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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Of Convenient Fires and Hyena Women

Edit: Mel here. Below is a post by guest blogger, redgirl, describing the party I had with my family to celebrate getting into vet school...enjoy.

As you no doubt are fully aware by this time, Mel got into vet school. (I would post links to how you should know this, but I'm thinkin' the server couldn't handle of them. And if this is the first post for Mel's blog you're reading to get a feel for it, I'm sorry.)

I stumbled in the house that morning, and I knew things were only going to get better when I saw a bottle of Robert Mondavi Select Cabernet Sauvignon perching proudly in the middle of the island.

Of course at this point, I was already a little buzzed on cough syrup courtesy of a cold that hit me like a nonspecific ocean liner hits an iceberg.

As Mumsy and Melly sit and talk about (umm...don't remember, wasn't listening), I'll throw some history out.

My things have always been versions of Hamlet and Pride and Prejudice. I own several versions of P&P, and will hunt out bizarre versions of Hamlet to watch with the little sis. My mom's is Jane Eyre. And when a parent has an obsession liking in something like that, daughter will have an "interest" in it too.

My first was the 1996 William Hurt version. Me likey. Then she had me watch the George C. Scott version that was HER favorite. Then she found the Timothy Dalton (aka James Bond of the late 80s) version. It was FOUR HOURS LONG, people.

The plan today was to watch the William Hurt version followed by maybe a few scenes from the others to compare.


When one is watching a movie based out of English (although realistically probably Scottish) moors, one must join the on-screen characters in drinking tea, wearing warm clothes, and eating scones but calling them biscuits on occasion.

Tea? Check! Scones? Check! (lemon!) Inclement weather? Check! Start stirring your tea in a somewhat counter-clockwise fashion and let's get started.

Jane was apparently raised by Aunt Petunia, which would scare the living daylights out of just about anyone. Brocklehurst comes and they talk about going to hell which is apparently a burning pit of fire. Jane says she will avoid it by staying in good health. Brocklehurst is displeased.

They go to Lowood, a school for unfortunate random orphan girls where Jane has to break ice on the washbasin to wash her face. When they gather in their little dresses and dusters, Brocklehurst stands Anna Paquin *ahem* the young Jane Eyre on a stool and tells the school that they must shun her (a nice single word that wraps up his five minute speech) because, worse even than adultery (apparently by the way he's going on), she is a liar (gasp!). Tragic plot device Helen Burns befriends her anyway because Jane has to have someone to talk to so the movie isn't just descriptions of her feelings and narration.

I sit in anticipation of the hair chopping scene and sip some tea--genteelly.

Yup. Helen shouldn't have taken off her bonnet. But Jane will not stand by while her friend of a partial day gets her hair hacked off (because of the vanity to possess hair that curls naturally) and not Do Something About It! She decides to help by getting her hair chopped off too. 'Cause nothing looks more pitiful for a death scene than shorn 7-year-old girls.

Brother (how could he miss the party?): Those are some SHARP shears! (as Brocklehurst cuts through their hair with no trouble whatsoever)

Mom: I want scissors that sharp.

Helen passes gently away in the night due to consumption (um...I guess we'll go with that piece of fiction...), but only after she gets Jane to crawl into bed with her to "share warmth." Ha! Someone won't be doing their share by the time morning hits....just sayin'.

We see the graveyard and a long necked woman comes out. Who could this be?? Bless my soul, that teacher called her Jane! How time flies! Brocklehurst wants her to stay and teach, but Jane has a better head than THAT on her shoulder (more on heads and necks and shoulders later) and informs him that she has taken a post as a governess.

We get to see her riding in a carriage, and she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where passions take flight. Fairfax serves tea and comments about how nice it will be to have someone to talk to. Plot device Adele comes in, the annoying and vapid French ward of Rrrrroochester. Speculation flies. Adele begins to assert her annoying personality by immediately speaking in French without the help of subtitles (HA Melinda). We all collectively hope that her screen time is limited, but we know better.

Jane hears spooky laughter, and we are informed it is Grace Poole. Hisssss!

Adele the whiny doesn't want to do sums etc. because she sucks at them and Jane bribes her with teaching her artsy stuff and letting her dance if she's a good girl.

That night, for no reason whatsoever, Jane decides to stretch her legs by taking what appears in hindsight to be a 10 mile walk around the estate. She hears hoof beats, and we are beset upon by William Hurt aka Mr. Rochester galloping up on his horse with dog at his side. They pass Jane...and the horse slips and falls in the mud. He insults her mildly and they talk for a few minutes, R not mentioning his identity while Jane tells a strange man in a secluded area her life's history. He goes to get back on the horse....and this is where it starts to unravel.

You see, we realized it wasn't the same horse.

I realize films do this, and sometimes it's even a little blatant, but we had a suspicion they had switched horses not once, but twice. You got one horse for dashing about and falling, a horse to lay calmly on R, and then another horse for him to get atop of. Sacrilege! We actually rewound the tape to confirm our worst suspicions.

And I have to say, when your trust is betrayed that badly, the movie gets a lot less reverence.

Jane finally makes it back to the house, and is informed that the master Is Home. And he had an accident due to an idiot. They all sit while R tries to needle Jane. He remarks on her "tenacity of life" to have survived 10 ghastly years at Lowood, then makes her play the piano and insults her for said playing.

Another night, R is mean to Plot Device by not letting her dance for him. Jane's all "you can be rude to me, but you shouldn't be mean to a child!" R tells her about the bastard state of Plot Device and how vapid and ditzy her parents were too. Jane informs him that a child should not have to pay for their parent's mistakes. Go Jane!

The next day while chatting with Fairfax, we hear spooky hyena laughter. Jane clarifies it’s not just her hearing it, although we get the feeling that Fairfax would love nothing better than to blame it on Jane’s imagination. Jane meets Grace Poole (hisssss) randomly and is rude to her On Purpose. Grace makes menacing eyes at Jane and advises “If I were you, I’d be lockin’ my door every night before I went to bed” and looks at her like a deranged serial killer looks at the next prostitute on his murder list.

That night, Adele steals Jane's portfolio of art to bring to R like a cat brings a dead mouse. R accuses Jane of having copied a master and Jane gets all fiery and independent on him. They share a moment or two of swoon-worthy eye gazing. Any who don't know the story at this point in the movie are probably wondering why geezer and girl seem to have a thing for each other.

Us collectively: Awwwwww!!!

Jane awakens in the nights to a crazy hyena laugh, so she leaves her room and sees smoke. I guess this means her and R are pretty much across the hall from each other. R lies in a bed fully clothed and clutching a glass filled with something. Oh, and did I mention the bed hangings are on fire? Jane grabs a basin and tries to put the fire out. That doesn't work, so she grabs a vase, divests it of the flowers and flings the water in R's face.

Me: Yesss...I love that part!

Mom: Why did she waste time trying to put it out?

Brother: Can I make some bacon?

Mom: Sure

Brother: Yessss

R gives Jane his dressing robe and tells her to stay put. She does a little peering and sees him go into a strange door. Apparently they all live in the same wing of the house/castle/manor. Jane goes to bed thinking happy thoughts about the happy moment she shared with R. Which is why she's hurt and surprised to find that R rode out right after daybreak for a party. Good old Fairfax, fount of information! They're also changing the linens in R's room. "What happened?" Jane asks, actually putting on a decent act. "Oh, there was a fire." "Do you know how it started?" "Well dearie, R fell asleep with the candle on, bless him, and he caught a-fire. Luckily, he woke up in time to put it out." R a .... liar?

A few days later, the servants are all bustling around to get the house ready 'cause R is throwing a partaay to woo Blanche Ingram, who is likely after him for his money. But we don't know that yet. Jane doesn't want to go to go down that night, but Fairfax tells her that it was R's special intention that she do. Rochester manipulation WIN!

Jane goes and sits in the corner in her best black dress looking like a shadow while Plot Device is dressed as though she hopes someone will ask her to dance. Blanche flits and flirts around and starts making cruel comment about Jane and governesses in general in front her while R smiles and lets it happen. Rochester douchebag WIN!

Jane sneaks out and up the stairs, reminding me of The Sound of Music when Maria leaves the ball after some cutting comments by the baroness. She looks at her self in the mirror and comes to the conclusion that she is not as beautiful as Blanche, so What Was She Thinking? (But your neck is longer, Jane! No one can take that away from you!) The doors fly open and R comes out with his on version of "leaving so soon?" She won't look at him, and R says she looks depressed. Jane says she's just tired.

Mom: Tristan! How many pieces of bacon did you COOK?

Brother: Only 6 pieces!

Mel: That looks like more than 6. Can I have one?

Brother: It's MY bacon!

Me: Be quiet! I want my swoon moment and you're not taking it away from me!

Mom: There aren't a lot of them....

Melinda: Bacon! Want!

Brother: Stop trying to take my bacon!

Me: Aaaaaaaah!!

Mom: I'll make you some later!

Jane and R are holding hands on the romantic! A knock on the door: it's Mr. Mason, whom we Yet Know the Significance Of. R doesn't seem happy with his new guest, but would probably have to agree if asked that his beard was spectacular.

In the middle of the night, there is a mighty scream and everyone pops out of their doors. R blames it on a servant drinking some port, but drags Jane to the mysterious room with him. We see Mason on the bed, blood everywhere. He utters the magic words: "She...BIT me!" R doesn't allow questions though, so Jane remains in the dark.

Jane stays up pretty much all night while R finds a way to dispose of Mason…in the non violent way (unfortunately for our lovebirds). When the post comes though, Jane has to bust in the party, scandalizing Blanche with her audacity. R goes with her, and she asks for a leave of absence because her Aunt Petunia Reed is dying. He makes her promise that she is, actually, coming back and lets her go.

Aunty doesn’t recognize her when cute lawyer takes her in to see. She refuses to let Jane forgive her for being an imp of Satan all those years and directs Jane’s attention to the bureau. She tells Jane that in addition to being a starts with “b” and rhymes with “witch” all those years, she also told Jane’s uncle that Jane was dead. And said uncle had wanted to adopt her and leave her small mountain ranges of money. “Oh well,” says Jane, “that would have been nice, for sure” but she decides not to write to the uncle and tell him what really happened because it would mean calling her aunt a two-faced liar. Ah Jane, you are such a saint. We also find out from one of the servants that James, her “brother” died of (and I quote) “Bad Company” aka the final results of certain social diseases. That’s what happens when you bed hop, James.

Jane returns home to find the house agaga with thoughts of an impending wedding. R acts all surprised that she actually came back, but Jane slips back into routine. She gets a sad thinking about having to leave R’s smoldering looks and goes for a walk in the garden to think it over. R comes upon her there and starts up a touchy-feely conversation with Jane where he intimates that he’s going to go all matrimonial and Jane (obviously) thinks he means Blanche. R talks about finding her a position in Ireland with a house full of kids, don’t worry! Jane talks about not wanting to go so far away.

R agrees and talks about a string being attached to his heart and hers, and that if she goes so far away, he’s afraid it might snap. “Far away from what?” R asks. “From…stuff.” She says getting all emotional. “From England, Thornfield, the people here…” “Get to the point!” says he. “From you!” she cries emotionally.

It is then revealed that it was all a ploy to get Jane to tell R she loves him because R is too much of a man and everything must be “ladies first.” Rochester manipulation WIN!

He asks her to marry, but she doesn’t want to be toyed with. (I want to be toyed with, please?) She finally believes him and they seal the wedding bell bargain with a long, nuzzling kiss.

With a new love in his life, R is a new man. He rushes about buying clothes for Jane. Fairfax tries to have a revealing conversation with Jane. All while trying not to reveal anything. She succeeds in insulting Jane, which does not achieve her desired effect. R talks about getting married and then leaving Thornfield…forever! Jane doesn’t seem too disturbed; despite the fact that she was a few pages previous so adamant about how she liked the place.

Forgetting to lock her door in anticipation of marital bliss, Jane goes to bed her last night as an impoverished single woman.

Or is it?

Egads! There’s someone else in the room! We see her in the mirror, but she’s wearing Jane’s wedding veil. Which really notches the creepy factor up for some reason.

Mel holds up mesh fingers, an invention by yours truly.

Me: Don’t be a sissy…you don’t actually see anything!

Mel: I don’t CARE

Open scene on the church, which is surprisingly empty for a supposedly wealthy and important man’s wedding. Oh well, it’s not like this is ominous or anything. Priesty boy does his “and if anyone knows of an impediment” speech and moves smoothly in for the recitation of vows, not leaving a poignant pause for anyone to say “I object!”

This doesn’t stop a random lawyer from walking in, removing his hat and saying “The marriage cannot go on. I declare an impediment.” (I would have used exclamation points, but I’m trying to be faithful to the movie.) R and Jane turn around. R doesn’t appear to like this development, and we realize that while we couldn’t see the woman’s face through the veil last night, we can see Jane’s perfectly well. Probably because it’s obviously not the same veil.

R yanks Jane back around—he wants to continue the marriage. The sissy priest refuses and Fairfax and an unidentified male member of the house stare transfixed at the unfolding events. Briggs (the lawyer) reads off some document alleging that R is married and we find out his middle name is Fairfax. Interesting….

R starts getting fed up and says about the alleged witness “Then produce him damn you!” Thereby offending the church by swearing on holy ground. Then Mr. Mason offends R when he steps in, looking ashamed at ruining R’s chance at polygamy.

R knows the show is over, but he wants the chance to tell his side of the story, so drags the wedding *party* to the mysterious room where we find Grace Poole (hisss?) We go inside the room to find a long-haired bedraggled woman standing in state at the mantle. We can tell she’s nuts because her face twitches but her eyes remain dead. R uses the words “violent lunacy” to describe her.

Melinda: In the book, she was running around on all fours like a hyena. They even called her a hyena. Where’s my hyena?

Brother: They know she likes fire. She likes burning things…why would they let her have her own fireplace? Idiots.

Bertha Mason Rochester looks a little too calm as she stands there, and R refers to Jane as a thing. “This is what I wished to have.” Bertha picks up a flaming club and gives a little crazy roar and rushes…well, it doesn’t really look like she has an objective with it. That’s probably why she’s crazy.

Brother: See? See?!

The men all jump her and Jane leaves. I’m personally offended by not getting to see the crazy laughing in action. Jane goes to her room and packs a small bag. R finds her and makes her admit that she loves him (again) and seems to be offering her the chance to be his…well, not his wife, so that would make her his concubine? Mistress? Personal shady lady? Jane’s not really down with sloppy seconds and makes for a carriage, never looking back. Thus, she does not see love-addled R riding madly after her on his horse.

But there are shouts in the distance! He turns to find smoke billowing up from his house/castle/manor. And where there’s smoke, there’s crazy hyena women. He runs off to save the day, but Bertha gets there first by pushing Grace Poole off of a high place (byebye, Grace). R, for some reason, actually wants Bertha to live through this, so makes an effort to save her. She foils him and jumps off aforementioned high place to her death. *splat* R receives a burning timber to the head and….cut to Jane.

We see her scrabbling at some random door and it turns out to belong to two women and their clergy-minded brother. She lives with them for a little while, and the sisters are determined to get their brother married off to her, since to all appearances, the town has no other women of marriageable age. He takes her to his secret school room project and tells her he hates his job. Which for a minister is really not cool. He says he wants to be a missionary in India, and wants her to come too…as his wife. Love is optional, but he thinks they can get by okay on respect. Jane says she’ll think about it, but we know that R is the only man for her.

One day, she’s at the house and hears a voice calling across the moor “Jane…JANE.” It’s R! She gets in a carriage and hot-wheels it over to Thornfield…which is a burnt out ruin! She gets the lowdown from a carriage driver who looks (and dresses) like a leprechaun. He lets her think R is dead for a few minutes, then tells her that he’s with Fairfax down in the gatehouse thing.

Fairfax looks excited to see her, now that Bad-Hair Bertha is dead, and we hear R calling for a drink from the next room. Fairfax tells us that he’s blind and has a limp from the “burning timber.” Jane goes in to give him the drink. “Who’s there?” he yells in frustrated anger. Jane lets him feel her up--her arm, neck and face that is—and they have a tearful, kissy reunion.

We get a lovely spoken epilogue as Jane and R stroll the verdant grounds of Thornfield. We find out that R slowly regained his sight so that “when he held our firstborn son in his arms, he could see that their eyes matched exactly.”

Melinda: Bacon time!

Now I need to explain something. The day previous, I had just discovered something called the Jane Austen Drinking Game, which I will be kind enough to post below for you:

Go watch it. I’ll wait.

Now, go read the rules:

That is how my brain was thinking for the entire first movie. The little brother, who I had of course indoctrinated, helped by saying “small dog! Small dog!” while I would mutter under my breath “piano forte.”

Once we started watching the second movie and the wine began to flow, Mom and Mel began identifying the rules of the Jane Eyre Drinking Game.

Tune in later for part 2

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interesting post

Just in case your brain didn't hurt enough from yesterday's post - here's another post that's extremely thought provoking:

I had a migraine last night, took the new fancy drug prescribed, but although it took away the pain, it left the rest of the symptoms, and today, I feel seriously hung over. So my brain DOES hurt and thus me responding to your wonderful comments on the "change" post gets to wait. :(

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do people change?

Edit - why is blogger taking out my paragraphs!!!!!????? SO annoying...

Do people really change throughout their life? Is it possible to change, truly change? Can change occur without a concentrated, focused effort on change, followed by constant diligence?

I’ve come to believe through both reading and observation (I know – all 26 years of it right?) that true character change either happens rarely or to no significant degree after a person turns 16 years old or so. The change that does occur after 16 is usually the result of a focused effort that can be extremely hard and painful for the individual.

This is a bit hard for me to internalize – after all I tend to be the eternal optimist. I make resolutions every new years, and intend to keep them. When I go to bed at night, I always *know* tomorrow will be a better day and just right for a fresh start. I love new beginnings. Having trouble with a certain diet? Or exercise regimen? No problem! Tomorrow….or the start of the week….or the start of a new month are all good excuses to re-resolve myself to the task at hand, to continue to mold myself and my life to what I want it to look like. The concept that true change in how I act and behave could be harder than me just willing it to be so, is....hard for me to swallow. But, I like consistency in what I believe, and thus it's impossible for me to believe that change is hard for everyone....except me. So, I need to take an honest look at myself and examine the question of change. Either change is not as hard as I think and not as rare in other people, OR I'm fooling myself to think that I can positively change myself without aboslute dedication.

The other day my SO and I checked out the off leash dog park in town and took both dogs. As I watched them run around, I realized that even with time and training, both dogs are still essentially what they were at 8 and 10 weeks of age. Yes, the rough edges have been taken off – Harley (GSD) is better behaved, not quite a whirling tornado – but she’s still an anxious dog who still finds it very hard to behave and can’t help testing and retesting the boundaries on a daily basis. Reed (Golden Retriever) started off as a naturally well behaved, laid back puppy, and now, 9 months later is still well behaved laid back adolescent, who seems to soak up training effortlessly. He was an easy puppy, and now he’s an easy dog.

Dogs don’t change. With consistent training, they can be better citizens – they become more obedient, but the nature of the dog doesn’t change.

I’m beginning to think horses don’t change radically either. Farley was a horse I could put a beginner on at 7 years of age. Farley at 12 is still a horse I could put a beginner on. (albeit she now has a LOT more buttons – but she’s still safe for one on a trail ride etc.). Minx (got her at 8) got better trained and stop trying to kill me on a daily basis, BUT she was NEVER going to be a beginner’s horse Farley is. Ever (For new readers, Minx died at 11 in April 2008). I know plenty of piss and vinegar geriatrics that were piss and vinegar youngsters. And most of those steady eddies I know that are 15, were steady eddies at 7 too. Not being a breeder or particularly interested in youngsters, I don’t know how much is applicable to horses under 5 or 6. But suffice to say, based on my experience, I would NOT purchase a horse that I wanted to be a “packer” in 7 years, if it wasn’t close to being a “packer” right now.

But again, training means a lot with horses. But can nurture override nature to a significant degree? In general I like 7 year olds as opposed to 3 year olds. Life experience will change a horse – but I think the base reaction, the personality, the nature of the horse doesn’t change. Change may be learned, obedient behavior – but the anxious horse is not likely to become your laid back one even when marinated in time. When looking at prospects, the hard part is sometimes differentiating between animals that have undesirable characteristics that are part of their character, from those that have had some bad training experiences that will likely be able to be “undone”. I think that we can be quick to blame nurture and “abuse” for some horses quirks that may or may not have developed, even under more ideal circumstances. For as many horses that can be pointed at that have “undesirable charactertics” because of adverse circumstances, so can we point to horses that seem to have escaped unscathed. (same with humans).

Back to the humans. The hardest thing about being successful (at anything, not just horses or endurance) is that to get that last iota from yourself, that will probably require significant change in YOURSELF. And we’ve just established that such change is difficult, and not probable. We can get by for a while with learned behaviors and obedience and habit and be successful……but sooner or later, if you want to “be the best”, you will either be naturally born and suited for a task, OR you will have to engage in some serious self reflection. And likely, you will have to practice constant diligence to make sure you don’t slip back into your old habits. Even harder if it’s a trait you consider a “character trait”. When it’s become so much a part of you, that it IS you. Change is possible – but it’s not easy.

I know several “sober alcoholics”. An alcoholic that has quit drinking seems to undergo a similar process as someone trying to affect a serious character change. It takes dedication, constant persistence, and it helps to have support and honesty from those around you.

What’s my real world application right now?

1. I don’t care what the puppy looks like, I want a specific temperament from the get go. One that will naturally want to go the direction that I’m planning for the dog’s lifestyle.

2. To prove to myself that it really is possible to change, I’m going to try and break one of my most longstanding and physically detrimental habits. Tearing my cuticles off. It looks bad (both when I’m ripping them off with my fingers and teeth, and the resulting appearance of my fingers) and it leaves open wounds/blood on my fingers that could harbor infection. Under stress the habit gets worse, and I’ll be experiencing a lot of stress in vet school. I know it sounds trivial, but I can’t imagine not tearing off flaps of hanging skin etc. on my hands. Not doing it is going to be extremely difficult. In the beginning I can rely on probs such as bandaids etc, but eventually I will have to just let my fingers alone. This is beyond a bad habit that will take the 14-21 days to "break myself of". It is part of who I am. If I can do this, then I will tackle something else that could be more of a "character trait" than "really really really bad, ingrained habit.

3. In my relationships with other people, accept that they will not significantly change. Accept that or move on. On that same thread, don’t give any unasked for advice – even though it may seem “life altering” from my perspective, chances are it will be lost on them and that energy is better spent affecting character change in myself for the better.

4. Chose my horses carefully. Like my dog, make sure they are suited to my chosen sport. I’m going to make mistakes, so make sure it’s a horse with a personality that forgives. Understand that whatever personality they come with , they will probably keep.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of nature. You don't always start with a blank slate. Minimizing and maximizing is easier than eliminating or creating.

Obviously I don't have all the answers to my questions and philosophical ramblings. I've taken a lot of psychology, I've read a lot, I've seen a lot of studies. I listened to a LOT of ancedotals (can't spell this word, and spell checker isn't picking it up - sorry). I can think of ancedotals that support both conclusions - especially in the horse world. Unfortunately, although ancedotals carry the most emotional weight, I'm not sure how much they actually contribute to furthing my understanding or opinions. I didn't mean for this post to turn into "nature vs. nurture", but it was inevitable as the topic marched on. I would love to hear your thoughts on change - whether it be in humans, dogs, or horses (or anything else for that matter).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Status Change

It’s been over 4 weeks since I’ve been on Farley’s back.

I have to admit I don’t miss it.

I can remember in the past when I was ITCHING to get back into the saddle. To rehab the horse as fast as possible.

I’m not sure exactly what has changed.

…It might be that achieving my riding goals has been put into perspective of my horse’s long term health.

…It might be that I finally understand what putting my horse’s welfare first means and so have lost the desire to continually push what I and my horse are capable of.

…It might be that I’ve achieved most of my short-term riding goals.

…It might be that during this life transition, my mind simply can’t contain anything beyond the immediate life issues.

…It might be that I’ve been due for an extended break from riding for a while …It might be that in my “old” (*ducking to avoid the rotten tomatoes*) age I’ve finally achieved the virtues of patience and perspective.

Whatever the root cause, I have zero desire to ride right now. I am simply happy hand walking. I’m not counting the days until we can start walking under saddle. I’m fully prepared to take a year to slowly bring her back – and I’m looking forward to doing it. I feel no pressure to hurry the process along.

One factor may be that I’m more connected to the endurance community now – through this blog and other internet resources. I don’t feel as if by not going to rides I’m completely cut off from my one “socialization” activity. We will still have conversations about riding and horses and endurance….and I’ll have plenty of time to reflect how I want to approach conditioning this go’round.

I don’t particularly feel like taking lessons – but as I don’t feel particularly motivated to ANY thing right now, other than activities that physically move me closer to my new life (such as packing and moving), I don’t take that as a sign I should discontinue lessons. In fact, taking lessons right now is probably one of the most important things I can do - for my riding right now, and my future riding. Lessons will not be reality again for a long time. Farley will not be ready for regular schooling for at least another 3-6 months, long after I need to discontinue lessons. It’s important to “bank” some “correct” riding right now, on a very fun, capable horse.

One thing I’ve realized is that my love of riding is disconnected from the love of the horse as an animal, and from Farley. I don’t particularly care that I can’t ride Farley right now. I just like having her, and spending time with her. She makes me happy, even though she doesn’t have a job right now. These down times always make me reevaluate whether my love of the equestrian nature is a love of riding, or a love of horses. I think that as much as I enjoy riding, my love of horses trumps riding or any other specific equestrian activity. I’m not particularly anxious to ride, I’m not so desperate that I’m begging rides from my friends or even feel a particular desire to ride someone else’s horse. In fact, I would prefer to just wait to ride until Farley ready for a rider again. That’s not to say I won’t get on another horse for a specific purpose (for example, staying in lessons), but I’m not inclined to jump on a horse “just to ride”.

Of course, it’s only been 4 weeks. We shall see what tune I’m singing after 4 months…..

A Jane Eyre Party

How I celebrated...... Mom has posted the first part of likely multiple posts on how we celebrated my getting into vet school. Check it out here.

The best part? It had nothing to do with animals, me talking about my future, or anyone asking me questions about it. I've invited redgirl to write a guest post on the event - here's the shortened version of the celebration.

"Jane Eyre Party".

**Start at 9am. During movie #1, drink tea, eat scones with lemon curd. Continuously complain about the lack of accuracy according to the book, and critique the choice of actors.

**During movie #2, drink a bottle of very nice wine. Continue to complain, except now you have a previous movie to compare it to.

**During movie #3, eat popcorn, attempt to sober up. Movie critiques have progressed to the audience shouting out commentary in relation to the 2 previous movies - "compared himself to a india rubber ball CHECK", "Conversation about ward CHECK", "Standing on the stool CHECK".

**At 4pm, drag yourself home and find yourself about to make a funny comment about a commercial, only to realize it's Jane Eyre related and the SO, who did not attend the party, isn't going to get it at ALL.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Camping - part 2

Yeah yeah yeah. I’m finally getting around to a real post, and continuing my series. You know, things like VET SCHOOL seem to get in the way with mundane things like….posting anything at all relevant to the actual stated subject of the blog…..

But first…..some updates.

Farley is in week 4 of her rehab. The medications are done, the wrapping is finished, and now she’s to just hang out and heal herself. She’s quiet in turnout so she’s in a largish pen by herself – with my vets approval. It’s a fine line between a horse given too much freedom that the healing process is set back (or they don’t ever heal as well because of continual reinjury), and keeping movement restricted but having to deal with a slightly maniac horse that also might reinjure. In Farley’s case, there’s less risk of her being in a bigger area, than keeping her sedated in a smaller pen. When it’s raining, she’s up in a small pen and gets handwalked (except for days like yesterday when she decided I was insane for trying to handwalk in the rain and wind and INSISTED she go back to the barn). There’s more to my decision besides what I’ve explained here, so if you are reading this and trying to make a decision for rehabbing your own horse, please realize this isn’t the whole story and you need to discuss your options with your vet.

At this point I’m doubting that the lameness was due to suspensory damage. Part of the initial block showed up as white in the ultrasound and obscured part of the deep digital flexor. I believe that is where the problem is. The lameness presents itself so atypically for a suspensory injury, what was seen on the ultrasound didn’t match what was being seen in the lameness exam, except for the nerve block, and now, 3-4 weeks out I can feel definite thickening of the deep digital flexor.

The bottom line is that the treatment is the same for both, with the suspensory being perhaps more conservative. I *could* go back to get her reultrasounded. BUT, I’m not sure what that would gain me. I would be following the same treatment plan, I would be undermining my vet, and for what? My compromise is to take her back to have a recheck ultrasound in 8 weeks (rather than wait until 12 weeks), let him know that I’ve noticed the thickening and could we please check it out, as well as the suspensory?

Back to the scheduled topic – Endurance Camping!

Situation #2 – A 50 or an LD that you going to stay 2 nights (the night before and after the ride)

Priorities: Basic creature comforts that aren't going to take an eternity to set up and take down. Needs to be fast enough that I can get down to what really matters at these rides - socializing and having fun.

Choosing a spot: This when I start to get a bit picky. If it's going to be hot, I try to find some shade, I calculate the distance between my camp and the nearest water source, and I would like something resembling level.

Sleeping arrangements: 2 nights makes it worth it to set up a tent. I usually use a small backpacking tent, either inside my horse trailer if it's windy or the ground is rocky and unsuitable, or next to my rig with my door situated so that I can peek out and check the horse without getting up.

Cooking/eating: An ice chest is a must and I try to "prepare" as much as I can before hand - sanchwiches etc. I try to keep my heating needs to hot water only, but I've been known to scramble an egg or two for breakfast, and perhaps a hamburger the day before. I also don't insist that everything take place on the tailgate - I'll set up a camp table, a chair and bring my base camping kitchen kit- that has plates/bowels etc, along with a one burner butane stove. I mostly use paper so I can avoid having to set up a wash station and wash dishes, or use my backpacking mess kit that cleans up easily. I set up a water jug so that drinking water is always available (thus I'm more likely to drink it) on the table, along with snacks.

Clothing considerations: I bring 3 sets of clothes – one to arrive and leave in, one to sleep in the night before the ride and ride the next day, one to sleep in the night after the ride. It's sheer luxury to slip into a pair of comfy clothes that are clean and soft and that smell nice and then wiggle into your sleeping bag for a well deserved night of sleep. You'll want a good nights sleep before hitting the road in the morning so splurge on a extra set of clothes that you will sleep well in.

Weather: Weather starts to matter here. Too much rain and you are faced with having to set up a camp more elaborate (and requiring more effort) than I'm usually willing for a 1 day 50. But NOT spending that effort means that I'm uncomfortably cold and wet for a tad longer than I really happy bearing adverse conditions (2 nights). My compromise for inclement weather is to set up my tent inside the back of my trailer. Most 1-2 person tents set up perfectly in the back of a horse trailer. I've done the back of the trailer thing with and without a tent and I sleep much better and warmer inside of a tent (really mystifying as it's just a difference of a very thin layer of nylon).

Mel’s Must-Haves #2: (in addition to what I mention in #1)

Sleeping bag – For two nights I prefer a sleeping bag that's easy to set up and to pack away. My mummy bag fits the description perfectly.

Camp table - Those aluminum tables seem like a bit of a luxury.....after all couldn't you just use the tail gate, or the trailer, or the picnic bench, or.....I will tell you, that I find a table that I can put exactly where I want invaluable. I tend to end up with all sorts of small things I want to keep track of and have handy and I like putting them on the table so I know where they are at all times. The aluminum roll up tables don't rust, last forever, don't take up any more space than a camp chair, fast set up/take down, and clean up good. They are big enough for me to set up my small "kitchen" (one burner stove) and accessories, while still leaving ~half the table for my small objects that I want to keep handy. They do tend to be unstable, so I tend to set up the water jug on a more solid surface, such as my truck or trailer.

Camp chair - my favorite camp chair is from REI and sits low to the ground. Well, I should say "mine", as it's my boyfriends and I haven't actually gotten around to purchasing my own. I currently actually OWN a walmart camp chair. The REI one is so comfy, we actually use it as regular furniture in my boyfriends living room, and it's what I'm sitting in right now as I type this post. Hands down the best portable chair and I'll probably get one in the future, or beg for one as a xmas gift. I usually throw an extra chair in with my gear so that I can have a friend or two over to camp.

Tent - You don't have to buy a fancy tent - a simple 1-2 person walmart dome tent will be fine, and fits in the back of horse trailers! You will appreciate the easy set up and take down, and small tents tend to be easier and faster to take down and stuff into their bags. I recently bought a rei quarter dome 1 person tent - a tent I saved up for 2 years to buy and I adore it and it's been worth every penny during my backpacking trips. But before that, I used cheap tents and they worked just fine for this.

Camp stove. I really like my 1 burner butane stove, but I'm not sure whether I'll replace it with a propane one eventually. They both have their advantages. I find I rarely need 2 burners, and I appreciate the reduction in weight and space that a one burner offers.

Base camp kitchen - I set up a very basic "base camp kitchen" that fits inside of a duffel bag. It holds my stove, fuel, basic seasonings, paper service, a pot, a skillet, ziplock bags, cooking utensils, dishwashing stuff, and a few other odds and ends in a compact, organized way. Kitchen and cooking stuff can kind of get out of control and I find this to be very useful, especially for this type of ride - I like having the option to cook up something delicious, but don't want the trouble of having to bring totes of kitchen stuff. This is a nice way to keep the kitchen part of the ride simple, yet comfortable.

Conclusion: A few well chosen creature comforts can make these rides more enjoyable, without adding significantly to the amount of time spent setting up or taking down. I bought junk the first couple years I did this, but the quality pieces I spent time researching and deciding what I want I still use AND they bring me immense satisfaction and joy when I do. I would think about each piece of camping equipment that you want carefully.

Series continues in part 3 – Multi days

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This isn't a real post either

....Sorry. :)

There's a really sweet female in the litter that doesn't have enough color to meet the breed standard, so if the temperant fits, she might be going home with me, instead of a male.

With that in mind, if any of you over achievers would like to submit names that you thought too "girly" for a boy, feel free!

Totally OT

I have a REAL post coming, but in the meantime for those of you like like a little gore with your breakfast....I present:

A really disturbing slideshow

For some reason, the small pox picture is the one that made me cringe the most. Maybe because it used to be so common and it's a concrete example of what we have gained by living in the modern century?

Monday, March 21, 2011


I had a bottle of this last night as a (I hoped) sign of things to come. Looks like it worked!

PS - you can start sending me e-mails again :)

I'm in

I got accepted!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mel - UCD vet c/o 2015

Can't breathe, can't hear because my heart is pounding outloud, and despretely trying not to cry. One of the most unforgetable days of my life.

UCD starting to send out acceptances

Someone on SDN got their acceptance e-mail, so it looks like the notifications have started.

I have not gotten anything yet. Please cross your fingers for me and send a prayer up to heaven.

Dear Lord I hope to hear today. I cannot possibly wait until the 31st. Amen.

EDIT - if you guys want to e-mail me, please use my address. The UCD letter should be coming to the other addy and everytime I see a new message, my heart stops. Using Buzz is OK - it's going to a different inbox.

Pasture of regrets

Today is the FIRST official day that I could be notified of vet school. They (meaning the admissions committee) do not always follow their rules, and last years class was notified early, hence the slightly maniac Melinda on Friday…..but no word on Friday, so we (meaning the applicants) have settled in for the long haul.

TODAY could be the day. Of course, the DAY could be any of the next TEN days, but still – TODAY could be the day.

I’m about to start putting a moratorium on e-mail messages – how DARE there be new messages in my inbox on a regular basis that do NOT start: You have been accepted. Do you know how my heart jumps when I see a new message?

Back to focusing on…something besides school. And e-mail. And SDN boards.

For today’s topic, it is a rather dreary topic. Just warnin’ you. First, read this:

I think that endurance has graveyeards. I think, with very few exceptions, that you aren’t a “real” endurance rider until you’ve made a mistake that results in injury, or at least ultimately a shorter career, for an endurance horse. I think if you talk to endurance riders who have many many years and miles in the sport, MOST of them will have a story of a horse that they have regrets associated with. An injury they missed. A horse that was pushed too hard. And until that happens, I’m not sure that a person can really understand the implications of the sport for their horse, the risks associated, and why welfare is paramount.

I think it’s rare that a person can really empathize with a situation they haven’t personally experienced. I know that I will try and comfort people in the midst of something hard, and later, when it happens to me I think – “WOW! THIS is what it feels like!”.

It’s true that sometimes, “things happen”. But even when the injury or mishap isn’t fully the riders “fault”, I think in every situation (less a very very few) there is a kernel of rider mistake.

I *thought* I understood what putting the welfare of my horse first meant and felt like. Until my horse got injured. Then I knew. Really REALLY REALLY knew. And each time I make a mistake – even a minor one – that ends up with consequences such as a pull, or as innocuous as a “look” in the eye after a ride I don’t like, it reinforces the concept on an emotional level that is very hard to duplicate without the “real world” experience.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve tried to learn through others mistakes without making the same, and in some cases I’ve made the mistake and have had to live it. Without a doubt, the mistakes I’ve lived are part of my heart. The mistakes I’ve watched live in my head. Both are motivating, but only one lives in my emotional conscious.

May you never make a mistake with a horse that you regret. But it’s not easy, and odds are eventually you will. In the meantime, try to recognize that before you ARE on this side of the fence (ie having to live with a mistake), that it is EXTREMELY difficult to predict what you will feel or think once you are here. I can remember being sympathetic but judging other riders in my mind (if only they had….it could have been prevented if…) as they dealt with lameness or other troubles. I thought I understood what it would feel like because I have an imagination, and I loved my horse. Not so much….

What do you think? Do you have a “pasture” of regrets that guide your endurance/horse choices today?

I think beating yourself up regulary because of regrets and guilt isn't healthy, but I also no that having regrets makes it easier for me to choose to do the right thing in the future.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Solstice Saddle for Sale - price reduced 4/19/11

UPDATE 2/17/12 - the saddle has been sold - thanks for your interest.

UPDATED 4/19/11 - Price reduced

I've decided to post my endurance saddle for sale. There are a couple of reasons, none of which have anything to do with how much I like the saddle. I'm very happy with it, but in reality I will not do serious endurance for at least 4 years, a Frank Baines enduro would fit Farley better, and Solstices ARE commercially available and I should be able to replace if I want another one - I do not want to risk it sitting unused for 4 years, ignored. For the amount of riding we will be doing, including a 50 here and there, the wintec should do just fine for the next couple of years.

Here's the info:

  • Price: $900

  • 17" Wide tree Solstice made by the Arabian Saddle Company (Lovatt and Ricketts Saddle)

  • Wool serge panels (white/light color)

  • Flocking adjusted within past year, balance checked, etc.

  • Tree checked by a certified saddle fitter within past year (record available)

  • Short billets

  • The saddle is in good, used condition and has been cared for - cleaned regularly, oiled on a regular basis.

  • Contact me for serial number information

  • Saddle cover (for storage) included.

  • Saddle is located in central/northern california.

  • Contact:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ummm...I lied

Just one more. Couldn't resist -

The picture made me actually cringe. I vividly pictured myself doing this, immediately shuddered and tried to think of something else. I'm just not sure I have the cajones to actually do this to myself.

And one more....

I'm done with posts today! I swear!

I don't usually repost images, but this one so perfectly captured what life feels like so much of the time. Whether it's doing endurance in the midst of dressage riders and cutters, or applying to vet school and abandoning a perfectly good career.

"Go Your Own Road"

Here's the link to the blog I found it in:

Here's the link to the original site:

A helpful graph.....

I HAD to share a helpful graph from this article here .

Yes, she's talking about running, but you could either extrapolate to endurance riding!

I like it! Finally, an *impartial* guide to justify to our non-endurance friends why it's *perfectly* Ok that we are heading out onto the trail, even though we're not exactly the picture of health.....

Of course, there's always Funder's comment to consider: " You're not tough just because you can destroy your body faster than everybody else around you. "


URL here in case the link doesn't work:


I've been toying with the idea of starting a new blog for vet and vet school related stuff....but I think I'll probably not. I don't have the time to keep up more than one regular blog and the same reasoning applies to my blogs as my careers....I'm not going to be a horse vet because horses are my passion and my hobby. I'm not going to have a vet blog because my blog gets me away from work and stress and lets me use my brain in a different way.

That being said, I still want to post stuff that is quite decidedly non-horse/endurance related from time to time, so those posts will be designated "vet med". I'll also try to use tags for those posts so you can sort them in or out.

This is the first of those posts.

You may have seen wheels on a doxie....but what about a turtle?

Article here

URL in case the above doesn't work:

A bonus favorite

An item that could have easily gone into yesterday’s “favorite things” post I deliberately left out so that I could give it more attention.

On ridecamp a few months ago, Steph Teeter from asked for suggestions of what to include in a horse record for endurance – a training journal of sorts. My ears perked up – I like having training journals, and sometimes it isn’t possible to find something that accommodates all my needs and I end up making due. I put in my suggestions and waited to see if something came of her project. Thus when I saw the announcement that she was putting some up for sale, I got my order in right away!

I love the chance to support fellow endurance riders when they have innovative, useful projects so was very excited.

After some shipping problems (USPS’s fault), Steph sent me a second journal (excellent customer service) and it arrived yesterday (after still more problems with USPS….sigh).

I had expected the cute little cartoons and customizable pages, but didn’t expect a decorated binder!

At first I decided to just start with the month of March (the calendar pages are blank so that you can start whenever in the year you get the book), but I decided to go ahead an input everything from the first of the year so I would have everything in one spot. Everything that I track fit nicely into the journal.

I ordered the journal before 20MT and when Farley came up lame, I felt bad – I had bought this nice little journal to record our progress and now I was barely going to have any rides or miles this year! But then I considered that during rehab it’s more important than ever to keep good records and observations. I may not be racking up the miles in the little charts that are included, but the charts will help me keep on track and make sure we don’t too much too soon.
If you would like to chance to win one of these journals, Funder (It seemed like a good idea at the time….. – see my blog roll for the URL) is giving one away as part of a contest. The deadline to enter is THIS FRIDAY – as in TOMORROW. So head on over see if you can win one!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Favorite Things II

First some housekeeping

Part 2 of the camping series is in the works – I have a lot to post about lately, and I tend to do series when things get slow. I won’t forget about it, but I also want to use material that is time sensitive as it comes.

The naming game – I thought of a name that I really like last night that actually isn’t on the list. Yes it’s horsey and literary. So those of you who got into the game late and are looking at the list in despair – there IS still a name out there I’m seriously considering that’s not on the list, so keep submitting! If I do pick a name that isn’t on the list, everyone who entered names will be put into a random drawing to determine a winner.

Comment response – Lyme Beast – I wish I would have seen your comment earlier when I was at the coffee shop! I would have liked to have actually put a comment…but as I’m at work (shhhhh…don’t tell) I wanted to respond briefly. First off – I’ve personally known people with Lyme and vet school + lyme has got to be tough. I’m sure I will be even more in awe once I start (fingers crossed) vet school. Since I’m not IN vet school, I can’t comment on what will and wont’ work for me once I’m in school, however the commitments I shared at the end of the post have been one of the most successful techniques I’ve used so far to manage stress in my life so it will be interesting to see how they change and evolve as I deal with vet school. I’ve made a note to return to the post after spending 1-2 semesters in vet school and evaluate/discuss what is and is not working for me as stress-coping techniques (assuming my brain isn’t completely fried from the stress and I’m able to string words together for the blog still!). Even if this DOESN’T work in vet school, hopefully readers of the blog (the majority who are not going to vet school) find something useful there. Good luck on your test! (and no worries about being grumpy – have you seem some of my posts over the last year?????)

Vet school update – official notifications start Monday, although last year I hear they started finding out a couple of days early. Trying not to think about that, as I will be helplessly, compulsively checking my e-mail and getting even less done than usual.

Now onto my favorite things! (II)

Hummus – I used to think I didn’t like hummus. One evening, thinking I was getting a spoonful of peanut butter at my parents, I accidentally scooped into the hummus. It was awful. That taste of hummus, when I was expecting peanut butter stuck with me for a long time. Recently at a friend’s house I tried some and voila! I love it. I’ve stuck to that brand (original flavor) since I’m not sure I would like the rest of it, but I’ll be experimenting soon with homemade hummus as soon as I find tahini paste in the grocery store. My favorite uses are to use it in place of other condiments, such as mayo. For the 20 MT lunch check, my lunch was cheddar cheese, ham, and hummus wrapped in a tortilla. Yum!

Continuing with the food theme, I thought I would share one of my favorite, recently discovered, breakfast dishes! It’s a heavier breakfast, so I usually save it on the mornings I run, for a post run meal. It’s satisfying, without being overly heavy, and sneaks an extra serving of veggies into my day. First I make a bed of baby arugula. You can use spinach, but I find the texture and flavor of arugula tends to go down better in the mornings. I sprinkle hand crushed walnuts over the top, and then a sprinkling of cheese (usually jack, mozzarella, or parmesan). On top of that goes 1-2 sunny side eggs, and bacon. Then a splash of vinegar (I’ve been using a lot of a local balsamic lately), and a dusting of black pepper.

Evernote – I downloaded “Evernote” onto my itouch last weekend and was immediately intrigued. I lost my thumb drive a few months back and haven’t gotten around to replacing it. Without internet at home it’s a pain to try and get files from my work computer to my home computer to Matt’s computer, and have them on my ipod when I want to view them. In addition to files and pictures people send me that I want to keep, there’s the notes I constantly write to myself regarding the blog, the website, or upcoming trips. One feature I really like the ability to clip web pages into evernote. Thus, I can find a cool website on agility training or endurance and “clip” it to evernote, instead of bookmarking it on THAT computer, writing down the URL, or e-mailing it to myself, where it will sit in my inbox annoying me forever. There’s a couple of glitches so far – my Mac OS X system is too old to download it to the computer. So I must use the internet program. There’s a lot my itouch CAN’T do with the files in Evernote, such as take photos I’ve saved in Evernote and transfer them to the ipod picture folder to make them available for wall papers etc. (although this could be my ignorance as well). Another annoying thing is not being able to view my notes off line. I can add notes that will be viewable and any edits I make to exisiting notes will be viewable, but after they synchronize on a wifi connection, you can’t view the note unless you have a wifi connection. Apparently this feature (being able to view notes while not on line from the itouch or computer) is available if you use their subscription service. I might consider that, but because I can’t install evernote on my ancient tiger OSX system, the usefulness of this feature greatly diminishes until I get my new computer. Also, with the free version you are limited to the types of files that you can upload to evernote – again, something that goes away with the paid version. Pics upload no problem, any finished docs I import as pdf, and anything in progress I copy and paste as text, so for now it works. Bottom line – if you employ multiple devices and computers across several locations, consider looking into the program and seeing if it’s something that might work for you.

Fresh herbs – I’ve been considering seriously my food choices. I’ve been doing a good job with my “food as fuel” commitment – meaning that I recognize on a daily basis that how I FEEL is directly correlated into what EXACTLY goes into my body. I’m toying with the idea of going organic in several areas of my diet where I feel I could get the most bang for my buck and health – namely animal protein and fruits/vegetables. Since I’m moving into a HOUSE, I can also consider raising some of my own fruits and veggies and have taken the first step in potting some fresh herbs in my apartment. I must say I am LOVING having access to fresh herbs. It’s amazing the subtlety in flavor that is missed when using dried herbs. I’ve been making little pseudo pizzas (made on a corn tortilla) that are olive oil, garlic, plops of ricotta, with a liberal sprinkling of fresh rosemary, and I’m in LOVE. (and yes I fully recognize that I just described a junk food).

Coffee cup – A couple years ago on a road trip I bought a coffee cup at starbucks that I really liked. It lasted all of 2 weeks before it broke. I exchanged it for another, identical one. It broke again within a month. I decided it was a piece of crap and I wouldn’t replace it. Here’s the problem though – almost every week over the past 2 years, I find myself wishing I had that cup. One thing I like about it was it was clear. I LIKE clear mugs, because I drink a lot of tea and I like looking at the unique color each one have. It was 16 oz as opposed to my other covered coffee mug that is 12oz. It had a close/open top that was easy to use with one hand while biking, and it fits into the cup holder on the bike. “So what’s the issue?” you say, “go buy another one! Obviously you really liked it” Here’s the issue: all of starbucks cups are made in china. So every time I found one and flipped it over, there were the words “china” and I had to think. Did I like it well enough to buy it anyways? How committed was I to try and not make unnecessary purchases outside of US manufacture? I couldn’t even use the argument that it was superior quality as I knew darn well my last two were broke within 2 months. Finally yesterday, I found one at a local starbucks and I bought it. Made in China and all. And it was on sale. And they are discontinuing it. I’m planning on being really careful with it, and maybe it will last. And with every sip, I appreciate it more, because I waited for it. I can’t in good conscious recommend a Starbucks cup because of manufacture origin, but I CAN recommend that if you find something that you really like, you think about it and you wait on it – and still decide you want it, it feels glorious to indulge – even if it’s just a $7 coffee cup.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Puppy Pictures!

The males only are pictured.  The lucky pup that gets to be mine is one of these!  There are 4 males in this litter.
Because the breeder is some distance away, I'm more comfortable with her picking the puppy because I won't be there to observe the pups over the course of several visits.  She understands what I want temperant-wise and what the puppy's life is going to be, so should be able to make a good match. 
I can't help but wonder if it will be on the little black one, or the brown one with the row of spots down his back though......


Dealing with Stress

Excerpt posted by nelonvet at the Student Doctor Network:

"I’d like to offer advice if anyone cares…about what helped me get through the rigors of veterinary school. I strictly follow these things as they truly have helped me stay sane:

1.) Drink plenty of water (seriously)

2.) ALWAYS set a time to go to bed…even if I never finished studying fo ran exam…I didn’t care, bed time was 10:30 p.m. and I got up at 6…never missed that rule except once or twice due to some emergency issues.

3.) Always eat breakfast, always eat every meal of the day…always…always…there’s never an excuse of I had not time…you can always make time to eat during class.

4.) Hang out with friends

5.) Exercise****this one is key to feeling physically and mentally good…I used to take naps that helped me stay focused longer when I studied…I found out 30minutes of exercise is just as good at that and it gets me in good shape…double bonus!

6.) Don’t forget your friends na dfmaily wherever your’re from (if you came from far away)…always keep in touch once a week, it’s usch a relief to hear from them and talk to them.

7.) Skip some classess…yep.. I said it…you should be able to tell after the first exam fro each class whether its even worth your time (especially the morning classes) of going to the class o rnot. Like, this semester, I’m skipping literally half my classes (4 day weekend!!!) because the teachers are either so bad at presenting the information I learn it better myelf…or they just test right from the slides…no point in waking up early or going to school..i’m having a grand ‘ol time!

8.) Get all your essential amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals…you’ll need ‘em all!

9.) Join some clubs, it’ll help you connect

10.) Get a hobby totally unrelated to school…this one has really kept me going at tough time!"

Mel back in - There are many situations where this advice applies beyond vet school. This list looks suspiciously like one I would make for "how to get through an endurance ride". I think that making a plan BEFORE you embark on something designed to stretch you to your limits is key. Chose a few "commitments", put them in a visible place, and revisit them often. My four commitments that are written on my bathroom mirror are:

1. Food as fuel
2. Keep moving
3. Don't over commit
4. Adequate sleep
5. Devotions

They aren't goals or aspirations. They are commitments to how I want to live my life every single day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Naming Game

Due to yet MORE whining, apparently I need to divulge even MORE details before I can send you’all fabulous pics.

And really, what’s the point of holding back information except to be spiteful because I’m ignoring my wonderful PLAN. (Plan = posting pic of my darling puppy and saying something to the effect of “look what I’m expecting!”, or some such silly nonsense, and not releasing ANY details ‘til then).

Although to be absolutely truthful, I’m bad at keeping secrets. Really bad. When I buy xmas presents I want to give them to people RIGHT away. I have a bottle of port for my mom for Mother’s day and do you think I’m going to be able to wait until May? Ummm……it’s going home with my father this weekend when I see him at an event. So is it really a surprise that I couldn’t hold the details of the puppy back for one more second?

Puppy will most likely be a male. Breed is a Brittany (which I would like to point out are NOT spaniels). I’m not sure what color it will be. The mom has “orange-ish” patches, and the dad has chocolate/black patches.

The dog *might* hunt with my boyfriend, we *might* dabble in some agility, but above all will be a companion.

The rules of the naming game.

A list of updated names will be kept on a separate tab/page of the blog.
See my previous post for my preference in names.

In addition to black stallion references, I’m really fond of any classical literary nods.

All names for consideration must be submitted by April 24th.

I will decide on a name by May 1st.

There will be a prize.

If I can’t decide on a name, I will set up a poll. There will be consolation prizes if your name ends up in the poll but I don’t pick it. I might not go with the winner of popular vote. Just sayin’.

You can enter contest by commenting or e-mailing or Buzzing me.

Name *should* be distinct from “Harley” and “Reed”, the other two dogs of the household. But I’m not promising anything – after all Farley was an established member of the household when the (not my) decision was made that the German Shepherd HAD to be named “Harley”. So if I like the name, I’ll probably go with regardless!

Name can’t sound like a swear word: ie “bandit” – when screamed across a field under stress.

You can enter as many times as you would like.

I do have a list of names I came up with a couple of days ago (maybe 8 or 9). I'll wait to post any of those names until after 4/24/11 in case any of you come up with the same names - thus giving a reader credit. I don't think I'm in love with any of them (as evidenced by the fact I can't remember any of them a couple of days later), but who knows once the final list of names is compiled?

About half way through the contest I will go through the list and nix any that I'm not considering. That should give you'all a chance to submit additional names if you want to stay in the running if all your names get nixed.

The names do have to pass the "Matt stamp of approval" in some fashion.....After all he let me choose between two names for his new puppy and thus we avoided a dog named "Beamer" (thank goodness...)

An announcement

*clears throat*

It has come to my attention that some of my readers are being rather.....impatient.....(ummmm....Aarene....) waiting for the news I hinted at in an earlier post.

In fact, I'm rather nervous that my readers are going to start doing something perhaps starting to "dislike" my posts in Google Reader? That would be TERRIBLE. A tragedy really. The creative force has delicate feelings and too many negative thoughts might dry up this magical well that keeps spewing fabulous post ideas at me. (Listen to the "Help!" podcast of RadioLab and you'll get what I'm talking about). deference to the creative thingy that allows me to write inane post after inane post, I've decided to break the news early.

I'm getting a puppy!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes AareneX, a friendly, furry little puppy that I'll be able to throw at strangers lest they try and break into my house. Of course the ironic thing is that I'll be moving at the same time I get my puppy (which is why I can GET a puppy!) so it becomes a moot (mute?) point.

I WAS going to announce this when I got pics from the breeder this week (the pups were born 3/10/11), but instead you'all are going to have to rely on your imaginations 'cause there ain't no pics yet. Which is probably hard for you to do, not knowing the breed or anything. :)

The pup will be ~5 months old when I go to school in the fall, and will be able to travel regularly to school with me. There's a lot of good reasons to get a puppy now, although no time is perfect, but I'll leave my reasonings to another post.

Needless to say I'm very excited and a bit incredulous that *I* am getting a dog.

More details to come, along with pictures. There will *probably* be a naming contest. If you want to start getting your name ideas together, I tend to favor 2 syllable names that have a hard consonant sound, no "ee" sound at the end, and that have a black stallion theme (where to you think the names "minx", "farley", and "Alec" came from?). I'm historically horrible with names and the best ones always come from someone else. I had a black and white cat as a child named "Panchromatic" (Pan - for short), courtesy of my mother. I don't like names that I typically associate with people names ("James", for example is out). I'll need a name by May 1st - details (as is becoming a theme in this post) to be announced later.

Camping set up – Part 1

Daylight Savings time is here and the ride season in most parts of the country has truly began. Now is the perfect time to….plan your camping arrangements for the rides on your schedule this year!

I love camping. Absolutely adore it. In a good year, I will spend over 20 weekends a year in a sleeping bag doing some form of camping. It never gets old. How much of my love of endurance is linked to my love of camping and being outdoors? Probably more than I can admit. I many types of camping – from base camping at bluegrass festivals that has every camping luxury I care to set up, to doing civil war reenactments “campaign” style (meaning I sleep in my period uniform on the ground with only my period gum blanket, wool blanket, and poncho). I could go on and on and on….and on about gear and the different ways to set up camping systems, until it was just me sitting here typing, and no one reading. So for the sake of my readers’ attention spans, I’m limiting my scope to endurance riding only – not backpacking, base camping, or parking lot camping….

I want to focus on the human side – most people have their minds made up on the horse portion of the equation. My personal preference is a high tie, either on a trailer or other structure. I believe this is the safest and most secure for both the horse on the confinement system, and the other horses in ridecamp. However, I’ll leave that discussion for another post.

I’m assuming you don’t have a LQ or a camper. Someday I’ll have a camper with a small little 2 horse aluminum trailer, but right now I’m an almost-college-student-living-on-loans. So we’ll do it the old fashion way.

***Please note that I’m putting these “situations” in order of complexity, not preference. Thus, situation 1 is “ride and leave”, not something I normally recommend or do, however I have done it when ride camp is generally unsuitable for non-LQ camping, and the ride is 20 minutes from home, or in cases that staying the night after the ride is not allowed.

Situation #1 – Local ride, stay one night and go home right after ride.

Priorities: quick set up and take down, enough sleep that I can still ride and then drive home afterwards.

Choosing a spot: Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. You aren’t here to set up any kind of residence. Try to get a spot that puts your vehicle somewhat level – you will sleep better. If you can wiggle your way next to a picnic table or some other amenity – even better – since you didn’t pack one (or, if you ignored my advice and decided you could NOT live without your table, now you don’t have to unpack it! Which means you don’t have to re-pack it after the ride!).

Sleeping arrangements: I rarely set up a tent or other dwelling for a one night stay. It’s not worth the effort to put up, and the LAST thing I want to do is take down a tent after I ride or try to pack up a dressing room. My dressing room is my tack room and I have to remove stuff to make room for my bedroll and it makes clean up after a hassle. Sleeping in the back of the truck bed is great during hot summer nights, BUT I have yet to stay warm – even in the summer. I get cold easy. Every time I’ve tried sleeping in the truck bed, I didn’t sleep well and ended up staggering around at 1am trying to find something different. What works best is sleeping in my cab. This is especially nice because there’s a built in heater – when I get cold I reach over and turn on the ignition (I DON’T have a diesel, so I don’t wake the neighbors). I’m 5’1” or 5’2” and I fit perfectly across the cab of my standard cab pickup. I usually don’t pack my bed roll after the ride – just kind of mash it into a lump and put in the passenger seat until I get home to sort everything out.

Cooking/eating: I only bring stuff that doesn’t need to be cooked or heated. If I simply can’t stand the thought of going without a hot drink the morning, I will bring my backpacking stove and pot to boil water in – but that’s IT. No set up, no clean up, no extra gear. There’s plenty of options in the finger food category to keep you satisfied for the 24 hours you will spend at ridecamp. Sometimes I don’t even bring an ice chest. Especially if it’s a cool ride, I bring stuff that is shelf stable for a couple of days in cool weather and don’t worry about the added hassle of an ice chest – hard cheese, eggs etc.. Try to avoid having to bring flatware or cutlery.

Shower/cleaniness: If you can’t go 24 hours without a shower, you are in the wrong sport.

Set up: Don’t unload anything that you don’t absolutely have to. I attempt to leave EVERYTHING in my trailer or in the bed of my truck. If you need a table, use your tailgate or stand at the passenger side of your vehicle. Want to sit down? That’s why you brought all those buckets – your horse has plenty and won’t mind if you borrow one for a couple of minutes.

Clothing considerations: I bring 2 sets of clothes – one to arrive and leave in, the other to sleep and ride in. That’s it. You can get away with one set….but it’s kind of risky…..all sorts of untoward things can happen when the endurance gremlins realize you have ONE pair of tights that you must not only attend the ride meeting in, ride 50 miles in, but also drive home in – including exposing yourself to the general public at a stop at the self serve gas station.

Weather: Wet doesn’t matter because you are snug as a bug in the cab of your vehicle. Your stuff isn’t getting wet because you hardly brought anything (right?????), and what little you DID bring is still mostly packed away. Ditto for wind. A heat wave just means you have more options for bedding down – the bed of your truck? The picnic table located oh so conveniently next to your spot?

Mel’s Must-Haves #1:
***For each camping situation, I will end the post with a list of my favorite gear for that particular situation.

Thermarest – works wonders for evening out the contours of my seat and the seatbelt fasteners (why don’t they make front bench seats in trucks anymore??????!!!!!).

Sleeping bag – either a mummy or a standard works well.

Pillow – a pillow does wonders for creating the illusion of comfort. You won’t have a lot using this camp set up, so you may as well splurge on space and bring a pillow.

Pack extra totes for a fast and easy get away. I guarantee that when you are tired and a bit grumpy, you will be shocked to find that what little you did bring won’t go back into their containers and bags, your passenger seat is filled with your bedroll, and your dressing room and trailer is absolutely jammed with disorganized horse stuff that you don’t have the energy to properly put away. And you just want to start your drive home with the minimum of fuss. What do with all this other crap that mysteriously migrated out of your truck –that is invariably to light to trust to the fickle nature of the winds at freeway speed in the bed? That’s when you stuff it into your spare containers.

Conclusion: Technically you could do all your rides this way – very minimalist – no matter how many nights you were staying. However, I don’t know about you, but I do this to have FUN, and I prefer some of my creature comforts after a hard ride. The little luxuries can make it easier to enjoy the company of friends at ridecamp, and for me endurance rides are miniature vacations! It’s not worth it to me to do an elaborate set up for one night, but as the nights multiply and the ride distance lengthens, I’m willing to spend more time and energy setting up my camp and slip into a more "vacation mode".

Series continues in part 2 – One day LD/50 with 2 nights