Thursday, January 28, 2010

January: Get More Energy!

My book came today, the one I've been talking so much about, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. So far, it's way, way, way better than I expected.

First, I was happy to see, it wasn't a self-help book--it's a MEMOIR!! Second, she's like me--someone who is already happy, but wants to appreciate things more, have more energy to do the things she's already doing--pursue her passions, and be more focused and productive. She knows that life brings challenges--tragedies--and she wants to be prepared for them. Also, she wants to live her life fully, not half-way.

The first chapter is January, and it's about ENERGY--physical energy and mental energy because if we're going to spend a year revamping our lives, we need to have some. She talks about things she did to get it--exercise, getting to bed earlier (preparing for sleep earlier), and decluttering her house.

She inspired me, so here are my ideas and my own personal list for creating more energy in my life:

1. Exercise--walk AT LEAST ten minutes every day so that I don't get out of the habit, but preferably much more. (She wore a $20 pedometer to see how many steps she was taking a day--hoping she'd taken at least 10,000--she barely took 3,000)

2. Drink more water!!

3. Live each day with a purpose--have a daily goal and a list of how I'm going to get there and not get side-tracked. For example, I started this morning by making my list. One of the things on it was to finish an essay I'd been working on before I did anything else. I was tempted to do other things, but followed my own instructions and stayed put until it was finished. Now I'm done and just the thought that it's not hanging over my head has given me lots of energy. Which brings me to number 4--

4. Inertia--objects in motion stay in motion--so I have to keep going.

5. Declutter by bedroom, my barn and my trailer's tack room. I love her names for the different kind of clutter: freebie clutter, nostalgic clutter, bargain clutter, buyer's remorse clutter, aspirational clutter --and on and on.

My hope is that I have more energy this year to reach all of my goals--more time with my children, extended family and my horses, riding my 4 year old C'ya more, getting Beautiful used to a saddle, training for Fun Days with Cowboy, attending my friends' barrel racing competitions, fencing the pastures, gardening, keeping my barn organized (after I declutter) and piano practice and writing.

If you were to make an ENERGY list, what would it look like--or do you already have plenty of it? Some people just come by it naturally, but I can be a little too laid back. Are you one of those Type A, driven women? Maybe you're making a list about how to slow down!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dogs: A Great Reason to be Happy!

I appreciated your feedback on happiness the other day. My book still hasn't arrived, but you did get me thinking about all I have to celebrate! I'm making a happiness list. (I wonder if the book will tell me to do that.)

This will be a pretty large list, to be sure, but I'm only going to blog a couple of things on it--exactly two of the things on it--my dogs.

When God made dogs, he must have totally been thinking of humans. You will love them no matter what, you will look to them as your gods, you will die for them, if need be. Then, I can imagine, he looked to humans and said, You probably don't deserve this, but I'm giving it to you anyway--the love of a dog.

There was a homeless man I ran into on a trail ride last year who had five dogs with him--all healthy and happy--but, apparently, they didn't like horses since they came after ours. Still, it made me think, you could have nothing and nobody in the world and still have the love of a dog (or five).

My two dogs are girls--Elsa, who is thirteen and very old now, and Maggie, my four year old lab. Both are very special.

Elsa is not pretty anymore. We shaved her last summer and much of her hair didn't grow back. She also has a big fatty tumor on her chest that we won't have removed since it would be too hard on her. She was hit by a truck when she was young and out on an adventure (bad girl!) and it displaced her hip, so she has a hard time walking around. All and all, she's pretty rough.

Yet, with all that, she still tries to follow me out to the barn, she follows me up and down the stairs (once she knows I'm going to be in a place for a while so she can lie down and rest when she gets there) and she ALWAYS sits under my piano whenever I play--right by the pedals. I could look my whole life and not find love like that anywhere.

I see Elsa as she is now, but I also see her as the puppy I brought home who slept next to my bed each night, my hand dangling down in her box to comfort her so she could sleep.

Speaking of puppies--here's other girl--

Maggie, our sweet Lab, I chose her from my sister's litter on the day she was born. She came into the world fully trained and just wanting love. I kid you not, Maggie had no issues in life--she has always wanted to be the Omega. Not an Omega in the cowering and frightened sense you sometimes see, but in a deeply humble and respectful way. No matter what age child comes into our home, Maggie will always be gentle.

Whenever I leave the house in the car, I look up to the window in the dining room, and there is Maggie with her head on the sill, eyes drooping. I know she doesn't understand why I'd ever want to leave the house. For the first couple years of her life, she used to get so depressed when I'd get my keys I started to think she had a sixth sense about something that might happen to me, and I almost didn't want to leave! Turns out, she's just sad.

She's young and has the energy Elsa does not, (see picture below!)so she's always with me when I ride around here on the horses or 4-wheeler. She's also Elsa's legs--Elsa will bark at the road and Maggie will run to the road. Lately though, Elsa's hearing is getting really bad and she barks at things that aren't there. Maggie still runs, but then she'll look around and see nothing and stop. At those moments she looks back at Elsa like she understands the sadness of aging.

I'm sure you'll all agree with me--dogs are a gift to us humans and a great reason to be happy in this world!

What dogs are dear to your hearts?

Monday, January 25, 2010

How Do You Find Happiness?

Here are some photos for today. It was snowing this morning, and the flakes were huge. They were like snowballs or snow-blankets--more precisely, as my husband described: wet snow, stuck together in clumps.

Totally off the subject of snow, (Or not), I've really been contemplating the idea of happiness lately because of a book I'm expecting in the mail called, The Happiness Project, which I saw on Joanne's blog, Whole Latte Life.

Here's a description from the website--The Happiness Project:

Gretchen Rubin is a best-selling writer whose new book, The Happiness Project, is an account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.

The reason it sounded good to me is because, after reading her interview, I was struck by her theory that you have to pursue happiness--it doesn't just come to you. Like everyone, I could be happier--so I'm interested in what she found out. I also want to teach it to my kids.

I'm a melancholy personality--which, according to Wikipedia is defined as such: A person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art - and can become occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist. They are often self-reliant and independent." I think that basically describes me, but I'm not a perfectionist, and I'm not always as considerate as I should be either.

As I wait for the book, which may be in the mailbox now, but I haven't checked yet--I'm trying to pick my own brain for what I know of happiness already. Have no doubt, I LOVE the kind of happiness that just happens to me without my having to do anything. However, if I'm really honest with myself, I think true happiness can only come from serving a cause greater than yourself.

So, I'm wondering--what causes do you all find near and dear to your hearts? Where do you find the most happiness? Are there any areas of need that you'd like to bring to our attention in the comments? If you have a moment, please share your thoughts!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's Your Story?

How have you changed since working with horses?

This is something I've been thinking about as I've contemplated the theme--writing and horses. I'm still in the middle of this book giveaway--two copies of Kiss Tomorrow Hello (drawing February 10th)--and I'm wondering what makes a good horse/human story.

Here's my list on how I've changed working with horses:

1. I talk to them less than I did. I've evolved toward quieter exchanges. Even in the saddle, I cluck and kiss less--moving more toward physical cues than verbal ones.

2. I'm calmer when they start to get excited. I'm with them so often, I have a pretty good idea of what sets them off and how they'll react. If I stay quiet, it helps them to calm down.

3. I don't sweat about how good they look day to day. I know they clean up good when I want them to, other than that, they seem to like to be dirty, so I don't fight it.

4. I rarely use gadgets anymore. I have a few staples, and that's about it. Rope halter, lead, long line, long whip, saddle, spurs, etc. I buy a lot less, too.

How have I changed personally?

1. I'm more of a loner or more in need of my alone times. I think it's because my animals draw me toward home.

2. As a follow-up to number one--all of my friends anymore seem to be horse people. Most of my socializing is on the trail or, in winter, at the Cowgirl Coffee shop. We like to talk, horses. So, it's a self-limiting group.

3. I deleted three because I thought about it and it wasn't really true. Maybe I'm more honest with myself after working with horses. LOL.

4. More tuned into my natural environment. This is a BIG one. I used to be a person who did not key into the fine details of nature--horseback rides and seeing things from my horse's perspective, has made me hyper-sensitive to sounds, sights, smells, feelings--on the trail.

5. I'm more forgiving of myself. I don't know why this is--it could be because I'm getting older, but I also guess that it's because I spend so much time with animals, who, as you know, take you as you are that day--were you kind? Did you tend to them? Were you present?--it's rubbed off onto my own views of myself. Which could also be worded--"helped me overcome my fears"--since my greatest fear when I started working with horses again was that my failures defined me. It's been a rare gift to see the day through the eyes of the horse--you are who you are today. Good human beings are the ones who also see people like that--it shows humility and strength to take people where they're at right now and not hold grudges--grudges come from FEAR. (Since I had so much to write about number five, I think it's safe to assume that this is where my own horse/human story would begin.)

6. I have more patience for menial tasks. Think, groom horse, horse rolls in dirt--clean stall, horse messes in stall immediately. It's like dishes and laundry, but stinkier and messier.

These are just some thoughts--I'm sure I've changed in other ways, too.

I'm curious--how have you all changed? If you don't have horses--how have your opinions changed about them? Opinions of Mustangs? Thoughts about a life with horses?

Here are a few shots from the barn--as I sign off from the blog today (remember--every one of your comments is an entry in to the book giveaway):

My sweet horse-husband tolerating Ezzie on the 4-wheeler as he works on repairing the guttering that Beautiful ripped off the barn. (He's "allergic" to cats--though he seems much less allergic to barn cats who earn their living!)

Remember what I said about having more tolerance for menial tasks?

Good job on the guttering! Day 6 and it's still up, though I put my odds on Beautiful for pulling it down again.

Ezzie loves the wheel barrow--she insists on staying in it to the last moment--no matter what's being put in there!

The pond that formed in Beautiful's turnout.

Beautiful eating.

42 and Ezzy--"barn sisters"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Real Life Tales about Learning to Jump--Give Away

A few years ago, during a transition in my life, I returned to college to update my teaching credentials. My marriage was ending, and it appeared I would be going back into the work force. I hadn't been out of it too long, having most always at least worked part-time while playing tag team parenting with my husband. Part of being a teacher, however, is keeping up your credentials--taking classes the state mandates and earning credit beyond your degree. Stupid me, I'd let my certificate lapse.

So, back to school at the age of 33--feeling old (was I crazy??) and dowdy and out-of-place.

I only needed one class, a class on teaching Reading, but I figured since I'd be going anyway, I would also take classes for fun. Which reminds me of when I met with my college adviser in the 80's--eighteen years old and fresh out of high school. I thought when you went to college, no matter what degree you were pursuing, you could just go through the catalog and take whatever you wanted. I took my registration slip and wrote in Shakespeare, Dramatic Literature, Creative Writing: Poetry and Intro to Teaching. Ha ha. My adviser took his pen and crossed out all of the first three and left only the Intro class, adding other intros as well--Intro to Sociology, Principles of Elementary Math, etc. As I returned, a graduated adult, the same rules DID NOT apply. Whew--I filled in my wish-list.

So started my wonderful return to college. It wasn't long before the feeling of not belonging wore off. As an older, wiser student I was one of those who always does her homework and extra, knows all the answers, talks ad nauseum to the teachers--you know, one of those annoying ones. And, Of course, I loved my English classes and decided to keep going after getting the job of editor (a paid position) of our college newspaper.

I bring this up because, during my return to college, I had a wonderful Creative Writing teacher. A beautiful, strong horsewoman named Claire Davis. It appeared to me as a fearful, mother-of-three, divorce'--unsure of myself and what my place would be in the world, or if I could survive there, that she was the epitome of fearlessness, courage, intelligence, and creativity. She was a published writer, beloved teacher, and I was intimidated by her even as I studied everything about her.

Later, we'd become friends and we'd meet for rides along the Snake River at the edge of Hell's Canyon. She was an accomplished jumper by then and her horse, a young Connemara/Arab cross, dappled gray and athletic, was also at the top of his form.

It's hard to imagine that a woman like that had any fears of her own, then or before. How could she?

This is my introduction to a book I'm going to give away in a few weeks, Kiss Tomorrow Hello: Notes From the Midlife Underground by Twenty-Five Women Over Forty.

As we all discussed jumping the other day, I was reminded of her own real-life story, contained in this book, about learning to jump at fifty, falling off her horse during one of those jumps and breaking her hip, and in the journey back to wholeness, the process of moving forward despite falling and overcoming some of her other fears. (Yes, she had fears, too). The bonus is that the book contains many more wonderful stories, as well, by various women writers.

So, this is my winter give-away--as we pass time until our Spring trail rides--a copy of Kiss tomorrow Hello. I'll enter you once for every comment and draw a name on February 10th. I have two extra, so there will be two winners this time.

I should probably give you an update on the horses since I haven't mentioned them in a while. They're muddy. Very, very muddy. This year we've had little snow, but lots of rain, and it has made our turnout a swampy mess. I couldn't even get my wheelbarrow through it these last few days, so the barn is also a mess. Today, in fact, as soon as I post this blog entry, I'm heading out to the swamp to clean stalls and TRY, try, try to groom my horses.

It's warm, so they're feeling GOOD, despite the fact that they're mud-ugly. Do you think they care? Nah. No, they've been running around doing sliding stops and pirouettes and other Lipizzaner-stallion-type tricks.

Hope your barnyards are cleaner and drier than mine, and please take the time to say hello and tell us what's going on at your places, so I can put your name in for this book. You'll love it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is the Answer to Life Learning to Jump?

Raising kids can be a lot like gentling horses in that sometimes you get to road-blocks and don't know why. In my last post I referred to life being "hard"--I was referring to parenting. As our kids grow up, our relationships with them change--and that's difficult for me. So, how do you transition from parent to---well, whatever it is you are when your kids are adults? It's more than a friend, but what is it?

A lot of my New Year's resolutions this year revolve around my kids because, for the first time, I see the window of opportunity closing. When they get to be full-fledged, independent adults, will they want to be around me? Will they live close? Will they like me?

I've been a mom for twenty years now, so my instincts are fully kicked in for protecting my kids--but they're getting to the point where they can protect themselves--they're not quite there--but close.

I'm a hoverer--my Living Room window overlooks the pasture where my horses spend their day, my dogs are always at my feet, my cats are locked into their heated house every night before dark--I'm the one who wouldn't release Beautiful into the pasture with the others for a year!

A horse friend wrote to me once that I need to "take the jump". I never really knew exactly what she was referring to, but I think that's what Andrea's doing right now with her new job training horses.

I've been taking mini-jumps--both literally and figuratively. I've started jumping teeny jumps with Cowboy as I work on seat and form, and I've started up piano again, which is sort of a jump.

But it seems like life is pushing me to bigger and bigger jumps--letting go of old roles, finding new meaning, overcoming fears.

My riding friend loved to jump. She'd jump anything and everything--logs, creeks, cracks, burms, you name it. I'd always have my horse walk over them or around them. If he did jump, despite my asking him not to, I didn't like it. She'd go back and forth over things, once was never enough.

Though I'm only working on small jumps, I'm starting to understand her. It's a great feeling to land one, even over six inches. Your horse still has to put the power behind it, and you still have to sit right and keep looking forward, put your hands on their mane and let them go, and they get really excited afterward--it kind of wakes them up. that the same instruction for parenting? Point them in the right direction, grab mane, sit right, and let them go? Maybe I'm onto something with this whole jumping thing--maybe it's the answer to LIFE!

What do you think? Any jumping stories out there? Advice on parenting soon-to-be adults? I'll take all I can get!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's A New Year 2010

Life is hard.

I could end this post with that one sentence, and it's probably all I'd have to say.

Life is hard, life is hard, life is hard, hard, hard!

********Deep Breath**********

Pity party over. Time to make my New Year's Resolutions so that I can tackle the "HARD" problems life has delivered at my doorstep and be a stronger, wiser, humbler--survivor.

*******Deep Breath**********

My Ten New Year's Resolutions:

1. Spend as much time as I can--QUALITY TIME--with my kids...while I can, while I have this opportunity.

2. Love them, Love them, Love them.

3. Ride horses a lot with my daughter. Have hers saddled and ready to go (or at least ready to go) when she gets off the bus in the late-afternoon and ride over to the arena. More Spring rides, Summer rides, Fall rides.

4. Spend lots of time with all my family. I have two brothers and their families moving back to the area--I'm excited!!

5. Write--finish a couple of short stories I've been working on for a year--in the next month or two.

6. Continue Piano Lessons and expand my chording repertoire.

7. Explore a small business opportunity and see where it goes.

8. Go to more community theater plays.

9. Volunteer at a Nursing Home and play piano there so I can get over my stage fright!

10. Go out on more walks--I started walking on the treadmill and it usurped my daily walks outside--I miss them--they're good for the mind and soul.

How about everyone else? Any resolutions this year?

Good luck with all that in 2010!!

Here is a pictorial look back on 2009 here at Beautiful Mustang--

January '09

Spring Fever--the herd circles Beautiful--before she was released with them.

Tying lessons.

That's better.

First day with the herd--they're taunting her through their runs.

Official Adoption--Yay!

20 Tons of hay from Waitsburg, WA.

Shiloh and her horse, Cowgirl.

Shiloh and me.

Spring reflection--09.

Spring training.

Working with Beautiful.

Cowboy and me.