Saturday, July 18, 2009


As much as I support the open philosophy of the blogosphere, it's become necessary for me to close my blog to the world at large and allow invited readers only. If you would like to join me on the other side, please send an email to

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Half Life

Recently I completed my 45th trip around the Sun. I have tried to postpone this inevitable event but, no matter how far I push out my lifespan, I must now regretfully acknowledge that I am...alas...middle-aged. On the outside, if you don't look too closely and I've followed my usual daily regimen of wrinkle cream, moisturizer with sunscreen, foundation, concealer and finishing powder, I could pass for 35 easy. On the inside, I feel very old.

I've made it through many crises in my life, and once again I find myself in the midst of one.

For my birthday I bought myself flowers for my desk and made myself an appointment with my therapist. As in psychologist. I need help. I feel like I am living half a life. I am a half-wife, half-daughter, half-sister and half-friend. I am a horse owner who can't ride. I feel like a burn victim; everything hurts me, emotionally. I can't enjoy anything because everything is connected to some horrible past event, some failure, some regret. I am tired of living this way and I know the only way to stop is to seek professional help. Again. Which also feels like a failure.

The only place I feel like I am at full speed is at work, but that is because I am running as fast as I can just to keep my head above water. I have only been there a month and I fear I am not much help to my co-workers as they are still training me to do my own job. In addition I have the added stress of managing a severely under-performing employee who has been skating for the past two years but because nobody has bothered to document his lack of skills or initiative, I now have to start from scratch to document why I want to replace him. This is the hardest job I've ever had but at least it is all new so I'm not wincing as those burned areas are touched.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Scratching the Surface

My sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to give me advice. I completely agree that riding is not the only pleasure I can get from my horse, I know this all too well considering I haven't been able to ride in over three months now. I found that not being able to groom her and simply be close to her was more difficult than not being able to ride.

For my readers who haven't been around since the beginning, some background would help to clarify things. Missy is boarded at a wonderful barn about 40 minutes south of my home, so I don't take care of her like I would if she was here. The staff at the barn feed her, clean her stall, put her in turnout and back into her stall, blanket her, and when she is ill or injured, administer care and medicine. When I can't make it down there to work with her, my trainer will get her out and put her on the longe line and occasionally rides her. She was born at this facility and has two full sisters and a niece there; in fact she probably hasn't been off the property more than a dozen times in her 10 year life.

I took my first lesson the first week of June 2006, and took ownership of Missy in January 2007. You can read the post where I explain the story of how I came to own a horse six months after I started riding here. I had been on a horse maybe a half dozen times in my life before starting lessons three years ago, so I know at this point I've barely scratched the surface.

So you see, unlike many of you, I don't have decades of experience and dozens of horses in my past. A few lesson horses and Missy is all I know and I barely know enough to be able to canter on her. I rely completely on the expertise of my trainer and my vet to tell me when it's OK to ride her, so it's very easy to have my expectations dashed and therefore, to be disappointed.

Most of the horses at the barn are retired, and the few lesson horses are always being ridden by paying customers, so there is rarely another horse that I can ride when Miss is out of commission.

I longed her briefly today at the walk and trot and she is still slightly off behind on both sides, so it will probably be another week before I can think about getting back on her. Leaving work early to get to physical therapy at least gives me the chance to get down to see her twice a week during the week, and of course I'm there on the weekends. It's a long journey, I know, but I started so late I get impatient.

I apologize for the quality of these pictures, I took them with my phone. I mentioned before that my new office is right next to an 800-acre pasture boarding facility. It's a joy to drive past hundreds of free-range horses grazing in beautiful meadows every morning and evening, geldings on one side of the street and mares on the other. Almost makes me want to go to work. Almost.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

And I Begin Again

Last Monday I started a new job at a large software company in a management role. To say it was an exhausting and overwhelming five days doesn't even begin to cover it. The week was capped off by a frantic weekend email thread to hash out a crisis I will have to deal with first thing tomorrow morning.

I did set up a schedule for myself and was able to stick with it all week:
Decide on outfit, iron, etc. the night before
Get up when alarm goes off -- no snooze
Arm exercises
Hair & makeup
Out the door within 1 hour (ish)
Stop to get coffee
Arrive at work before my manager

I've had these four pictures enlarged and framed for my desk. I'm sitting in a temporary space until next Wednesday when I move into my permanent space. I am looking forward to decorating my new home.

I also started with a new physical therapist this week. She works very differently than the first one, but I think she's doing exactly what I need right now. My main problem at this point is my subscapularis muscle, which originates from the underside of the shoulder blade and inserts at the front of the upper arm (humerus - the bone I broke). It is a very powerful muscle that rotates the arm inwards and is part of the rotator cuff group of muscles. My subscapularis muscle has checked out completely, so when I try to rotate my arm outward or inward, my entire shoulder blade moves. We also started working on strength this week. I bought a 3 pound barbell at the sporting goods store -- I can only do 10 or 12 reps of the exercises right now but it's a start.

Just when we thought Missy's leg and hoof problems were close to being over, she came up lame on her other hind (right). It's probably an abcess, which isn't really surprising considering the systemic infection that's been racing through her body for the past two months. So she is on stall rest for another week, maybe two, depends on what actually happens.

Sometimes I wonder if this was such a good idea after all. I love her to death, but her family has a terrible track record when it comes to lameness issues. In the two and a half years that I've been at this facility, both of her full sisters have been off for significant periods of time due to health issues. Her oldest sister Somerset is the property owner's mare, has the best care possible, yet can only be ridden every three or four months. Her middle sister Sera has both attitude and health issues, which is why they bred her two years ago. Since she had her filly she's only been ridden a half dozen times.

I look at this picture of me riding Miss and I can hardly believe that that is really me. Another weekend has gone by without me getting on any horse, let alone my own. Thinking about giving Miss back to the barn hurts my heart so much I just can't even imagine it. But I also don't want to continue on this path of disappointment, worry and downtime. I know this comes with horse ownership, it's just very hard. How do you other horse owners deal with this?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Round in Circles

My poor Missy's left hind leg is not a pretty sight. Still. On April 11th I posted that she came up lame while I was longeing her and she hasn't been right since. She did have an abcess that broke through, and she was lame from that for a while, then her heel became inflamed, possibly from being wrapped. It's hard to see in the second picture but finally most of the scabs have come off but the skin is still pink and raw. She isn't lame any more but is obviously suffering from whatever infection moved up into her leg. Last week the awful monstrosity you see here showed up on the back of her leg. At some point the flap of skin covering most of this sore will come off and it will be raw and open. It does dry up and she can work a little bit, but then as soon as you clean it and it gets wet it looks like this. The swelling goes down when she works but then it looks the same the next day, and the next. The vet put together a poultice containing steroids, penicillin and something else but it doesn't seem to be doing anything.

My trainer Willow was going to try to get in touch with the vet today to ask him if there is something we should or shouldn't be doing. We've left it unwrapped because that just seemed to bother her even more.

I am calling on the horse experts out there for some advice. I know nothing about horse ailments and I am at the mercy of my trainer, the property owner and the vet due to my own ignorance. Should I be working her or not? Should her leg be wrapped or not? Should we continue to put on the poultice or let it work its way out on its own? Is it normal for an abcess to turn into two other problems?

I feel like I am failing her. She seems to be losing weight even though she is getting extra feed. I wanted to put some tack on her this weekend and just have her walk around with it on but I don't want to aggravate her body or her mind. I've been spending a lot of time with her this week and I feel better about myself and our relationship. Just putting on my wonderfully worn-in paddock boots, grooming her, putting on her halter and boots and longeing her for a few minutes has meant a lot to me. I don't know when I will put on the helmet and the half-chaps and actually get in the might be this weekend but it won't be on Missy. And that breaks my heart more than a little.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Invisible Ocean

My favorite way to get to the farm is down a shady winding road that starts at my house at some 2,500 feet above sea level, snaking it's way down the backbone of the mountain ridge separating the ocean from the valley, heavily wooded on both sides. About two thirds of the way down the hill the university-owned land begins, alternating between forest and lovely open meadows with bike trails. I adore meadows, they are one of my favorite landscapes. After a series of hairpin turns further down the road, all of a sudden the road straightens out, the trees disappear and the vista you see pictured here appears. On a clear day you can almost see forever (or Japan), with the sky and the water clearly demarcated different shades of blue behind the emerald green fields speckled with purple lupus and orange California poppies. On a foggy or hazy day, the ocean completely disappears and it takes a real leap of faith to still believe that its really there.

On Thursday I accepted the offer put forward by the large software company that has been vetting me for the past month. In four separate visits to two different campuses I was interviewed 10 times by 7 different people, 3 times by my manager. This position has been open since last November when they let go the prior resident of my new desk, but having a consultant in the role has meant they could take their sweet time and interview many different candidates. In fact, they had hired another candidate recently who ended up getting very ill and would not be able to start for six months or longer, so they mutually agreed that she would decline. This re-opened the position and gave me the opportunity to let them know they should take another look at me. I worked very hard to get this job, it's the only job that I am aware of at my experience and salary level in my field of experience in the entire state, never mind my general geographical area. I should feel lucky indeed not only to land a job, especially one that maintains my prior salary plus gives me equity in the company (stock), and all the standard benefits you would expect. Add to that the cache of working for an-almost-household-name which is well-respected by employees and their peers and is not doing layoffs, and...well, what else could I really ask for. Did I mention an 800-acre pasture boarding horse facility is at the end of the block? I will post pictures of that in a separate post.

I should feel lucky, and I do. I am sure that if I did not get this job I would be completely apoplectic within a month. However, I am having a lot of difficulty getting excited about the opportunity. Ambivalent doesn't even cover it. The truth is I am overwhelmed. Not by the job itself, I've had this job a dozen times with a different wrapper, but by the sheer physical task of waking up early, choosing an outfit, doing hair and makeup, driving an hour on crowded freeways to get there then being in corporate world for 8+ hours. I realize that this is normal, what almost every working person in the world does, and in fact I did it myself for over 20 years. But, I haven't done it for more than 5 years and in that time I enjoyed increasing autonomy and flexibility, working from home about half the time. I feel like I am giving up a lot and I'm resentful that it wasn't on my timetable.

Also, I have never owned a horse and worked full-time before. I went to see my orthopedist last Friday and he sentenced me to six more weeks of physical therapy. He said by the end of that time I will have lost the ability to gain any more range of motion, whatever I've got by the time the scar tissue sets is all I'm going to get. I know six weeks is a long time, but I believe I need to prepare myself for the possibility that I will not get back to 100% use of my left arm. I will ride again, I have no doubt about that, but I need to be realistic.

I had hoped to negotiate being able to leave early a couple of days a week so I could get to the farm in time to ride, but now that I will have to arrive late twice a week because of physical therapy, that's not going to be possible. This is a critical time in our relationship, with both of us getting over injury and downtime, and I don't think I need to tell anyone that a thoroughbred mare in her prime is not a weekender kind of horse.

Right now the ocean has disappeared. I have to believe it's still there behind all the cloud cover and I will need some help to make that leap of faith. I do believe that it's time for some (more) professional help, in fact. I looked up my old therapist the other day and bookmarked his contact information.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beach Flora & Fauna

The interview process continues at my only job lead...I don't want to jinx anything so I will leave it at that and update when it's over, one way or another.

Physical therapy continues to be painful but extremely beneficial, and I am committed to increasing my range of motion every day. This means pushing myself past the pain to move my arm just a little bit further each time. At times I am still discouraged and frustrated and depressed, but now I can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Mother's Day is always a very tough day for me. I'm not a mother -- and wanted to be one -- and I am estranged from my own mother. I sent her a card but I did not want to speak to her, she just called me last month and I really have nothing to say to her. A woman who has acted as my surrogate Mom for many years is also missing from my life right now, but I am hopeful that this situation can change.

In the meantime, enjoy the beauty of our dogs' favorite walk along the beach; this is about 15 minutes from home.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


My last set of x-rays looked good so my orthopedist turned me over to a, I mean, a physical therapist. I've had two sessions with her and I've been doing the exercises she gave me to do every couple of hours, as I'm able. I am getting a lot more mobility, but I am paying a price for that. I am back to being in pretty much constant pain and watching the clock for the next time I can take pain medicine. I know this will all be over in a few weeks but right now, it's tough.

Unfortunately my Miss isn't faring much better. The medicine they put on her fetlock under the wrap caused a skin irritation and now her heel is all scabby and dry and cracked and smells nasty. The vet said just to use a different topical ointment (I don't know what any of these ointments are called), but we are getting concerned that it is taking so long to heal. I think she just doesn't want to work unless I am able to work with her.

I had a job interview this week. On the surface it seems like the ideal job for me, lateral salary plus a yearly bonus plus stock (it's a public company), a manager role and a company that doesn't look like it's going to shut its doors next quarter. Yet, somehow I am not excited. I didn't get a lot of feedback from the interviewer, who would be my manager, but I think that had more to do with the fact that she didn't know how to interview than her opinion of my experience. I was rather surprised when she said she would set up a second interview for next week at the end of our discussion, so I'm focusing on that and trying to let my read on her not being impressed go. I'm feeling a lot of pressure to get a good paying job and quickly, as we cannot survive on two unemployment checks, and I think that's playing a large part in my ambivalence, I feel like this is my responsibility.

Thankfully there is more than one kind of therapy. May I introduce to you, the marvelous Marvin, born FINALLY after an entire year in the oven last Wednesday morning. These picures were taken when he was less than 2 days old, so I think it's a good thing he didn't wait one more day, he's so tall!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Barn Signs

I have little news but a lot of words swirling around inside my head, but getting them out one letter at a time using my right index finger is just too daunting.

So I will just share a couple of barn signs and hope they bring a smile to your day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Two Down

This handsome little guy lives on the farm next door to where Missy lives. I'm sure he has a name already but I call him Black Bart -- he looks like he's got a bit of scoundrel in him.

Today we went down to the farm with the plan to at least put Miss in the round pen and let her get some exercise. When we arrived my trainer was just about to lunge her so D groomed her and put on her front and bell boots. Willow noticed her left hind leg looked a bit swollen, and as soon as she started to trot a limp became very pronounced. She was done for the day and for the next several days at least. We ran cold water over it for a while, and when I checked there was a strong pulse at the fetlock so she's probably getting an abcess.

She was having so much trouble getting up the hill back to her stall that I started to cry...I just can't stand to see her in pain. *sigh* I suppose if there was ever a good time for her to be lame it's now, when I can't ride, but she's already been off for almost 3 weeks due to my injury and her teeth, and needed to get back to being ridden.

Once again, I am powerless to change these circumstances, and that's not helping my already fragile psyche. Things have got to get better from here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Just to keep things interesting I'll continue to post pictures during my recovery. This gorgeous creature is Maximo (Max), a thoroughbred showhorse of some undisclosed discipline who recently retired at my barn. He's enormous, probably 17.4 hh, but a real sweetheart who always comes over to greet anyone who ventures near his stall. I regret I'll probably never see anyone ride him, he looks like he'd be a great mover.

Last week I was finally feeling pretty good physically, as long as I kept the sling tight the pain was under control. I even drove myself to a much-needed hair appointment then had lunch with a girlfriend on Wednesday. Friday at my 3 week follow-up appointment with my orthopedist they took new x-rays and he said he could see some bone healing and the humeral head was still aligned correctly with the connecting bone, so he told me to loosen the sling, stop wearing the waist belt and spend 15 minutes a few times a day out of the sling. During that time I'm supposed to start trying to straighten the arm and eventually drop it down and swing it freely. He took the sling off briefly during the exam and had me straighten my arm as far as I could, then pushed on it further until I asked him to stop because it was too painful. He assured me the pain was from all the muscles that hadn't been used in a month and that I couldn't do any damage to the bone.

Later that night I took the sling off and started working on my arm, determined to begin the physical therapy process in earnest. Things were going well until I tried to move my freely swinging arm and was overwhelmed by pain. It was then I realized I'd had my arm out of the sling for almost an hour! I didn't think much of it and went to bed later using my custom setup of various pillows to create the right angle.

I was awoken at about 4:30 am by a pain in my ribcage so intense I didn't know if I needed to throw up or pass out, all I could do was writhe in agony, crying hurt too much as every time I breathed in I was stabbed under my left breast.

Loosening the sling, overdoing it with the movement and having my heavy arm crushed against my ribs for three weeks had apparently caused some imflammation, or perhaps I had pulled a muscle, I don't know. I have so much respect for anyone who has been through a rib injury, I don't think actually breaking my shoulder hurt that much.

My husband and Darv0cet somehow pulled me down off the ceiling but I have been suffering for the past 4 days. It was so discouraging to go from feeling almost normal with a sling to not being able to move without pain again. I still can't breathe in sharply or deeply and I am terrified of sneezing, but I would guess I'm about 75% back to normal as far as the ribs go. However, now that I am moving the arm a bit (in careful, slow, no-more-than-15-minute-timed-intervals), other muscles are starting to complain, mostly along my shoulder blade, and there are hard little knots between my neck and collarbone. I am trying to tell myself that means I am healing but part of me is saying, "Screw that, I just want to not be in pain anymore." Having to go back on the Darv0cet after nearly weaning myself off of it feels like a failure.

As an aside, my mother suffered one ailment/condition/affliction after another (real and imagined) throughout my entire childhood, this is a huge part of why I am so hard on myself when I am ill or injured, I see it as false, a way to get attention and to play the martyr. One thing I never understood was her practice of using similes and metaphors to describe her pain --for example, a headache would feel like someone shoving an ice pick into her forehead -- as if anyone, let alone a child, could possibly have any reference point to what she was saying.

Meanwhile, Friday is my last day of official employment. My benefits run through the end of April, my disability claim has been approved through May 10 and I will be getting some severance, but I am still very worried. Money is so tight at companies, competition is so fierce and the fact that I've spent the last 3 years as a consultant has already cost me an interview. I'm trying really hard to keep the negative voices under control but sometimes they get the best of me and I become overwhelmed with self-pity, worry and anger. Normal, right?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's My Party

Here's another of those wonderful old posters, I can almost imagine that's me in the jaunty hat and gloves.

My current/former employer continues to play games, apparently thinking that the contradictory statements they keep throwing out about me to various people inside and outside the company (and I use the term "contradictory statements" well-advisedly) won't get back to me. Just because I don't have access to my company email anymore doesn't mean I'm totally out of the loop.

I feel like I've gotten through the worst of this, I can stand to have the sling taken off, my shirt changed and the sling put back on without feeling like I am going to pass out. However, I am extremely emotional and end up in tears at least once a day. There seems to be two sides to everything these days. I can now sleep for 6 hours without waking up, but when I do, I wake up in considerable pain. For the next few days I'm going to set an alarm for 3 hours from lights out to try to avoid this...pain is no way to start the day.

I am not a patient person, which makes me a terrible patient. I wonder how those two very different meanings can fit inside the same word.

Here's a partial list of things I cannot do -- right now:
  • lie down
  • cut meat
  • open a pill bottle
  • groom, tack or ride my horse
  • blow dry my hair
  • walk for any distance
  • fold laundry

And, because I'm really trying here, a partial list of things I can do -- right now:

  • drive my car (with extra care and caution)
  • wash my face and brush my teeth
  • work the computer mouse and type with one finger
  • put in my contacts (this takes patience but is possible)
  • make coffee and tea
  • grow beautiful long fingernails
  • sing along with my favorite tunes, off-key and unapolegetic

Miss gets her teeth floated on Thursday, she's overdue for her yearly appointment. It's been apparent for a while that her mouth has been bothering her, even in a hackamore she's been fighting me and throwing her head around for a month or so. No doubt this contributed to her pissy mood 2 weeks ago when she walked away from the mounting block. (Very painful) lesson learned: sometimes saving money by postponing necessary vet work turns out to be a very bad idea.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rainbow Warrior

The bruising continues to move and change, but not diminish. Now there is a lot more color on the outside of my arm, starting just below the actual break point. When this happened, even after I found out I had broken a bone, I really had no idea how badly I was injured. I'm sure that most of the pain is being caused by damage to every muscle, tendon, joint and ligament in the area. I'm still not convinced that the two pops I heard weren't my shoulder dislocating and relocating (is that the right terminology?).

I'd love to be able to enjoy some of those quieter pursuits that Val mentioned, but even reading is difficult as I can't use my left arm to hold a book, or to do anything else for that matter. Walking or even riding in a car for anything other than short distances is too jarring, and using the computer is an excruciatingly slow process. I hope you all appreciate my efforts, blogging about this helps me to not feel so isolated.

All I know is that pain is a harsh mistress and I'm not handling this very well.

This helps...but I won't be able to find it much longer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Purple Haze

I've spent the last week in a haze of pain and pain meds, living in 3-hour increments on a 24-hour schedule. My left arm is in a sling and strapped tightly to my body, I feel like a half a swaddled infant. Doing even the most insignificant, mundane things takes time, perserverance and assistance. I am grateful that I broke my left shoulder -- had it been my right I would be a complete invalid. I can work a mouse and type with my right index finger, so working on the computer is possible, albeit at a much slower pace than I'm used to. My orthopedist said it was a bad break and a good one: bad in that there are multiple cracks running all the way through the base of the humeral head bone, but good in that the ball is still perfectly aligned with the rest of the bone, so surgery will not be required. My arm will be immobilized for another two weeks minimum, at which time new x-rays will be taken and a recovery plan will be put in place.

Given the fact that I was in the middle of a transition plan after being laid off when I was injured and it became clear that I could no longer work, in order to preserve as much accrued vacation time as possible I have decided to apply for state disability. Dealing with both of these issues simultaneously has been incredibly stressful, and seeing the true colors of people I liked and trusted in my professional life has been demoralizing, frustrating and terribly disappointing. Never again will I consider a boss a friend, a lesson you would have thought a professional woman in her mid-40's would have learned long ago.

Emotionally I feel quite broken as well, splintered and cracked. I realize that when you add narcotics, pain, sleep deprivation, financial stress, and loss of mobility and independence together you get a potent toxic brew, and I've been trying to rest and relax as much as I can.

I'm scared of Tucker, our extremely exuberant Golden; he's completely oblivious to the sling and the change in my actions and demeanor. It would be very easy to get bumped by him or lose my balance as he raced past me. Bailey, on the other hand, has become my protector and almost constant companion, my therapy dog has put his work vest back on. D has been incredibly patient and caring, taking care of my every need. I honestly don't know how I would have gotten through the last week without him. Thank goodness his temporary job doesn't start for another week, perhaps the one lucky break in all this mess.

We stopped by the barn to see Miss on the way home from the orthopedist. I breathed in the sweet earthy smell of the place and felt my shoulders relax...but as I approached her stall I instinctively covered my left arm with my right and realized with great sadness that I was afraid of her too. She isn't one of those horses that will stand quietly while you pet her, she is always pushing her nose into you, sniffing for treats and moving around. I fed her a few cookies and got in a few satisfying moments of contact with her warm silky coat, but then I had to step away. Her big sister Somerset is one of those gentle pettable horses and I was able to stand next to her for a few minutes stroking her soft nose and under her forelock, even resting my forehead against her neck.

I have two solid job leads and I'm hopeful I will have phone interviews this week. I'm concerned that the visual first impression of the sling and the reality that I wouldn't be able to start work for another 4 to 5 weeks will cost me an opportunity. In any other job market I would feel confident that an employer that wanted the best candidate would be willing to wait but these are not normal times. That's yet another way that I feel helpless, but all I can do is my best and that includes working at keeping as positive an attitude as I can. My friends and family are rallying around me -- my mother even called outside of the obligatory birthday and Christmas telephone conversation schedule after my sister told her what happened -- and I know this will be over with before I know it. A blink of an eye in the grand scheme of time. A mandatory rest stop on my own amazing race. In the meantime, drop me a note if you can, and I don't care if that's a shameless call for comments.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Adding Injury to Insult

This will be short out of necessity...I fell while attempting to get on Miss as she walked away from the mounting block on Saturday. Since my left foot was in the stirrup and my hands holding the reins, when I lost my balance I fell without being able to break my fall and landed with all my weight on my left shoulder. I broke the humeral head, the round bone that connects the shoulder to the arm bone. It's not a bad break so it probably won't need surgery, but they can't cast it so I am just in a sling for 6 weeks or so. It only hurts when I move, but when it hurts it's the kind of pain that makes me feel nauseous.

Timing could not have been worse. Not only can I not drive, right now I can't even be driven anywhere, that's too much jostling. That will make job interviews difficult.

I did get the really good pain meds from the ER doc, and the entire ER adventure only took 2 hours, including x-rays.

Could we make this the last shitty thing to happen for a while, please?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Paying It Forward

This week has been very hard. I trained three other consultants on the two software platforms that my former clients' are on, which apparently made them subject matter experts. I've heard that many of my colleagues were confused and concerned about my leaving, and when management was asked why I was on the lay off list, they were told that I didn't have a lot of work, even though I had a lot of clients. This was either a bald-faced lie or a demonstration on just how ignorant management was on my body of work for the last three years. When my colleagues asked who they were supposed to call on with questions, they were told that my junior associate "knew everything" and she could help them with any issue. She has one third of the experience and education that I have and her most recent experience with my specialty was 5 years ago.

I know that dwelling on my anger and disappointment doesn't do me any good but unfortunately until I can totally walk away from this mess I know I will not be able to let it go. There is nothing worse than losing your job then being asked to stay for several weeks to help with the "transition" of your work to others. I could have said no to that offer but I could not afford (financially) to give up several more weeks of pay and an extra month of health insurance.

I have been nothing but professional, responsive and helpful to my former employer and, to the best of my abilities, I will continue to be, as hard as that is. I plan to walk out of there with my reputation and my dignity intact.

On a much more positive note, I had the opportunity to pay it forward at the barn as well. I recently met a wonderful young woman, a university student who recently brought her horse to board where Missy lives. In fact, her Mitten lives three doors down so we share a common tack room. We don't like to admit it, but horse people can be solitary and fall easily into cliques, and I know all too well what it's like to be the new girl. I spent a delightful half hour showing her around the property, introducing her to the horses that I knew and sharing some of their history. She was so genuine, open, sweet and funny and we immediately clicked. On the way home it occured to me that I was old enough to be her mother, yet she's been riding many more years than I have, an interesting dynamic to say the least. Because I am in a vulnerable emotional state, upon further reflection my brain came up with: if I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be like Casey. And that made my heart hurt. But I am thankful to have a new friend.

I found these beautiful old prints online and will be sharing them with you over the next few posts. I'd love to get the whole series.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Night Mare

Print by Wilma Sanchez

It may be slightly hypoerbolic to say that this was the worst thing that could happen, but I hope you will forgive it. I got laid off this week. I've been laid off or have otherwise lost my job many times, but I have never been in the situation I find myself now: both my partner and I will soon be unemployed, unless one of us finds someone willing to pay us to do something in less than 40 days. I know, I have been unhappy at work and wished for something different, but I wanted to be able to handle that on my own terms and in my own time. I knew business was down and thought perhaps my hours would be reduced, but honestly I did not think they would let me go entirely. Coming on the heels of losing my biggest client, I can't help but think that must have played into their decision. I am really, really trying not to go to that place where I blame myself and think that everything I touch turns to shit, eventually. Back to being Typhoid Mary. No, I am not going to go there...

To add insult to injury, not only am I still having to babysit my replacement at the client I just left, I am now having to help my company come up with a transition plan for someone else to take over the work at all of my clients.

My body is in bad shape. Nearly every muscle in my body is tense and sore, I'm having spasms in my back, my neck is tight as a rope and my calves feel like they are on the verge of seizing up every time I stand up.

My chest and face are breaking out like it's the night before junior prom. My endo pain is flaring and I am spotting in the middle of a cycle. My stomach seems OK, surprisingly, but that's probably because I'm not eating much.

My sleep is disturbed by nightmares, sometimes the same dream over and over all night long. I've dreamt more than once of having to give up Miss. I will never allow that to happen. I would sooner lose my house than one of my animals, they are innocent and my complete responsibility.

I got the news on Monday. It took until yesterday to really sink in. I know there are literally millions of people in far worse shape than me, but somehow that is small comfort.

I rode Miss today and will again tomorrow. She's happy to have a job. I'm thankful at least one of us does.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Cathedral

[I wrote this segment on February 15 but left it unpublished until now. A huge work-related upheaval had played itself out earlier in the week, which I will explain further below.]

One of the blogs I follow is Adventures of a Horse-Crazed Mind, a prolific fellow British Columbian with a wonderful voice. The following passage was taken verbatim from a recent post of her's about learning to overcome a fear of horses.

"Why would I ride horses, if not for the love and reverence that their fleet limbs and heart inspires within my own? If not for the bond that fuses me to him- so that when he runs, pure of mind and ardor, our spirits run together? If not for those heavenly moments wherein there is no definition between where my body ends and his begins? For the awe of their beauty or for the solace I've found in the touch of a downy muzzle against tear streaked cheek? Horses are for me, absolutely worth any risk their infinite strength or lightening fast reflexes present. To feel that magic is one of the greatest joys in my life...a joy I lost for a little while but thankfully found again. My hope is that on my last day, and on many days in between, I will have been touched by that magic- by a horse."

Charles Darwin said "The rainforest is the cathedral of my religion", I'm paraphrasing but that's pretty close to the quote from his diaries. I'd like to be able to say something profound like -- Missy's stall or the arena is the cathedral of my religion, but alas, I cannot. I don't hear angels singing when I ride, I don't see my own soul in her beautiful brown eyes, and I haven't experienced that heavenly moment Horse-Crazed describes where I lose the sense of where my body ends and her's begins. Maybe 2 1/2 years just isn't enough time. Or maybe I should stop trying to find this mystical connection and let it be what it is.


I've been floundering of late, adrift in a sea of depression and feeling like I don't do anything in my life well. On the heels of my setback with Missy, this is largely due to the fact that for the first time in my 7 years as a consultant, a client has asked that I be taken off their account. I made a mistake, I take full responsibility for that, but despite my best efforts at damage control the management could not get past it and I will be replaced by another consultant from my company. I'm sure this happens all the time, but not to me. My manager has been supportive and thanked me for the 2 1/2 years of work that I put in at this client, even though apparently that made little difference in their decision.

Nobody is more surprised than me that I ended up in a profession where much of my time is spent working with numbers. I am a words person, always have been and always will be. My job has changed over the last 5 years, and especially over the last 3, becoming more and more of an accounting job. There are still parts of my job that I like, but more and more of it not only do I not like, but I also feel like I am over my head as far as the skills that are required. I could take a few years' worth of accounting classes to get to where I feel I need to be in order to be the expert that I am supposed to be, but I don't see that happening. I do not have an affinity for it and I am not that motivated. This makes me feel like I am spinning my wheels, dreading certain projects or certain clients, and to some extent, a fraud.

I know that this feeling comes directly from my history, I have to be perfect or everyone will see what a terrible person I am. I need to find a way to feel good about my work again, and I know the only way I am going to do that is to find a better situation. Unfortunately the job market is very tight right now, so in the meantime I am going to have to do a better job of taking care of myself and asking for help when I need it, which is very hard for me.

I was able to ride Miss yesterday; between her lost shoe and the weather that's not been possible lately. I was grateful to be able to walk and trot quietly around the arena, reconnecting with my body and my voice to the beautiful creature beneath me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Like A Circle In A Spiral

Last Sunday we took the dogs down to the beach for our usual walk along the coast. Sorry all of you stuck in the icy grip of winter, but it was absolutely gorgeous and about 72 degrees.

We could hear music as we came around the little building in the picture (which is a surfing museum), which isn't that unusual. When we turned the corner we see a bunch of people dancing while hula-hooping, if you enlarge the picture and look closely you will see a guy holding juggling pins as well. He says to us: FREE HULA HOOP JAM!! Come and join us. Or, you can borrow one of these bikes for a spin!!

I'm guessing that the lady on the far right is a brave tourist who decided to join the locals. About 50 yards away there was a bongo drum circle forming, also a normal occurance in our quirky and wonderful little beach community.

I'm grateful for all the wonderful advice and comments on my last post. My ride after the aforementioned runaway was quiet and uneventful. We have done a lot of work on using the inside circle to slow her down, it just didn't work well when she was galloping and there was nowhere for her to turn other than into a jump. Unfortunately, a few days later she lost a brand-new shoe and I haven't been able to even lunge her since then. Her farrier is in Guatemala tending to his dying mother and our backup farrier has been unavailable all week. Oh well, it rained on and off and I was completely swamped with work all week. I'm looking forward to getting back on her and cantering in a circle for the next few months.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

(Bridle) Pathways

Do you ever feel like you're not on the right path? Or wonder where the hell the path you're on is taking you? I feel like that all the time.

Last week, on the 21st, was the two year anniversary of the day I took ownership of Missy. I had a lesson, which have been rare these days, and we cantered in a big circle off the lunge line. I'm learning to be more gentle when I ask and to open my shoulder so it is easier for her to turn, I tend to tense up on the right side when we start going fast. I felt really good and stable in my seat and in control, even though she'd been grumpy the whole lesson.

Two days later we were riding on our own in the big (jumping) arena. I was determined to ride even though I was in a melancholy mood. I rode myself mostly of my funk and wanted to continue our new routine of having her canter for a few steps in each direction at the end of our ride. To the right, perfect: she picked up the right lead, didn't bend to the inside too much, and even slowed to the trot instead of to the walk. So now I'm feeling pretty confident.

And we all know what happens when you start feeling too big for your riding breeches, right? Your horse makes sure you know that they've got your number.

Instead of staying in a big circle at the end of the arena where there aren't any jumps, I decide I want to go all the way around the perimeter. I get onto the straightaway to the left and ask her to canter, she picks it up and for the first few steps everything is fine. Then we pass the first jump and she realizes I'm not going to make her stay in a circle. In an instant, she puts her ears back and kicks into another gear -- now we are full-on galloping. Immediately I start to try to pull her back but instead I end up turning her head to the left, which makes her veer to the inside. Now we are headed straight for an oxer jump with white gate stantions and I think, she's either going to balk or she's going to jump it, either way, I'm bracing to fall. At the last possible second she pulls up and lifts her front hooves over the right hand side stantion. I honestly have no idea how we didn't hit anything. She stops on a dime, snorting and pawing. I guess she had fun. I almost had a heart attack. The girl lunging in the round pen asked if I was OK, apparently she saw the whole thing. "She seems hyper today", she says, and I say something to the effect that she's always like that. "Oh, she always runs out from under you like that?", she says, and instantly I feel like a complete idiot. I mumble something about her being green at the canter and ask Miss to walk.

I get her untacked and curried and settled into her stall and finally sat down on the tack room step and started to cry. I could still taste the metallic flavor of the adreneline in my mouth. I felt like I'd taken a huge step backwards. Isn't that always the way?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

525,600 Minutes

How do you measure a year? By any measure, 2008 was not a particularly good time for anyone I know. Having said that, I was fortunate enough to not lose my house in a wildfire that came way too close for comfort, nor have there been any foreclosures in my circle of friends, so at least we all still have a roof over our heads. There have been many disappointments, frustrations and sadnesses, but despite everything I somehow end the year and start this new one with a sense of...dare I say it...hope. Not the trite "yes we can" kind, although I am a supporter of our new president, but rather the personal light-in-the-darkness kind. Following a meme that's going around, here's my synopsis.

List 5 Five Good Things That Happened Last Year:
1. I rode Missy exclusively for the entire year.
2. I became much closer with a girlfriend I've known for a long time, a relationship that's had its ups and downs.
3. I took more pictures...still not as many as I would have liked, but an improvement over the previous year.
4. I went home (to Canada) for the first time in 3 years.
5. I feel much more comfortable and competent with the most challenging parts of my job.

List 3 Bad Things that Happened to You this Year:
1. I lost my best friends.
2. My long-dormant endometriosis raised its ugly head and affected my riding and my state of mind.
3. I spent much of the year fighting depression.

List 5 things you want to do in 2009 - not resolutions just a big picture to do list:
1. Ride more consistently and get Missy out of the arena and more comfortable being in open areas.
2. Go to the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas in April.
3. Write more -- I'd like to start work on something, I'm hesitant to call it a novel but there's definitely a story in my head trying to get out, and also here on my blog as it helps me to process the events of my day-to-day life.
4. Take better care of myself, listen to the cues my body gives me.
5. Ask for help when I need it, try not to live in my head and to speak my mind.

List 3 Lessons you Learned in 2008 - don't have to be related to the bad or good things as long as it was learned in 2008.
1. Things (and people) aren't always what they seem. I keep having to re-learn this year after year.
2. I still have a lot of stuff to work through.
3. I'm a better person than I think I am, my horse told me so.

Most Favorite Read of the Year:
Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks. I'd never read anything by Faulks before and now I am hooked and can't wait to read the rest of his body of work. It was the kind of book that I had to bookmark pages of so I could go back and read passages over again just for the beauty of the language, and it takes a lot to impress me literarily. Bringing together the history of psychiatry with a compelling love story in a historical setting was my cup of tea.

Most Favorite Movie Watched of the Year:
Atonement. Hands down.

Most Favorite Horsey Moment of the Year:
Cantering on Missy after owning her for 2 years and riding her for a year and a half.

Santa ordered me a new helmet for Christmas and it comes with a free matching fleece jacket! I ride English but I wear jeans and brown suede half-chaps, so the black velvet helmet is a bit out of place, besides, this one is a lot more comfortable and has great airflow. I should get it next week. What did Santa bring you?