Is there anything more comfortable or delicious than to be home, tucked inside on an unexpectedly snowy, snowy day? Dogs piled on top, fire going, movie channels galore and books all around and no where you have to go or be? Bliss.
I feel like 2008 was a bit of a pivotal year for me. It was the year that I finally got off my fat ass and did something about my lack of fitness. This was huge for me, my weight and disintegrating fitness levels was something that had been hanging over my head for years. By last Winter I felt like it was an overwhelming task and didn’t know what to do or even how to start. But then sometime in February or March I saw Valerie Bertinelli’s interview on Oprah, and then read her memoir. It inspired me to get started.
First I joined Jenny Craig. Yes, I admit it, I have been going to Jenny Craig. I haven’t really been open about that until now because, I don’t know, I really didn’t feel like it was anyone’s business. If I didn’t tell you about it, I didn’t really feel you needed to know the intimate details of my personal eating plan. I suppose I’m a little sensitive on this subject, but why is it when you have a “problem” people suddenly seem to think it’s THEIR place to get all in your business? If you’re struggling with weight, people want to know the details of your meals and your activity and want to pontificate to you about what to do (do I ask about yours?). If you are having money problems, people believe that it’s perfectly acceptable to get all in your face about your budget. No, I’m sorry, if I haven’t asked for your help or your opinion, I don’t care to share my personal stuff! I don’t ask about your finances, I don’t ask about what you eat or whatever. Now there are a very few friends for whom I make an exception, and I think you know who you are. I’m a private person and I’m just sensitive about people getting all up in my business when I haven’t asked for help. Anyway, rant over.
So, as I mentioned, I joined Jenny Craig back in March. I immediately started losing weight. It amazed me, I thought it was going to be tough, being in my mid-40s, hypo-thyroid, other hormonal issues, always had a tough metabolism, even as a child. I was never one of these skinny kids, I always struggled. So it surprised me that it seemed to work pretty much right away. After I had lost about 15-20 lbs, I started exercising. I started by just taking walks out on the trails around the campus at work. Soon that frustrated me, I wanted to do more. So I started bringing in running clothes and doing a walk/run thing on the trails, slowly increasing the amount that I was running. Amazing that I never seemed to develop any of the over-use injuries (or pre-injuries) that have ALWAYS cropped up from running previously. I think it’s because I ran almost exclusively on trails, so soft surfaces, and constantly varying foot strikes on the uneven surfaces. Anyway, I continued to lose weight and became happier as I progressed. After about a month or so of this process, I started using a trainer at the company gym two times a week.
All this provided me a consistent and steady weight loss through to the month of August. I had surgery in July to remove my gall bladder and I even managed to lose weight during that ordeal and recovery. Around the middle to end of August I added spinning classes to my exercise program and this is when the weight loss started slowing down. Really coming to a full stop by the beginning of September. So frustrating! I was exercising more than ever and not losing an ounce. Still, by then I had lost about 50 lbs.
It was then that I decided to look for a place to start horseback riding. Riding had been a passion for me growing up and something I had thought would always be a part of my life. Of course the reality was that I ended up working and living in NYC, so it was something that just wasn’t very doable for me with that lifestyle. When I moved to New Hampshire, I knew that riding was something that I would be pursuing again, and now that I had lost some significant weight, it was time. It was also my reward to myself for working hard on the weight thing and getting to the place where this was possible.
So I started riding at one barn and soon decided to give a second one a try as well. The first barn became my “fun” barn. Going out on trail rides, riding in a hunter pace with them, it was a total blast. The second barn is more of a serious “eventing” barn, so this became my structured barn. The one where I was REALLY going to learn, get my riding legs back, re-develop all the subtle nuances that allow one to ride dressage and be able to negotiate a cross-country jump course competently. For a while I rode at both places. I love both really, and was very torn. Then I made the decision to half-lease Lulu at the second barn, finally adding a second training class to my week there as well. My decision was made.
Since then, I’ve been working hard on improving my riding. I think I am making progress, but am still sometimes extremely frustrated with myself. I think this barn is the place to get me to where I want to be though, so I feel satisfied that I am taking the right steps and putting in the work to get me there. Most of all, riding in general fills me with joy like nothing else in my life. It’s also the one thing that I do, where I don’t think of any other thing while I’m doing it. I don’t think about work or money or my big butt (well, unless I happen to catch a glance of myself in the mirror at the indoor ring). I just think about what I’m doing. What’s going right, what’s not going right, all the subtle nuances of what I’m doing with seat and legs and hands to accomplish what I want, while also reviewing the horse and how we’re going, are there any potential obstacles or spooking opportunities ahead. My mind is so full of the immediate task while riding that there really is no room for extraneous thoughts or worries to work their way in.
2008 has also been a pivotal year for me at work. At the end of last year I transitioned off of a long-term project where I had been doing heads-down development work. This year has seen me move into more of a higher-level consultant role, some project management, some strategy, a lot of customer-facing advisory work – really my job has become pretty multi-faceted. It still all seems so new and is continuing to be defined, so I feel that it’s just the beginning of a new professional era for me. At the beginning of the year I was worried about the directions I would be moving in, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Now at the end of the year, I feel like I have made some definite positive strides towards redefining my professional life and am starting to make the next natural step of progression.
Overall it’s been a pretty busy and eventful year for me. For the most part, all of the changes have been positive, so as hard as 2008 has been in general, I think it was a good one for me. I hope that I can continue this positive bent through 2009 and end next year as positively as I feel that I am ending this one.
I know, I know, I know, it’s been forever since I’ve written. I really have a terrible time with myself during the holidays. I seem to go into a real slump and almost actually kind of fall apart from my birthday through the end of the year. I think it’s getting a little worse every year too. So, in addition to depression and an uninspired attitude, I seem to lack motivation for things like writing blog posts and working out and other stuff that I should do, or need to be doing.
This year with the state of the economy, the company layoffs and changes in the air, a general “unsettledness” feeling of my world has all contributed to my funk. Add to that, little to non-existent immediate family in my life, loneliness (and really, I am generally NOT a lonely type person at all, it just only seems to rear its head from my birthday through the holidays), a little bit of work burn out and I’ve been a bit of a mess. I know it’s a transient feeling though, and since I had a bunch of vacation time left to use, I now have a nice break from work to enjoy, thus I know that this is a temporary feeling for the most part. I’ll get through it okay and will be more positive once January hits. In the meantime, this time off is helping to give me a bit of a breather.
Nothing much is new. Christmas came & went and it was pleasant enough. I spent Christmas Eve at one of my cousins who lives close to me. We had a smaller group than at Thanksgiving and I felt it was more fun that way, in my opinion anyway. It was very relaxed and casual and fun. I brought all three dogs with me for the first time and all behaved wonderfully and got along very well with the other dogs there. So I think I’ll be doing that again. Christmas day I just spent alone at home and that was okay. It was more like a lazy Sunday at home watching movies and reading than any kind of holiday, but it was nice not to have be running off anywhere, or worrying about work.
Since I didn’t get much in the way of presents from family, I decided to buy some gifts for myself. I’ve done this for the past few years and it really has helped me get through the holidays a bit. Anyway, this is what I got myself:
• A necklace. • A sweater. • A lamp (for the living room to replace a lamp that was bent). • A new goose down comforter.
I don’t feel like I went overboard too badly. Of course, there are a ton of sales going on, so I have to be careful to keep my itchy fingers off the keyboard and away from the online stores that are the most tempting to me, lest I lose control and go into a spending frenzy. It wouldn’t be the first time after all.
I have this ongoing interest in real estate. I just can’t seem to stop myself from looking online at a couple of the towns near where I live that I love. Anyway, I recently saw a pretty affordable cottage in one of my favorite towns. It’s the town where one of my cousins live (where I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas this year) and also where the riding stables are – it’s actually pretty much around the corner from the Winter barn. It is on this nice quiet road and there is conservation land with wooded trails up the lane from the house (perfect for running and/or walking the dogs). Anyway, this is one of the tougher towns in the area to get into. Traditionally unaffordable, I don’t usually see much, if anything, in my potential price range, and especially never something that I actually like in that range. Well, I had been going back to this listing again and again and then drove past the house a couple of times. Finally, I contacted the realtor and set up an appointment to see it. I was very upfront about my situation, didn’t want to waste her time, but she was willing and I felt that the amount of time I was spending looking at this listing online, I had better finally just see the place. So I went on a sunny day and just loved it (as I knew I would). It’s a little cape, but very open and airy and it was flooded with sun throughout. Big, 3/4 acre back yard, screened porch, lovely big family room with French doors. It’s not perfect, of course. It could use some kitchen and bathroom updating and there is no garage or deck (there is a patio though), and a lack of a garage is a huge bummer in New Hampshire! But I loved it still, it was very charming and most of all, I could see myself living there.
So, I spoke to the realtor very seriously about my options. She is familiar with the homes in my neighborhood and knows well what I would be dealing with in trying to sell. She said, surprisingly, that my type of place tends to sell quickly. I have my doubts, but whatever. I also find it hard to believe that I would be able to sell it for enough to be able to buy the other house. Still, it may be worth a chance to see if something happens. The realtor suggested that I put my house on the market with a contingency that I would need to find suitable housing. Then, if all the planets align and the timing is right and I can sell it fast enough and for the right price, then perhaps it would work out. If not, there is nothing really lost, although there is the inconvenience factor to deal with.
Anyway, I don’t know. It’s completely unrealistic and probably even a little bit crazy to even be thinking of this. However, this may be the only time I’ll ever be able to afford to buy into this town too, so maybe it’s worth a shot. I can’t stop thinking about the house and it’s making me a little nuts. Well, if it’s meant to be, maybe something will happen, if not then, oh well.
Well, for what it's worth, here is a picture of the house and the backyard:
So, while Christmas shopping (online), I placed an order for a present for my father (and his wife) with Sturbridge Yankee Workshop. The site took my order, took my payment and sent me an online receipt. After ordering, I realized that the tea lights shown on the item page were separate and had to also be ordered. So, no big deal, I called up the customer service number, gave them the order number that had been generated a couple of minutes before and added the additional item. No problem. Until a few days later when I received a paper receipt in the mail with an (oh, by the way) notation that the main item is back-ordered! Most online stores will let you know before you actually place your order that something is on back-order so you have the option of maybe choosing to not order it. This is especially helpful in the week before Christmas when one might be ordering something as a GIFT. But to let you know days later by MAIL when it’s too late to now order something else, after even speaking to someone on the phone right after placing the order who perhaps could have mentioned the back-order issue, WTF kind of way is that to run a store? I’m still freaking pissed off and I feel like there is really nothing that I can do about it. What a shitty way to run a business.
Another Rant: why do I always, always, always end up behind the problem customer on line at the grocery store? I pick the one line where the person in front of me doesn’t have an overflowing shopping cart, only to have that person paying separately for each item and then with all kinds of complicated coupons and credits that no one in the store can figure out how to apply? Why, why, why???? SHEESH.
Horses & Riding
I’ve been riding in two lessons/training sessions a week and can ride two additional “free” rides a week. I feel like I’m slowly making some improvements, but I still get really frustrated with myself. Sometimes when Lulu and I do a jump course I feel like it’s a wild, wild west round – slightly out of control. It seems a little worse in the indoor ring too because, being smaller, the jumps seem to come up much quicker, so there is less time to organize and balance and slow-down between fences. So I’m working on gaining balance and control and maintaining a steady pace, even attempting for a slow pace. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m working on it. I participated in a jumping clinic a few weeks ago with an upper level eventing rider and I felt that to be somewhat helpful too. Not that she said anything much different from what Alison has been saying, but I find that sometimes getting the additional perspective can help drill concepts into my head. Anyway, I had the opportunity to talk to her a little bit after the clinic and I asked her specifically about my position over fences. It had been somewhat bad (or at least, not ideal) when I first started back to jumping, but she said that actually this was pretty good. So I think I’ve made some progress there. Still, I have plenty of work to do, I’m never going to be able to move onto bigger jumps or more complicated courses until I have better control. I love Lulu’s enthusiasm, but I have to learn how to harness it better.
On the flat I feel like I’ve made a little more progress. Lulu does not have the ideal conformation for riding round, on the bit and in a frame and she can be a little stiff to bending and to engaging her back, so it is not an automatic thing with her. Still, with work she DOES do it, it just doesn’t happen easily or automatically. This has been a real learning experience for me and is really helping me re-develop some of the more subtle riding skills that I had forgotten. It’s not perfect yet, typically, with work, I’ll get a few great strides of a great, round, on the bit frame and then we’ll be off again, or she’s tossing her head or resisting in some way. Still, I feel like it is getting better, the good strides are becoming more frequent and of longer duration, so I feel that I am beginning to get it somewhat. I’m actually kind of glad that Lulu is not easy in this regard. An easy horse and I’d more likely be sitting pretty and not contributing as much to making it happen and thus not actively learning and really getting it as much as I feel I am with this work.
Yesterday I had a make-up lesson with another of the instructors in Alison’s barn. I had ridden with Danielle only once before, right after I started leasing Lulu (it might even have been that first week). Anyway, after our training session yesterday morning, Danielle complimented me and said that she can see that I’ve made A LOT of progress since that first time with her. So I felt very good about that, and felt like she was sincere. She also put me through such a tough flat lesson too. I worked incredibly hard the entire hour, we didn’t walk even once, it was complete work from start to finish. Even though it was about 30-32 degrees, both Lulu and I were completely drenched in sweat when it was over. But I felt like by the end of the hour she was giving me a much more consistent “on-the-bit” rounded frame than when we started the hour. It was deeply satisfying (even if not as exciting as jumping).
If I can continue with the riding work as I have been doing, I feel like I could possibly be somewhere by late Spring. Maybe not ready for any real competition, but at least more competent and a little happier with my skills on a horse.
So, that's it in a nutshell. Nothing too exciting in my life to write about, but there you have it.
So, I had to plan an 8 AM meeting today so this guy in India can learn how to do this migration that I do, so that he can someday be a back-up for the team. We've been having trouble scheduling it because the requests usually end up having to happen in the afternoon or evenings and that time frame doesn't really work schedule-wise for people in India. Anyway, so I finally had a request for one that could be done first thing in the morning. Great, so I quickly sent a meeting invite to India Guy and to another team member who also wanted to learn the process.
Team Member replied to the invite requesting that I move it to another morning. Uh, no, this is a request from the customer, the migration has to happen as scheduled, they need the stuff in place by 9 AM. (Does anyone READ anymore? I put all that into the meeting invite). And then I had a tentative acceptance to the invite from India Boy first thing in the morning.
So 8 AM comes and I dial into the meeting and start the screen share. I notice that both India Boy and Team Member are both logged into the screen share, but no one is on the phone part of the meeting yet. I give it a couple of minutes and then IM India Boy. I ask him if he's having trouble dialing in, and he writes back, "I'm dialed in already". Oh, so I figure something went wrong so I say, let me hang up and dial back in then. In the meantime I've already started this migration because it takes a full hour to do. Anyway, so I dial back in and there is still no one on the meeting. I IM India Boy again and he says, "oh, I'm only available for the screen share part of your meeting, I'm dialed into another phone meeting." Turns out Team Member is doing the same thing! Okay, is it me or ... WTF??? How on God's Green EARTH did he think he was going to understand a 100 step process by just watching some random screen share with no subsequent verbal explanation, while also participating in a completely unrelated meeting. W. T. F. People make me crazy.
I had a really lovely ride last night. This is a jumping week, we’ve actually had a couple week break from jumping due to the transition from the Summer location to the Winter barn, but this week they had the indoor set up with jumps finally. I feel like I’m making progress, of course I still have a looooong way to go to get even back to where I was in my former riding life. And really, are we ever finished making progress and improving in anything that requires any effort or technique or whatever? Anyway, so after a short warm up, Alison started putting together little jump courses for us. First let me say that I’ve been working on canter transitions with Lulu and these have gotten SO much better. She picks up the canter pretty much right away for me now and we also almost always get the correct lead, even on her “bad” side. It’s not perfect by any means, but really I feel like it’s 100% better than it was just a few weeks ago. I’ve either improved a lot or have learned how Lulu needs to be ridden. Probably some combination of both.
Anyway, so back to jumping. The very first time I jumped Lulu, back when I was trying her out when thinking about leasing her, I had a blast. But I also felt like I was fighting with her over the fences, really battling her to not rush the jumps. And then I think something clicked with me the day we did the “Ladies Outing” to the cross-country course. We ended that day with such a wonderful, lovely collected course round that I’ve had in my head ever since. It’s amazing how a near perfect and wonderful-feeling and thrilling jump course can stay with you like that. Anyway, so it’s been in my head ever since and it was in my head last night while I jumped too. Jumping in the indoor was a different experience, since it’s smaller, the turns are tighter and you end up at each jump much sooner. So it doesn’t leave you much room for disorganization, you have to think constantly and plan carefully and react quickly. And remaining balanced and collected becomes even more important too. So it was a blast, I made a point of collecting Lulu before each fence, trying to keep her quiet and organized around the turns, etc. And I think we did a pretty good job over all. It wasn’t perfect by any means, and I still need to work on plenty of stuff, including my body position, but I think I’m getting it. I think the body position has improved a bit too, even though it still needs work. A couple of months ago I was throwing myself forward quite a bit and doing this big crest release even over the tiniest of jumps. I think I am now more balanced and my release is more reasonable, but I have to constantly remind myself and think about my position. But when I do, and when I keep Lulu balanced and collected towards a fence, everything usually works out very, very well and feels pretty fantastic (there is just nothing like having a successful jump course, the adrenalin alone will have me gasping for breath). One thing that I am very careful about is hand position, no matter what happens on a jump, I am very careful about not catching Lulu (or any horse) in the mouth. Even if we catch an awkward distance and I get left slightly behind, I seem to automatically slip my reins so that she isn’t chucked in the mouth. It makes it more difficult on the other side of the fence of course, because you are then in a position of the horse galloping away and you’ve got no contact at all, so it’s a scramble to gather up the reins quickly, but still it’s preferable to the alternative. I’ve never heard Alison correct me here, where I HAVE heard her correct others for catching a horse in the mouth, even suggesting that someone “grab mane” to make sure their hand position ends up in the right place, or that they don’t get left behind with that result. But she’s never had to do that with me, so that must be one thing that I’m doing right at least.
Anyway, so I felt last night that each course we did was a little better than the one before. I am no longer fighting with Lulu down to a fence. She is a bit strong, but does collect and listen to me and we’re much more of a team. And it’s FUN! Boy is it fun! Thrilling and fun. And we’re just jumping pretty small stuff right now. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel if I ever graduate to bigger stuff.
A sign of how hopeless and freaked out I feel about the current economic climate: I purchased two lottery tickets this week. I never buy lottery tickets. I feel so stupid, but also, I feel so little control about the future right now that $2 for a little hope I guess is kind of cheap.
Oh and (by the way) I didn't win. Of course. Sheesh.
I’ve been sort of in a funk. My birthday was a couple of weeks ago. I hate my birthday, it just puts me in a bad mood for some reason. Something about it just makes me feel really lonely for some reason. Normally I don’t mind and actually even sort of like being single, but on my birthday I really feel alone and sad about that. Holidays a little bit too, but nothing is as bad as my birthday. This year was even worse because my birthday happened to also be the day that they decided to do layoffs at my company. I was surprisingly and irrationally resentful of that. Even though we knew that the layoff was coming, it was an incredibly stressful and upsetting day. A couple of people from my group who I had been working with for years were let go, one was the person who actually hired me three years ago. And there have been others from other groups who I had worked with here and there who I’ve since found out were laid off. It all really hit far too close to home for comfort. I was desperate to make something positive out of that ugly day and so managed to run down to the barn and ride Lulu for about half an hour or so. I wanted to do something that was just for me and so at least I managed that. Being around horses comforts and soothes me, and while I ride I rarely think of anything else but what I’m doing that very moment. I can’t think of anything else that I do where that is true.
Since then the depression has really lingered, I’m having trouble shaking it off. I feel unsettled and stressed and worried constantly. I also feel very sensitive, that the wrong word from someone will upset me to tears. I hate this feeling but don’t really know what to do to pull myself out of it now since I really think it’s situational. Maybe taking a few vacation days will help some – at least I’ll have next Wednesday through Friday off. I was going to take the whole week off, but work is too busy right now. Of course being busy at work is a GOOD thing, but it does also add to the stress.
Anyway, so I’m kind of a mess right now. In a serious funk and kind of emotional. I have to find some time to run more or something, I’ll bet that would help pull me out of it.
Today. Pretty much empty gym. All treadmills are free. I get on one and start running, not even a minute later chick comes by and gets on the treadmill directly beside me. Right. Next. To. Me. Out of six treadmills! I mean, WTF??? Maybe after living in a city for so many years I have a different sensitivity to personal space issues or something, but ... sheesh!
Yesterday I was lucky enough to re-work my schedule so that I could take a vacation day and attend the Apple Tree Farm Ladies Outing. Alison organized the outing for the adult women of the barn so that we could go off-site to try some cross-country jumping at a different location, do some trail riding, have a nice lunch and socialize and get to know each other a little better in a relaxed and non-rushed environment. Because of weather, the outing had been postponed and rescheduled twice, before they managed to hit on a day where the conditions were favorable. That turned out to be lucky for me as I couldn't have gotten the time off for any of the other dates, so it really worked out well.
We all arrived at the barn around 8:30 AM and managed to get the horses groomed, wrapped and on the trailers and ready to go by around 9 AM or so. Not sure how we managed all that so fast, but we pulled it off. We did the short drive down to Groton, MA, unloaded, tacked up, mounted and hit the trails pretty quickly. I had never trail ridden Lulu before and so I didn't know what to expect from her. Horse personalities can change dramatically from ring, to trail, to field, or whatever. The calmest, slowest, most sedate animal in the ring can become a spooky nutjob on the trail. But Lulu was great. She was excited, while everyone walked, she liked to do an excited jogging dance. But the whole way listened to me and kept very nicely on the bit. Even though a sedate ride, she made things a little more interesting. Such personality.
Anyway, after we got back from the trail, we moved over to the big cross-country jumping field. We all spread out and started trotting and circling the area to check out the footing and to allow the horses to take a good look at everything. Lulu was very interested in everything around her, attentive and alert, but not spooky. She also was a bit strong, excited to be out in the open and so moving very forward, much more fresh and quick than she usually is in the ring.
Once we had warmed up around the field. Alison told me that I could jump one of a series of jumps nearby as a warm-up. I picked the medium-ish one in the middle and Alison had to laugh that I picked one of the "bigger" choices as a warm-up. Hey, it was still pretty small! Anyway, after trying out a few jumps here and there, she started putting together courses for people. She had warned me at the beginning that Lulu was still pretty green cross-country and might try to run out or stop on me, but she was actually jumping nicely for me (or I was able to ride her balanced and confidently enough to keep her steady and going well over everything). So, I was happy to realize that she felt confident enough in me and in Lulu and me together to give us some of the more advanced courses to do. Nothing was really all that intimidating, so I wouldn't call anything we did truly "advanced" (and nothing in that field is beyond Beginning Novice level anyway), but still, I did feel like I had made some progress in her eyes, or she saw some potential in me or something.
Anyway, we did a few different courses and then at the end Alison had me do one last one. I started Lulu out slow and steady, breaking into a collected canter as we rode into the first fence. It had been my intention to trot in between the various jumps because Lulu can get fast and strong with jumping, and especially out cross-country where things are more exciting for her. And then you add the greenness factor and whatever, so I wanted to keep her organized and under maximum control. However, after that first fence, I slowed her, slowed her, slowed her to bring her down to trot, and she just slowed down her canter to the point where she was just cantering so lovely and collectedly & slow, round, on the bit, the nicest canter I've ever had out of her. Maybe out of any horse, I don't know. Anyway, it was so nice, I kept it there and we did the nicest, most collected jumping round that I have done in many, many years (in decades really, I had actually forgotten what it feels like). I managed to balance her over every fence, she would get a little strong after the jump, but I would bring back, down, down, down, almost wanting to come back to trot, but not quite and she would give me that nice, lovely, round, on the bit canter again. It was really, really lovely and just such a fantastic feeling. The feeling you get when pretty much everything seems to go right. I really loved her for that, she showed me a side of her that I had only seen little glimpses of before now. She also showed me a little bit of the rider that I used to be too, and I'm thankful for that.
Afterwards, Alison told me that my body position was much better and that the round went well. I also over-heard a number of other people comment to Alison that Lulu seems to have come a long way. I like to think that part of it might have been my riding (or ability to ride her to her potential) and part our partnership. But maybe I'm flattering myself again. Anyway, the ride over-all was wonderful and a lot of fun and I ended it extremely satisfied with myself and very happy with Lulu. I have to say that I like her a little more every time I ride her.
After the riding we had a wonderful lunch of chili & corn bread and mac & cheese and apple cider and other stuff. And we got to all chat and get to know each other better. Turns out one of the women used to live on Martha's Vineyard (where my family used to have a Summer home and where I spent many years riding all over the island). Turns out she had ridden at many of the same places that I had and knew a lot of people who I had known. It was a real kick to talk about "the old days" with someone who knew the places and people from my past.
What a wonderful day. I so rarely take a vacation day and actually end up going somewhere or doing something other than just loafing around, so it really was very nice to have such a day. I ended it exhausted of course, but it was so much fun and so satisfying. I just love this horsey life.
* People who don't understand the concept of gridlock. Or rather how to avoid being part of the problem. Here's a tip: if you see that you can't clear the intersection, then you don't go. Simple. (Apparently not so simple for some idiots, or perhaps they're just more people who feel that the rules do not apply to them).
Of course, there probably haven't been too many gridlocks seen in this little town in New Hampshire, but today is an important voting day and everyone had the same idea to get there early. It took me about 30 minutes to go about .7 of a mile. Yep, but I got 'er done (I hope we have some good news to wake up to tomorrow morning, I really, really do.)
Have you ever had such a stressful, crappy, no-win kind of a day that you feel like you're constantly about to burst into tears at any second? Where you are literally hyperventilating all day long? Yep, that's the kind of day I had. Here's to hoping that tomorrow will be a better one. Please God.
* People who think that traffic signs such as "YIELD" do not apply to them (usually people who drive Cadillacs or Lexuses)
* People who think that 40 MPH in a 30 MPH zone is not an adequate speed and thus think that tail-gating is an appropriate response.
* People who can see how jammed my Outlook calendar already is, yet think it's okay to invite me to yet another useless, time-wasting meeting. After all, I can always catch up with my actual work after 8 PM most nights.
* Other people who do not even bother to check afore-mentioned jammed Outlook calendar before inviting me to yet another useless, time-wasting meeting.
* People who think I can just drop everything to run into Boston for yet another meeting (maybe not a useless one), disregarding any other work obligations I might have. Not to mention the cost to park ($12) and gas and whatever.
Woman snorting/snuffling water up into and through her nose and blowing it back out into the sink. Over & over again. In a public, shared bathroom. Into a public sink that everyone uses! Gah! I mean, seriously. Am I the only one who is revolted by this??? What is wrong with people?
A picture of Panzer, with Shauna (who was kind enough to hold him for me so that I could take the picture).
Yesterday I rode in the Hunter Pace event that I had mentioned earlier in the week. I knew that it was going to be fun, but I don't think that I truly appreciated what a total blast it was really going to be. I can't imagine having more fun. I arrived at the barn early, early, early to help with all the barn chores before we could leave. I worked putting out horses, hauling water, picking stalls, throwing hay, etc. for three and a half hours! I was exhausted before the day even began. Finally we were loading the horses around 10:30 AM -- it was funny, Panzer had been loaded, but Ro's husband apparently hadn't been quick enough to secure him from the front, because the next thing I knew, he had run out the other part of the trailer and was running down the road! So, I got a little extra exercise running down the street chasing a loose horse. Sheesh!
I had the pleasure of riding to the event with two other adult riders, Sandie and Shauna. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to get to know some other adults who ride. Both women are extremely nice and I was so happy to be with other horsey, like-minded people. We arrived at around noon or so and got ourselves registered, tacked up, mounted (can I say that I am proud to have been able to mount from the ground? Usually I use a mounting block), got sorted out and started off. Shauna and I and a friend of Ro's who is a seasoned eventer, Amelia, decided to all ride together since we were riding in the same division. Shauna has been riding at the barn for about a year and Amelia used to ride there, before she bought her own horse property. I was the unseasoned member of the group, but was in pretty good company. Anyway, they let us out of the starting "gate" and we just started trotting easily down the road. We hadn't gone even ten feet before we got to a big puddle, I just directed Panzer to it, figuring he would just trot simply through. Well. Instead he took this huge, unexpected leap over it. I almost fell off! Managed not to, but lost both stirrups and murmured to myself, "well, this doesn't bode well."
When we got to our first jump (a stone wall with a tree trunk topping it) at the edge of a field, I realized that I was in for trouble. The fence was pretty freaking big! I skipped that one, but started jumping some subsequent "HUGE" fences that we came across not too far beyond it. I didn't want to get to the end realizing that I hadn't given jumping a try. I didn't want to be a wuss and I knew that I used to jump stuff like this, so I figured, what the hell. Added to my unease was the fact that I had only ridden Panzer once before and had only hopped him over a little cavelletti or something a couple of times. Anyway, so I took him over a series of two or three fences strung together and realized that he jumps really, really big! It feels like he gives himself a good foot of extra space over obstacles. And he jumps really round too. "Round" meaning that he really rounds his back and moves athletically through the jumping motion. It's beautiful to watch a horse who jumps this way, but it sure is harder to ride through. You have to be right there with the horse and when the horse is on the back side of the jump (coming back down from the jump) it almost feels like he disappears out from under you. Anyway, over every fence that we took, I could feel the expression on my face, eyes wide open, big and round, mouth wide open in a big, round "O" -- kind of like a silent "OMG!!!" (As in, "OMG, I can't believe I'm doing THIS!!!"). After the first series of fences, Panzer just kind of took off -- galloping after Amelia's horse (who, by the way, is an off-the-track thoroughbred -- former racehorse. Uh, Hello!) And so I expended a lot of energy getting him back under control. WHOA! It was wild. Anyway, after that series, we all decided to take it easy and pick and choose what we wanted to jump and to ride easily on the parts between all the obstacles. Amelia jumped everything we came across and Shauna & I picked and chose what we felt comfortable with. I jumped so much more than I thought in the beginning that I was going to. Amelia's encouragement helped, I really appreciated her input and I guess I just got a little brave. Jumped lots of BIG, solid fences (each complete with the "OMG" expression on my face). It was so exhilarating! Now, looking back on the day I am both proud of myself and wishing that I had tried a few of the fences that I had bypassed (out of about 29 jumps, I jumped about 8 or 10 of them). Still, I wanted to end the day in once piece, so it seemed smart to be a little conservative. In between the jumps, we all did a lot of chatting. Amelia shared a lot of her eventing experiences and advice and we all bonded over similar interests and appreciation for each others' input, experience and abilities. I was proud that I could keep up and participate with these two.
We finally finished the course about three hours or so after we started. It was an absolutely gorgeous day (almost 70 degrees and brilliant sunshine on October 26th, that doesn't happen too often) and the perfect thing to be doing on such a lovely Sunday. When we made it back to the trailers, we hooked up with our other group who had been entered in the easier division and had finished a few minutes before us.
Ro told me later that she had heard that I did very well and that she knew that they had kind of thrown me into this. So I'm very glad that I ended up being up for the challenge. The size and the difficulty of the obstacles I jumped give me the hope that I'm actually capable of more than perhaps I've been thinking I am. Amelia and a couple of other people that I talked to actually assessed the difficulty of the course as eventing trial level of "Novice" (which is harder than it sounds, the levels for a recognized eventing start at Beginning Novice, it takes some serious work to get to "N" status). Anyway, the height for most was around 3 feet, much bigger than I had been doing these past two months, that's for sure.
All-in-all it was a fantastically fun, exhilarating day. Exhausting, but so. much. fun. Panzer was a trooper too, a big enthusiastic lug-love of a horse.
Work has been really crazy for the past couple of weeks. I went from a very steady, reasonably calm pace to insanity practically overnight. I can't say that I haven't in general been enjoying the work, actually I feel purposeful and engaged and even somewhat effective, so that part is great. But I end the weeks completely wiped out (this week having worked 10-11 hours most days) and with this vague feeling that I haven't gotten enough work done. Also, the crazy work schedule hasn't left much time at all for working out and that leaves a very unsatisfying feeling to the week as well. Still, this week I did manage two personal training sessions, one very good and hard (for me) interval running session and three rides with Lulu, including one jumping training session. So at least I've managed something. But spinning completely fell to the wayside as each evening had me on conference calls with one of my customers, and I didn't run nearly as much as I wanted to. All-in-all, I feel like I can do better with my week, I just have to sort it out and be more organized and motivated. And get more sleep. Maybe I can manage some early morning stuff. It probably wouldn't have worked this week as I had 8 AM meetings all week, but next week it might be more of a possibility. If I can get my butt to bed early enough anyway (sheesh).
Tomorrow I am riding in the Hunter Pace event that I wrote about last week. I'm going with Barn #1 and am going to ride "Panzer", the horse that I rode last Saturday. I was surprised to learn this week that apparently Barn #2 also may be going to this thing -- ack! My two riding worlds are about to collide! Well, in the interest of avoiding at least some awkwardness, I told Alison about my plans to go to this thing with the other barn and, as expected, she doesn't care. It's Ro that I'm really concerned about, she doesn't know that I'm also riding at the other barn and I don't want to hurt her feelings. Anyway, tomorrow should be interesting. If anything, it should be a lot of fun, it sounds like a blast to me. I mean, galloping over fields and trails, jumping various obstacles, etc. Uh, hello??? Who wouldn't want to do that? FUN! I hope that I remember to bring my camera.
Barn #2 is planning this Ladies Outing for this Wednesday that I had hoped to take a vacation day and participate in. They are trailering out to the Groton Pony Club and are going to do a cross-country training session on their outdoor jumping course. Then they're taking a trail ride which will be followed by a picnic lunch. Besides the fun of jumping cross-country and the trail riding, it would have been a nice opportunity to get to know some of the adult women at the barn. However, work is too crazy right now and I have time commitments for a bunch of the stuff I'm working on, so I don't think I can really in good conscious take the time off right now. I AM hoping to take Thanksgiving Week off however, but maybe things will be a little quieter then and I won't have to feel stressed or guilty about it. So anyway, I'm very disappointed about having to miss the Ladies Outing, but I don't think I would have enjoyed myself as much anyway, thinking of all the stuff that I had to drop in order to go.
So my days have been pretty busy lately. I feel like I am constantly in a rush, flying from one thing to the next, but I generally feel pretty satisfied too. I am working on the riding, I am frustrated sometimes with how much I feel like I suck. But I have to keep reminding myself that I've really only been back riding for about two months (even a little less) after a 22 year hiatus, so I just have to be more patient with myself. I'm doing everything that I can, taking good solid training, doing the half-lease, riding as much as I can. I'll get better, it just takes some time. Work is great, but with the economy going the way it is, I have this constant "heart-in-my-throat" feeling lately. Almost a panic really. It's an especially panicky feeling as there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it. I want to know that my job is safe and will continue to be safe, but in these unstable times, no one can really promise something like that and I find it extremely unsettling. Still, most people are probably in this same boat, so if nothing else, I guess I have good company. All-in-all though, I have to say that life is good. Very good.
Sometimes people piss me off. So, I'm working on this project with an internal customer. My job is to talk to the various business units and extract the relevant reporting requirements for their new reporting application as well as identify any new data feed issues and table requirement dependencies, etc. Yeah, whatever, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, so these are all very reasonable, but also very busy professional people and the application deadlines are all extremely tight. Just getting the requirements alone is a huge chore. Okay fine. So I met their developer last week and when I was introduced I said, "Oh so I hear you used to work at Old Company!" (Old Company being my previous company). He gave me a look like I was completely crazy and said, "I never worked at Old Company", with a sort of inflection and expression that almost said, 'I would never deign to work there'. Okay then. So I've been working very closely with my business contact at this group who is extremely busy, but very helpful to me and is the bottom line in certain decisions. So a requirement came out of a meeting last week to possibly add some enhanced functionality to a parameter input for a report (as in, "wow, it would be great if it could do THIS"). I added a note into the document that I'm writing that said we would have to explore how easy it would be to do and then wrote a subsequent email that said that if it requires extensive engineering (and I believe that it does) then that it should perhaps be an out-of-scope item. Weird Developer Guy (WDG) had sent an email looking for help from other technicians in that group to help with this item. I had mentioned that I had written a program for a prototype a couple of years ago, so that I knew this functionality can work with this tool, but I only knew the report scripting part of it and not the front-end piece as that had been done by someone else. WDG wrote back to say that he would like more detailed info from me about how I did what I did two years ago, with code examples and detail and whatever. In the meantime, my business contact who is managing the project wrote back (to everyone) confirming and backing up my statement that this functionality should be an out-of-scope item. In my opinion, we don't even have the basic report yet -- stuff like this should be looked into as an enhancement patch or second release.
Anyway, so I ended up at 6 PM tonight on an impromptu conference call with the business contact and a D/B guy. And while we're in the call, they threw a couple of questions over the wall to WDG and each time I could hear him whining and bleating about how I don't answer his emails. What?! So, I'm asking, "What emails? The only email I have from him that I haven't answered was the one about the code examples and detail for that enhanced functionality that we're not even going to do. Frankly, I didn't think it was very important" (and I still don't). Business Contact had to interrupt our meeting to find out exactly what WDG was talking about and confirmed that, yep, that was it. He was all pissy and petulant that I hadn't returned his stoopid email about this thing that we've decided isn't even in the scope of the project. Not to mention that it would take me a while to dig up the information he's looking for as it is on a server and environment with a customer that I'm not even working with anymore. I'm not even sure if I have still have access to it and if I do, it's still going to take some searching. Sheesh! This is a grown adult working as a contractor for a very corporate business group, at a very corporate company in the middle of Boston. Are you kidding me? Business Contact told me not to pay any attention to him. I just don't have time for this crap! GAH.
Yesterday was my lesson on Lulu. Alison is away for the weekend to a horse trial (3-Day Event) and so we had Danielle as our sub. This is a "flat" week, which means we work on our dressage, no jumping. I prefer the jumping lessons (as most people probably do), but I feel like I get a lot done in the flat lessons, I feel like I work a lot harder, so I do appreciate their value. Yesterday I really made a point of working hard the entire time, even when just walking. It's so easy to be lazy, but I was very conscious about using my seat and my legs strongly with every single stride. And it sure is hard work! But after the lesson I felt deeply satisfied that I actually accomplished something. I also felt like I did SO much better than the last time I had a purely flat lesson like this. Oh and Lulu was great. She actually collected nicely for me, much better than she had the week before and better than I thought she would for me, so I was very pleased. I'm really looking forward to getting to know her better through my lease. Tomorrow is my my day to ride her (on my own) so I'm looking forward to spending some nice time with her.
Today I went to the other barn. But when I got there, it turns out that I had signed my name on the calendar for Friday, instead of Saturday (I have no idea how I managed that one, sheesh). Anyway, Ro was nice enough to let me ride anyway, she figured it had been a mistake and she had a horse she wanted me to ride. "Panzer" is a very nice Morgan cross gelding who I thought was a real sweetheart. Ro says that he needs some more experienced riders to ride him as he tends to drift a bit (doesn't like to keep a straight line), likes to suddenly stop, needs help bending and has issues with the canter -- picking it up, going too fast, etc. I actually had no trouble with him drifting, stopping or bending and the canter wasn't perfect, but Ro was impressed with how well we worked together. She then brought me outside and had me pop over a few jumps with him, which was fun. We ended on a high note after a very nice jump over a fence she had raised a little higher.
Ro had wanted me to try Panzer out today because next Sunday she wants me to ride him in a Hunter Pace -- which is a low-key sort of horse show, basically you gallop through a cross-country field, or series of fields and take a few jumps here or there, it sounds like a total blast! She also someday wants me to come with her to a fox hunt (maybe on Panzer) -- something I have ALWAYS wanted to do. By the way, for those who are worried that they would actually be hunting foxes, please know that this does not involve the killing or even chasing of a fox. They basically drag a scent for the hounds to follow, which actually makes it easier to plot a great course for the field to enjoy. Anyway, so I said yes to the Hunter Pace for next week as it sounds like a pretty relaxed event and like a lot of fun. Since it's on Sunday, it means that I will miss one of my days with Lulu, but this sounds like such a great time, so I'm willing to make the sacrifice. I hope I can handle it! It's been a long time since I've galloped cross-country and over obstacles and I have only ridden Panzer the one time. Well, the idea is just to have fun, no pressure to perform or anything, so I think it will be okay.
I can see how I am quickly becoming deeply immersed into a horsey life, I'm becoming obsessed! I'm sitting here thinking, 'hmmmm I wish I had time at lunch today to run up to the barn and see Lulu'. Not to ride mind you, just to SEE her and maybe give her an apple or something. I seem to be becoming yet again that horse-crazed girl I was from early childhood through my early 20s. I wonder how long I'll hold myself off before buying a horse -- or worse, a horse property (certainly I can't afford that. Can I?)
But I think about horses constantly. I dream about them, I read about them, I peruse "horse-for-sale" ads online. I look at pictures of horses (particularly pictures of people jumping their horses) and videos of people riding. Soon I'll probably take to plastering my bedroom walls with horsey pictures and drawing horses in the margins of my notebooks during meetings or something. Sheesh.
I am having the most awesome time horseback riding lately, it just seems to be getting better & better, the more I ride. On Friday I went to Barn #2 for my lesson -- there was jumping and it was lots fun (as it always is). Right now she has me jumping pretty small fences, but that's okay, I'm probably not ready for anything much bigger at the moment, although I do feel my confidence coming back now. At least nerve-wise I think I could handle some bigger jumps, but there is no reason to be in a big rush for it, I'm having a total blast either way, regardless of the fence size. Anyway, so on Friday she had me riding one of the horses that are currently available for half-lease. LuLu is a pinto horse who has a few minor rough edges, collects herself on the flat but needs a little work to get that from her, is a little difficult picking up the left lead canter, but she loves to jump! When we got to the jumping part of the hour, she was in her glory (as was I) and a total blast to ride. She gets excited and likes to rush her fences a bit, but I don't mind that at all, it doesn't freak me out, but brings me back to a place & time when I could ride hell for leather around a jump course on an enthusiastic horse. The trick is to form a partnership and learn how your horse ticks, learn how to control that fire and organize her around a jump course. But it sure is a lot more fun than trying to kick a pokey horse around a course. Anyway, so LuLu is a sweetheart, has great ground manners and is plenty of fun. She's not perfect, but there is nothing about her that is a show-stopper. If anything, having some stuff to work on and work-through will help bring back my skills and help to make me an over-all better rider. Certainly in all of my riding history, it was a very rare occasion where I was able to even ride a "made" horse. Most of the horses I was brought up on had their issues and I believe (have always believed) that this made me a better rider and definitely a better horsewoman. It's too easy to just end up being a passenger otherwise. You might learn to look pretty on a horse, but actual horse handling, learning how to get the best out of the horse you're on, to be able to get on the back of most any horse and feel confident that you can handle what is thrown at you, well, you only get that by riding the gamut, not just the perfectly made or trained, bombproof horses.
So, I'm thinking of taking the half-lease on LuLu. Alison explained to me that she would be a good horse to start me on. She said how she usually does it is that when it is time to re-up the lease, we would then re-evaluate where I am and see if I need to move up in horse, based upon how far I've come and what my goals are (do I want to compete, if so what level would I be starting at, etc.) She said that she has a horse that might be good for me in the Spring. He's recovering from an injury now, but he's apparently a great eventing horse, took her through Prelim, so would be a great horse for me to learn the lower levels on. Anyway, that's possibly the future, right now I have to decide whether I want to make this commitment and do the half-lease with LuLu. I'm leaning strongly towards it. It's a wonderful way to have the feel of owning a horse, without all the expense and commitment. With the lease, I can ride 4x a week -- one for my lesson and three other times, on Sunday and during the week. I feel like if I can ride that many times a week, I really will be able to improve at a decent rate, not to mention the "fun" factor. Anyway, I'll probably have to make a decision soon, so I have to give this some serious thought. Ultimately I would probably like to own a horse, but the half-lease option would be great for now and would mean that I don't have to rush into owning.
Yesterday I went to Barn #1 for a trail ride and it was a total blast too. It was just absolutely the most perfect day. Peak New England Fall foliage. Warm day, in the low-70s/high-60s, but with that crisp edge you get in Fall. Brilliant sunshine. Just a perfect day to be outside on the back of a horse. Ro had pushed back the start time of the trail ride, so I was able to get on early and hack around in the dressage ring for about half an hour. And then we were on our way. It was Ro and her husband, two other of her more advanced adult students and me. It was a much more wild ride than last week (since last week we had some more beginner and timid types on the ride). Cantering, galloping, through mud, water, through rugged wooded trails, etc. It was the best time ever. So. Much. Fun. I felt so happy and content just to be on the back of a horse and able to ride confidently and competently. I ended up riding for over two and a half hours and loved every minute of it.
This is really hard for me now because I'm enjoying my experiences at both barns. I like both places so much that I really don't want to quit one of them now, I get so much out of both. Also, since riding on a Saturday isn't really that possible at Barn #2 (they're pretty booked up with lessons there already), I feel inclined to continue to ride at Barn #1 for Saturdays anyway. And if I can continue to do fun stuff like trail riding on those Saturdays, I feel like my overall riding experience is pretty well-rounded then. The biggest issues are, well, the money, but I also feel a little weird. Kind of like I'm cheating on one barn with the other, or something. I feel like I'm being a little dishonest with both, isn't that strange? I suppose if I plan to continue this way, I should probably mention to both barn owners that I'm also riding at the other barn, but I am actually a little bit scared to bring the subject up. Oh well, I'll continue this way and see if I change my mind about anything. Certainly if I do the half-lease, that might change things a bit.
Edited to add: I suspect that Barn #2 wouldn't really care all that much that I'm still doing some riding at the other barn. But I do feel like Ro would be somewhat hurt or upset that I'm also riding with Apple Tree. She has been so great to me and she and her husband are such nice people, I really don't want to hurt her. I also really DO enjoy riding at her barn, so I am feeling pretty conflicted about it all.
Working out with "Nice Mike" one day, I finally had to make a comment about some of the muscle heads I'm forever seeing in the gym. Some of whom are shaped like a barrel or a huge bullet or something. You know, tiny head and then it balloons out to one huge size?
Me: "So, do you ever take a look at some of these guys and want to say, 'Hey, you know, a little cardio might not be a bad idea?'" NM: "HAHAHAHA! Yes, actually"
Another workout (last week) with "Nice Mike" and he has me doing the dreaded wall sit exercise. Chick who looks like her favorite form of exercise is Pilates is on a weight machine beside us (let's call her, "Pilates Queen").
PQ: (while I am in the middle of my wall sit and grimacing in intense pain with Mike standing over me with a stop watch) "Is that exercise actually effective without The Ball" (what ball you ask? Who the Hell knows?) Me: "Actually, no, it's not. The trainer just decided to have me do it anyway". Seriously, WTF???
During the same workout and the same exercise, Loquacious Workout Guy who always likes to talk to us had to chime in.
LWG: "You think that's bad? You should try a plank." LWG: (Then as he's doing a plank) "See? this is a plank." Me: "Show off." NiceMike: SNORT! "Show off! HAHAHAHA!"
On Sunday after my trail ride, I stopped at a convenience store to buy a ginger ale because I was parched. I decided to buy the "2 for" special. The total came to $2.22.
Me: "Actually, I think I have 22 cents." Check-Out Boy: "Oh I don't doubt that you do, most females are toting around a ton of change." Me: "I always love to be reduced to a sexual stereotype, so thanks for that."
It was a busy weekend for me and one that flew by far too fast. Yesterday was Applefest, a local half-marathon held near me that runs through the local roads and apple orchards of a neighboring town. It's a lovely race, at a lovely time of year in a lovely town and I hosted a post-race party for the second year in the afternoon. Again we lucked out with the weather -- although last year the weather was summer-like and thus not very good for running, it was very nice for cooking out and sitting outside. This year the temps were much more seasonable, probably in the 50s for the morning, reaching the low-60s by afternoon, but sunny and just a brilliant Autumn day. I didn't participate in the actual race itself, so I can't speak to that, but the party turned out to be a great time. A smaller group than last year, it was a nice crowd of people and I think we all enjoyed each other. The food turned out well and I had a great time overall. I always get nervous and even a little overwhelmed about entertaining, probably mostly because I don't do it very often. But I think I pretty much remembered everything and it turned out well. Of course I now have a plethora of beer and pie and apple crisp and other tempting stuff left in my house, even after giving tons of stuff away to exiting party goers. So, I'll have to walk a careful line through it all, and will probably just throw at least the pastry away. The beer though, the beer. Not sure what to do about all that. I guess I can try to ration one or two of those a week to myself. If I'm strong.
Today I went up to barn #1 for a trail ride that ended up being about two hours long. It was another completely gorgeous Fall day in New England. Crisp and cool (but still warm enough), the foliage not quite at peak (but getting there) a perfect day to be out on a horse winding through the woods. It was just one of those wonderful times where there was nowhere else on Earth I would rather have been. It was very nice and relaxing and a fun thing to do on a Sunday. But now, of course, I find myself suddenly at the end of a weekend and wondering where the time has gone. Maybe I should have taken an extra vacation day or two (and especially as I have taken very few vacation days this year so far), but the work is already stacking up and I don't think I really can right now. So, at least I can enjoy the bit of weekend that I get and that I did, I have to say.
So I had my second ever lesson at Barn #2 today and it was just AWESOME! She (Alison) decided that this would be a jumping day since we missed jumping last week (lessons were canceled because of the hurricane that blew through last weekend). We started out with some warm ups at the walk, trot and canter and then we got right into jumping. First we trotted over a little cross-rail and then she put together a little course for us. It was so much fun to go from fence to fence, jump and then look for my next fence. I know that I had been missing this, but I had forgotten how truly fun & thrilling it is! After we did our "inside" course, she brought us out to the cross-country course and put together a little course out there, including a small bank jump and a ditch. So, of course, my rhythm is still completely off (it always did take me a little while to get that back) and apparently my jumping style is somewhat outdated, so I'm going to have to work on it all, but I never once felt even the least bit nervous and I generally had good instincts, I think. I just had fun, fun, fun. Oh, and I just LOVED the horse I was riding. Very sensitive and responsive and moved forward very easily. She was delightful. I wouldn't mind owning a horse like her, fun and sweet and trustworthy, yet responsive. Anyway, it was a great lesson and a good time. I felt so exhilarated afterwards that as soon as I got into my car after the lesson, I let out this big, loud WOO-HOO!
ARGH! I’ve been so freaking busy! No time to write lately. Work is insane (but that’s generally a good thing). I am also generally very busy with working out these days, trying to fit it all in around my work schedule and there has even been a few social things here and there too.
Work is good. I have to say that I’m really happy with the way work seems to be going for me these days. I sometimes feel a little clueless or stupid about stuff, but I feel like everything I’m touching right now is a learning opportunity. So, I’m expanding my horizons, taking on more & varied responsibilities and getting more exposure to different groups and to different stuff. It’s all good. Very good, in fact. I think this is especially important during these crazy scary economic times. Certainly I feel very paranoid about remaining employed (and employed well), so if I feel like I’m continually growing in my role and becoming more indispensible, then I’m going to feel increasingly secure in my job. So, besides actually enjoying my job, I’ll hopefully more & more find myself in a secure and firm position. This is what I’m working towards anyway. But the meetings – GAH! Meeting, after meeting, after meeting, I’m ready to hang myself over all of these meetings during the week, but I guess you have to take the bad with the good.
Working out is GOOD. I feel so strong and fit and healthy these days. And happy. Really happy. I can’t remember when I last was this happy. Probably the summer about 9 or 10 years ago when I was living in Manhattan and training for the NYC Marathon. And even then, I don’t think my life was quite as balanced as it is now. “Nice Mike” has now decided that he is going to switch up my workouts every five weeks. Well. I am so, so sore from the new workout we did yesterday. I think I’ve been more sore today than I was even the day after running the marathon! He had me doing these wall sit things (as an aside, he thought that I would only be able to do 20-30 seconds of this, but I managed over a minute for each set) and these lateral squats using a medicine ball and this shoulder molder exercise with free weights that made it feel like my arms were going to fall off. And then of course I had Core / Spin class that same night where we did yet MORE crazy squats and leg lift stuff and ab work and whatever. I am in serious pain (mostly hamstrings, quads & BUTT)! I wince and actually whine out loud every time I go to sit down, and walking up stairs? Horrible. Good thing I didn’t have plans to sit on a horse today, I don’t think that I would have been able to do it. I need a really long, good, deep tissue massage. And now I have ANOTHER session scheduled with (not-so) “Nice Mike” tomorrow! Usually I like to spread them out in the week more (Mondays & Fridays), but my schedule did not allow that this week. I’m continuing to Spin too, averaging three times a week. This has been an off week however, so I only did the one spin, but next week I should be back on schedule. I’m running as well and I think that’s been the hardest thing to fit in with the increased workload. It’s really a shame too as this is my absolute favorite time of year to run and now that it’s cooler and I’ve been putting in all the running work for months, I’m actually running better. But I will continue to try and squeeze it in. Maybe I should be targeting 3x a week instead of 4-5x, since that seems to have become a little unrealistic with everything else I’m trying to do these days. At least I won’t have to feel like such a failure when my running plans for the week don’t work out.
Horses are GREAT. Of course, my lesson at Barn #2 got canceled last Friday due to severe weather and I had a kind of sucky lesson at Barn #1 on Saturday (sucky because I suck, not because the place or instructor sucks). But every riding experience isn’t going to be fabulous and is all part of the process of improving and in reaching the place where I want to be someday. I just need so much work! I have to skip this week for lessons at Barn #1 since I’m having a party on Saturday, so Ro offered to have me come out for a trail ride with her instead on Sunday, which I thought was really nice of her. Of course, I’ll probably be hungover for it, but it should be a nice ride and free of pressure. I can just ride and not worry about all the subtle nuances I currently seem to be incapable of. It will be interesting to see how things go at Barn #2 on Friday too. I’ve only had one lesson there so far, so I am really looking forward to exploring my experience there. I’m also thinking more & more about possibly leasing, and someday maybe buying, a horse. I keep looking at horse ads online and can’t stop thinking and fantasizing about it. But I’m still just in the thinking phase of this and have to rein myself in and try to be realistic about it, it’s such a big step and a huge responsibility. Still, I can’t stop thinking about it, it’s really a life-long dream of mine.
What’s not so great in my life right now is my current lack of weight-loss progress. I seem to be constantly gaining and losing the same two or three pounds and I’m finding it really frustrating. Of course, my clothes continue to get looser, I even tried on (and bought) a couple of pairs of riding breeches recently and was pleasantly surprised to find that I took a size smaller than I expected to (and there is no forgiveness in riding breeches, believe me) But the damn scale is really pissing me off. Still, I have to just keep continue plugging away and keep my eyes on my goal, and remember how far I’ve come in the past six months or so.
So, life is good these days. And busy. I’m pretty happy and fulfilled in general and enthusiastically moving forward. What more could I ask for?
I had a lovely run of "almost" 4 miles on the trails this afternoon. It's just a perfect day in New England, cool (but warm enough for shorts), crisp and sunny. The trees are starting to turn a little, no mosquitoes, etc. Given all that, I couldn't understand why the gym was completely packed (as packed as I have ever seen it) when I passed through on my way to outside. Every treadmill and every elliptical was taken and most of the bikes too. All these people were facing the window looking at the lovely day outside, but on a never-ending tread to nowhere. I'll just never understand that.
Anyway, back to my run: at one point I was enjoying the run so much that I realized that I had a huge grin on my face. It was just me alone in the woods running on this single track with this huge, stupid grin. Life is good.
Published class times are provided because that is when the class is supposed to begin and not merely as a suggestion as to when you might wish to show. The rest of the class is not interested in waiting until your lazy ass decides to stroll in. And while we're on the subject, if you don't even know how to set up your bike, you might want to consider actually coming to class a little early so that the instructor can help you before the class starts, rather than having to interrupt the active, in-progress class and thus disrupting every single other participant. Lastly, you know that hacking, phlegmy, persistent cough you have? You might want to reconsider closing yourself in a room with ten other people who are going to have to breathe in whatever disease you're spreading around (particularly since you are on a spinning bike, presumably both of your arms are engaged and you're not even covering your mouth). Oh wait, I forgot it's all about YOU, isn't it? Sheesh.
Tuesday: 4-Mile Trail Run Evening Core / Spin Class
Wednesday: Evening Spin Class
Thursday: 1 Hour Horseback Riding
Friday: Personal Training Horseback Riding Lesson (1-Hour)
Saturday: 1.5 Hours Horseback Riding
I didn't end up running as much as I had wanted to this week. On Wednesday I had to take Lola to the vet (she had been limping for a couple of days, but she's fine now) and on Thursday I was just too busy and took the time I normally would have used to run to go horseback riding instead. Still, I feel like I had a pretty strong week for physical activity. I sure am sore right now, I can tell you that. I'm also so happy that I was able to ride three times this week! I know that's not going to be the case for every week, but it's great to be able to take these opportunities when they come up. All-in-all, I'm pretty happy over all with my week.
I also had meant to post something about the trail run I did on Tuesday, it was just wonderful. Probably the best run that I've had all year. It was a cool, crisp day and everything seemed to just come together and click all at once. I ran most of it (my walk breaks were brief) and I just felt fantastic and strong the whole run. It was so nice that I tacked on an extra trail. I wish every run could be that great. I also wish that I had gotten out there a couple of more days this week, but the schedule didn't work out as well for me as it usually does.
This week should be similar, only I have two riding sessions planned, not three. I also have a dentist appointment on one day (thought it was this week, but it's next) so that will be a day I won't be able to run.
What a week this has been for riding for me! First Thursday schooling at Barn #1, then the tough lesson yesterday at Barn #2. And finally back at Barn #1 this morning. I swear last night and this morning that I could barely walk, I didn't know how I was going to ride again. But I showed up at the barn bright and early this morning (if you're wondering, 7:41 AM -- or better known as "suck o'clock") and tacked up my horse. It ended up being a good hodge podge of stuff today. We warmed up in the indoor barn, went out to the outside dressage ring for some more involved flat work and then back into the indoor barn for a bit of jumping. Ro set up a little bigger jump today (yeah, it was HUGE! All of about 2' -- LOL) and we jumped so nicely over it and I was able to ask Scottie for a nice big jump that I started to feel a little bit like my old self over the little fence, not so much just a passenger. I'm hoping this is a sign that I'm coming back.
Anyway, after all that, Ro sent me down this trail that runs through the property on my own to just hack. That was so nice, being out on a trail alone on a horse again on a beautiful Fall morning. I'm happy that she thinks I'm a good enough rider that she can trust me like that. Oh also, while I was riding at the beginning of the hour, she introduced me to a woman who boards a couple of horses there. Apparently she has a horse that is available for half lease, an "Appendix Quarter Horse". This is one of the newer terms in the riding world that I didn't know, but I think it means that the horse is half thoroughbred & half quarter horse. Anyway, she and Ro seemed to have an easy and comfortable friendship and I felt like I fit in pretty well. I like that I could maybe have some horsey friends at this place (there were a couple of adults at the other barn too who I felt that I could be friendly with. 1 or 2 in my lesson too). There are so many kids around all the time, that it's nice to know that there are also adults that I can relate to as well.
I had a riding lesson at a "new" barn today, one of the ones on my list that I really wanted to try before settling in somewhere. When I got there, I realized that this is a much more professional place. I knew that they have some presence in the eventing community so I kind of expected this. Anyway, I had a very tough lesson with two other people and it made me realize how far I have to go. It was weird though, I kept thinking about how much I suck, yet I seemed to actually be better at the harder stuff, than the easier. Just walking and trotting out I couldn't seem to get a very forward pace from my horse, had trouble collecting her and with the leg yield. Yet when it was time to do the complicated serpentine routine -- canter, circle, canter, loop, trot loop, canter loop on other lead, repeat, canter diagonal, switch direction & lead, canter circle and start the serpentine again ... I did very well. Even the instructor seemed happy with my performance. I was the last one to go too, so I watched everyone else wondering if I'd even be able to pull it off, but I did okay with that part, amazing myself a little bit.
So now I have a dilemma. I like BOTH barns (you saw that one coming, didn't you?) The first barn is more casual, more laid back. They let me school on my own, maybe I'll take a trail ride someday, I get along nicely with the barn owner and feel pretty comfortable already, etc. It's FUN there. Barn number two however probably can make me into the kind of rider that I want to be (again). They're nice there, but more formal, more structured. But the class was pretty hard and I didn't stop working the entire time. They are deep into the discipline of riding that I most admire (and most loved when I was younger) so I feel like I could learn so much there. So, I'm thinking that maybe I'll ride at both places for a while. The lessons are pretty reasonable really, so it's actually doable, at least for a while anyway. So I asked the instructor if I can come back for next weeks lesson and she is up for it. I asked if it was okay if I wasn't up to the level of the others and she made a kind of "you're crazy" face at me and told me that I was just fine for the level of the class. Oh also, they alternate weeks, one week flat work/dressage, the next week is jumping. This week was the dressage week which means that next week will be jumping -- ACK! She said not to worry, they'll start me off on some smaller fences. They sure don't waste much time around here. Before I started back with the riding, I just assumed it would be MONTHS or even longer before I had the opportunity to try jumping again, so this is pretty exciting for me.
So I think that's what I'm going to try and do now. I'm going to have my Friday barn and my Saturday barn. Maybe I'll eventually feel really strongly about one over the other and will just go 100% with that barn, but for now this is what I'm going to do. Of course, my life just got a little more complicated and busy, but this is the fun stuff. I'm so happy and so lucky that I get to have this in my life!
So, it was a crazy day as predicted and my meeting that I was concerned with ended up lasting two hours and fifteen minutes. TWO HOURS and FIFTEEN MINUTES. Gah! But it ended up being successful, even if completely aggravating. But after that I was pretty wiped out. Anyway, so later in the afternoon I touched base with "Ro" at the riding barn and confirmed that she still wanted me to come and ride Scottie. She said come on by and I was so happy to do so after the day I had.
Ahhhhh, it was so nice. It was really a perfect early Fall day. Cool and crisp with that long slanting sunlight you get at the end of the day. I just showed up, grabbed the horse, groomed him, tacked him up and took him down to the outdoor dressage ring, there was really no one else around. I had a wonderful time schooling him at various paces, but mostly at the canter, which Ro had told me he needs the most. Lots of circles and diagonals, etc. He doesn't seem to like to pick up the correct lead, so we worked on that a lot. He was also nice and perky with the fresh weather. It was great to be out all alone on a horse again, I didn't think I would have this chance so soon in my return to riding.
When I came back to the barn Ro was up there with some other people and so she asked me to ride him down to the pasture down the road, bareback! Yikes. That was interesting, hadn't done the bareback thing in more years than I can remember and so I felt pretty insecure, but it worked out okay in the end. Afterwards I got to stand on the back of the tractor for a ride back up to the barn. I just love country life!
I just wanted to add to my rant below that I really can't remember when I've been in this pissed off of a mood. And that really illustrates for me overall how I really am in a very good mood here most of the time.
Okay. So, there is this guy in my group who likes to take over meetings, pontificate, muck around in areas that are the responsibility of others. Basically likes to throw his weight around and try to impress people with his (supposed) superior knowledge. Let’s just call him Arrogant, Self-Important Windbag. Okay, so I am on this project that involves this product that I don’t know very well and I am trying to learn what I can. I don’t have a huge, huge role, but one of the things that I am going to be responsible for is code migration. The migration is a lengthy and multi-step process and so I have been scheduling some one-on-one working meetings with the developer to ensure that my comfort level is as high as possible. So today we are on the cusp of starting our migrations to production (previous migrations had been to QA) and yesterday I suddenly received a meeting acceptance to the working session from this guy on Arrogant, Self-Important Windbag’s team. I emailed the guy about it and finally, with reservations, figured that he’s okay to attend. I’m concerned about covering everything that needs to be covered, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. And now this morning first thing I suddenly received an acceptance to the meeting from Arrogant, Self-Important Windbag HIMSELF! I am sooooooo pissed! This is MY meeting (who forwarded him the invite anyway???). I did not invite him! He’ll just take it over and we’ll never end up covering all of the practical stuff that we need to get to. He’ll just question everything we’re doing and tell us his own arrogant, self-important windbag opinion of how every little step should be done because he, after all, has knowledge superior to all of the rest of us combined. Oh did I mention that I have another meeting directly behind this one, so the working session cannot go over in time! I. AM. SO. MAD.
There. I wish I could say that the rant made me feel better, but I’m still steaming.
I ended up having a relatively good workout week. This is how it ended up playing out:
Sunday: Rest Day Monday: Personal Training Evening Spinning Class Tuesday: 3.5-mile Trail Run Evening Core / Spin Class Wednesday: 3.0-mile Trail Run Evening Spinning class Thursday: 3.5-mile Trail Run Friday: Personal Training Saturday: 1-Hour of Horseback Riding
As I mentioned yesterday, I have a crazy week coming up. Hopefully I'll stand up to it all.
In a way today was my reward day. First the massage and then I had an afternoon riding lesson. I have a friend, Tom, from NYC who is up visiting this weekend, so I dragged him with me to the barn. We got there and one of the barn girls showed me the lesson board and called down on the intercom to "Ro" to let her know that I was there and to find out what she wanted me to do. She asked to speak to me over the intercom and then she said, "Deb? You're really advanced." (uh, I am?) "have your jumped before?" "Sure, plenty of jumping. Like, 22 years ago." "You're going to do some jumping today." Uh, okay. Yikes. Anyway, she wanted me to ride this young pony (hey, I'm SHORT!) who is very nice, has some great potential, but still is a little green and needs a strong rider.
We did all the warm up stuff and then started working on the canter. The pony, "Scottie" apparently hadn't been ridden a lot lately and we really ended up more at a gallop most of the time (which was A-okay with me). Ro had me just go with it and ride it out in a 2-point position (which is basically up out of the saddle, a little easier to ride out that 4-beat gait). So it was so much great fun to go galloping around, especially since it had been so long since I have been able to do this, but damn. I had forgotten what hard work it can be. I was huffing & puffing and sweating like crazy. It's really much more of a workout than most people realize. After all that she put Tom to work (poor Tom) and had him help her set up a simple "gymnastic" -- series of small jumps with a slightly bigger jump at the end. The horse is meant to just bounce through the line. And so I got to jumping! It was great to be able to do it again. My form sucked, I'm really all over the place, but I felt that old rush a little bit again and felt that this is something that I probably will be able to do again with some amount of competence.
All during this lesson Ro kept talking to me about this small schooling horse show happening next weekend, trying to talk me into riding Scottie for her in the show. Gah! I'm sure I haven't shown in 30 years! I'm also embarrassed, I don't feel like I'm near enough ready and lastly, I don't have any formal riding clothes (just a couple pairs of schooling tights, a hard hat, paddock boots and gloves). She said that it is totally informal, no one dresses up and that she feels that I'm doing great. She said, 22 years since being on a horse and that I looked like I had been riding all along, completely natural. I wish I felt the same. She wants to put me in a hunter jump class, I think 2'6" fences, so nothing too scary. But I really just bounced over a few small bumps today, and rather sloppily too, so I don't know if I'm really ready for that yet. Or maybe I'm being a big baby about it, I don't know.
She also said that she doesn't have anyone to really ride Scottie at the moment and that he needs to be schooled and conditioned. She asked if there is a day or two that I can come during the week to ride him. She also asked if I would like to take a trail ride with her some day (hell, YES!) that Scottie really needs to be galloped out. She also kept mentioning that there is a horse (Romeo) that she really wants to put me up on, not sure what Romeo's deal is, but maybe I'll see one day.
So she is hot for me to ride in this show. I don't know what to do. I know most would say, "do it, it's fun". And it is. But first, I used to be pretty competitive on a horse, it's going to piss me off a lot that my form sucks and that I'm not ready for this. Also, Sunday has kind of turned into my relax day, so that will be a day that I don't get to recharge. Lastly, I wonder and suspect if most of the participants at this schooling show will be kids. I really don't want to be the only adult riding at a kids' show -- GAH! So I don't know.
I have a lot of stuff on deck for next week, particularly riding! I'm almost freaking out a little bit about it. Let's review, shall we:
Monday starts off with a face-to-face 3-hour meeting that begins at 8 AM (I just had to mention that because ... Monday morning. 8 AM. 3-hours. Face-to-face. Hello? How horrible is that?) Anyway, I also have a personal training session scheduled and a spinning class in the evening.
Tuesday -- Running & Core / Spin
Wednesday -- Running* & Spinning (* I think I might actually have a dentist appointment, I have to check my schedule, so I may miss a running day this week).
Thursday -- Running & riding after work.
Friday -- Personal training & riding after work (2nd barn that I'm trying out).
Saturday -- AM Spinning class & afternoon riding lesson.
Sunday -- Maybe a horse show.
Wow. I'm tired already. So I don't know what to do about the show, but I have to tell her this week (of course). Geez, one riding lesson and I'm suddenly completely immersed in a horsey life. I suppose if I could really ride 3-4 times a week that I'd be in riding shape in a heartbeat.