Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dog Pictures from the Snow Storm of New Years Eve: 2008

Lola & Fitz are wearing their new Christmas coats in some of the pictures. Tig is supposed to be getting one too, but the size he needs is on back-order.


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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008: The Year in Review

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.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Catching-Up (yet again)


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.

Real Estate

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.

Bareback Puissaince

This is incredible. Take close note, these riders are jumping ... bareback. Amazing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another "WTF???" Moment

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.