods a year. For those of you who are interested in the prescription I'll be taking, you can get more information directly from the manufacturer here, or read more on this here blog.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Good News & Bad News

Today was turning out to be a banner day.

I had my annual physical on Wednesday. My new friend Perry Men-O-Pause is kicking my ass, so I asked my doctor if I could go on continuous birth control to cut down on the symptoms. If I have to be on the pill (to keep my endometriosis in check), I might as well take advantage of the technology that exists and only have 4 periods per year instead of 12. Contrary to popular belief, it is not medically necessary to have a period every month. Not only did my doctor agree, she faxed in the Rx right away and my insurance is going to cover it at the same co-pay as my other BCPs.

Her office called today to say all my labs came back normal, including thyroid, Pap and cholesterol, which was a little high last year.

This afternoon we got our tax package back from our accountant and we owe a little bit for Federal and are getting a little refund from State. We were worried that we had not paid nearly enough in estimated taxes so this was a huge relief.

To celebrate all this good news I decided to go down to the farm. I just got home. I cried all the way.

Something is wrong with Missy. My trainer and the vet think she has some sort of infection and it is manifesting itself as extreme soreness and swelling in all four legs. Poor thing, she was in so much pain she didn't eat until dinner, and she usually has a very good appetite. She wouldn't walk all day either. My trainer wrapped her legs and gave her antibiotics and pain medication and she finally ate a little bit of dinner. She ate the treats I brought her and ate a little bit of hay, but she definitely is still in pain. After I left her stall she laid down in the soft sawdust. That about broke my heart to leave her laying down like that. My trainer is going to check on her early tomorrow morning and call the vet to make sure we shouldn't be giving her some other kind of medication. This happened to her big sister Somerset last year, just came on all of a sudden and after 3 or 4 days of antibiotics she was OK. I am hopeful this will be the case with Miss as well.

I was hoping I could get through more than a couple of months of horse ownership without a health crisis. Damn, I wasn't expecting to get so upset, when Willow told me what was going on I took it all in and asked appropriate questions, but when I went up and saw her I just lost it. I longed her pretty hard yesterday and I immediately wondered if this was my fault. I'd appreciate any of you horsey types telling me your success story if you've had something like this happen with your horse.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Year in a (Blog) Life

Saturday was the one year anniversary for A Velvet Cage. I felt like I had limped along long enough at my old blog, which was primarily the story of our fertility efforts. I wanted a new (darker) look and feel, and a broader focus. Incidentally, I no longer consider myself to be infertile, I think I just missed my window.

I'll continue to meander about, writing about books and music and horses and dogs and whatever else strikes my fancy or gets my dander up. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Cost of Living

Despite the fact that I work in the financial business we have our taxes done by a professional. Not because it’s a particularly difficult return, far from it, I’m sure if we set our minds to it we could do it ourselves using a tax program. The fact is, I spend so much time dealing with other people’s money and taxes I don’t even want to think about doing my own return. Since the cost of tax preparation is a deduction from year to year, I figure we paid for his services once and now the fee just gets rolled forward. Or something like that.

D and I went through this year’s questionnaire last week and filled in the boxes for our earnings, attaching the 1099s and W2s. Where the hell did all that money go? Tens of thousands of dollars! We do all our banking online and if I glance at just a month’s worth of transactions its very easy to see where it all goes – groceries, gas and the on-going monthly bills eats most of it up.

I’ve been through some very lean times in my life, when I knew where every penny was and where it was going, my checkbook always balanced. Now I am lucky enough to know that, under normal circumstances, I don’t have to worry about how much money I spend, there will always be some left over. My sister and her husband don’t write anything in their check register for the same reason.

This is a huge life change. We aren’t very organized or frugal, we pay just enough attention to make sure we don’t pay bills late or go into overdraft. When did we get so nonchalant about money? When we no longer had to watch where every penny was and where it was going. I just got a substantial raise when I switched from hourly to salary, but I would bet you there won’t be a substantial increase in the money left over in the accounts from now on. We spend what we make.

Is this a bad thing? How many of you have a budget and stick to it? We put money into the savings account when we can, but inevitably it gets transferred back to checking when a big expense comes up. In the last two weeks D got new tires for his SUV and I had major service on my car that involved a new catalytic converter and a rental car for a week, but it will be paid for by the end of the month.

I’m in my early 40s and D’s in his late 40s, should we be more worried about retirement? We both have old and current 401ks and lots of life insurance. I spent the last 40 years worried about my past, I don’t want to spend the next 25 worried about my future.