Moving [Forward]

It has been a very moving year for me so far. No, really- I have moved two and a half times; more on that in a moment. At the same time, I have come to see the importance of prioritization.

We had tried to sell our [spoiler alert] old house twice before putting it on the market earlier this year. Each time got more and more ridiculous. We got helpful feedback from the showings of our 2 bed 3 bath 1,300 square foot home, like, “I loved the house but my grand piano wouldn’t fit in the living room,” or, “we wanted a house with three bedrooms.” I admit it brought out my snarky side as well. I wanted to tell all those helpful people traipsing through my house that perhaps they should have read the description of the house before coming, among other things. So, I dreaded putting it on the market again, but for a number of reasons we needed the house to be sold. Two things made me resent the house after over five years: the commute to everywhere I go, and the stairs.

The commute was just ridiculous considering where we live. While most people here blanch at a 30 minute commute, my husband was driving over an hour and my commute to one of my barns was 45 minutes. It really took a toll. I also had a lot of fear as a result of that commute. I was afraid to go to the barn by myself since I might not be feeling well enough to drive back. It may sound crazy, but pain and fatigue make even little things that we take for granted move into the territory of scary things that make you cringe.

The stairs were even worse of a problem. Now I know this sounds odd since I try my hardest to keep riding my horse and run, but the stairs were my nemesis. I lost count of how many times my knees or ankles would give out, or how many times I fell trying to take laundry up the stairs. It was embarrassing and humiliating to have a set of stairs beat me. I managed, and some days were better than other, but I wanted to sell the house to escape the stairs of doom.

Since my husband’s grandfather had died, the house he had lived in was empty and we were given the opportunity to live there. Moving was terrible but since it meant we didn’t have to live in our house while it was on the market, we packed all our things and started the process. Moving is never easy, but ours was made all the more interesting by our new house being in the mandatory evacuation for the Black Forest fire. So we moved back out again (someday I will have to tell you that story…), and then once the fire was out, we were lucky to be able to move back in.  And, miraculously, our house sold in less than a week on the market. That was the first 1.5 moves.

But, we loved the new house. It was on 5 beautiful treed acres on a quiet, dead end, dirt road. It had space for my husband and me to have a work room, and still have two empty rooms to spare. It had a recently redone kitchen that I loved to bake in. We wanted to buy it, and long story short, we knew pretty quickly that would not happen. Especially not with the vague uncertainties about what my husband will do with his career once he finishes his degree. So we knew, that once again we needed to move. I couldn’t come up with a way to make it work financially.

Making that decision was more difficult than I can describe. I wanted so badly to stay in that house. It was perfect. It was our dream home. I didn’t have to face the stairs every day. Our commutes were shortened by over a third. I thought those were what mattered most. But what I learned through all this, was that priorities are sometimes more surprising and less obvious than we like to think.

We moved into base housing, and move number 2 came very suddenly. We moved with less than 5 days notice. But we made it. It isn’t a great commute to my husband’s job or one of my barns (it actually is very close to my old geezer horse’s barn though.), it isn’t large, it isn’t on lots of land, and it even has stairs, but it I love it.

It is comfortable, I can keep it clean (so far), I don’t have to face the stairs daily (the only thing in our basement is laundry and thankfully my husband helps with that), I can have my own work space, and it has beautiful views and many walking trails nearby. As I sit and type and look out my window at the mountains just after sunset, I now know that what matters to me is having a peaceful home. That means I am not afraid to do things like drive to my barn, and I still have a place that feels like home. I can have privacy, but the ease and security of a good community. I know I will still have good days and bad days, but I also know that I have home that isn’t a constant reminder of things I can’t do. Two and a half moves later I finally realized that was my top priority.

What matters most to you in a home? How do you know for sure? I am a very slow learner apparently, but I am beyond glad to finally be home! Sorry for the cheesy ending, but anyway, until next time, RAWR!!!

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Surprise!^2

Since I am surprising you by writing again and the topic of surprises is still on my mind; here is a second part to my last post: surprise, surprise :-)

If I look back on my life I see many things that took me by surprise. It was surprising to be diagnoses with a chronic incurable illness. It was surprising to meet a wonderful man who I actually wanted to marry, especially when I hadn’t dated anyone else. It was surprising when my dyed in the wool civilian husband who was going to school for economics decided to join the Air Force Reserves and become an electrical engineer. It was surprising when I was given a second horse; exactly the wrong horse at the wrong time, which I took anyway. It was a surprising when I discovered that though I still don’t want kids I love being an aunt; even an aunt to two little boys. It was surprising that after swearing I would ride jumpers for the rest of my life I ride dressage now, and love it (though don’t worry, I still want to do jumpers). Those have been some pretty big surprises. But sometimes even the little daily surprises change things more than we realize.

I could probably write a book about the incredible difference in my life from what I expected and how the surprises along the way has changed it. I know it is a bit cliché but looking at the events of the past year I see how little things made big differences. Some of the surprises recently were heartbreaking, like a death in the family, or a close friend’s parent learning he is dying, or the area we had just moved to catching on fire. Others have been great surprises; I got promoted, we had a place to live while we sold our house, we sold our house.

And even pleasant surprises sometime become unpleasant. I won’t go in to all the details on that one, but know that I will not be planning on a career in real estate; but you never know….that could take me by surprise too!

It changes the tone of a day though, when you look at the little irritations and pleasantries as if they are a bunch of your friends hiding behind your couch and jumping out from the darkness at you throwing balloons and confetti while yelling, “Surprise!” in unison at the top of their lungs.  (Yes, quite the mental image I know.)

So for me it was, “Surprise!!! Your feet decided they want a different job and that they will rebel completely if you walk on them.” Or, “Surprise!! The people coming to move the giant pipe organ from the house we are living in are so inefficient we will be lucky if it takes them only 3 days. And in the meantime I don’t dare try to get to my desk (see previous surprise….grouchy feet don’t take well to stepping over anything.) because of all the random stuff and boxes all over three rooms.  Some were far more pleasant though, “Surprise! My husband had the day off and only had to go to one of his evening classes.” Or, “Surprise! The wonderful person that cares for old geezer horse (or horse #1 if you prefer) texted me a sweet hello from him and mixed his food for me so it is one less thing I have to worry about.

Very little goes as planned in life and I think we can all agree on that. Whenever I make plans my literature background reminds me of an excerpt from Robert Burns’ poem, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough:”

“But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!”  (36-47)

So, what surprises did you get today?

RAWR!!

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Surprise!

Everyone knows that surprises are never ambivalent- rather a surprise is always polarized. Either the surprise is wonderful, pleasant, and happy or unpleasant, shocking, and upsetting. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

 This morning I enjoyed a pleasant surprise: some inexpensive yarn I had gotten is knitting up in a way that surprised me. I have used yarn from this company often but had never used this particular kind. Recently I bought enough of a light silver grey to knit a sweater. It was affordable and seemed like a good idea at the time. I had no idea how the yarn would turn out when knit. In the skein it wasn’t what I would call remarkable; it wasn’t one of the yarns that make you go bonkers over how soft it is. It is just wool. Worsted weight, two ply wool. Winding it into a ball I noticed that it seemed airy but still didn’t notice anything remarkable. Then I cast on for the sweater- amazing! It knits up with a nice drape and is softer than I would have expected. It was surprising and made dealing with some issues at work that much easier since I knew sitting on my desk was the beginning of a sweater that is thoroughly exciting.

 A few weeks ago though I experienced the opposite kind of surprise. It was scary, unpleasant, and, dare I say, gross. I had entered a show. It was a big deal for me since it wasn’t at my barn and was USEF recognized. I had been working towards going to a show like it for a couple years now. It seemed the stars were aligned and I would finally get my chance to do a recognized dressage show away from home. Earlier in the week my horse had a lump on his nose. It seemed like perhaps a bad reaction to a fly bite so I treated it and thought everything was fine. I did many loads of laundry, bought my horse shipping boots and a day sheet (finally!), had his standing wraps ready and shavings for the stall. I managed to load two bales of hay into my trailer by myself; I was ready to load up and have a nice long weekend sleeping in my trailer and enjoying the horse show. It didn’t happen. The lump had exploded. That is the best way I can put it. What had been just a swollen lump that seemed so minor had turned into a giant open sore overnight. I called my vet and he said there was nothing he could do. But we couldn’t show with an open sore right on my horse’s nose. I treated it as aggressively as I could and then parked the trailer and went home.

 I was able to do a show at my barn the next weekend. It turned out my horse had been bitten by a velvet ant or a brown recluse spider. He has a little white smudge on his nose now where the bite was and aside from me panicking a little every time he has even a tiny fly bite now, there have been no ill effects. I know I actually was very lucky- horses seem to have a sixth sense for finding the worst time to get injured. I know more than a few horses that have had far worse injuries this summer. But even unpleasant surprises and little things can have a way of making us thankful for the little things: getting to ride my horse, the fact that miraculously he is sound, that we have come so far as to even be trying to do the larger shows in the area.

 Regardless of what kind of surprise we get we can let it help us see details we might miss. I am definitely not a great optimist naturally but even unpleasant surprises can help us get through the mundane- if only by making us grateful that the mundane is so much more pleasant than the catastrophic! Until next time- RAWR!

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Killing a Monster

As promised I will give a report on how the show went. My title and to some extent my post is purely giving in to my overdramatic flair. I couldn’t resist. 

Overall the show went better than I would have hoped. I have struggled with show nerves as long as I can remember. I won’t go into the reasons behind it, but know that nerves have been a monster for me and usually I lose a class before I even go into the warm-up. I can’t point to any magic that made this time different. In a way I wish I could. Maybe I was tired of beating myself, maybe it was my trainer’s words reminding me that I needed to be there for my horse, maybe it was just making another try. I love showing, but I can’t point to a show, until now, where I came out of the arena with a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t have epic scores, though they were some of the highest scores of the day. I didn’t even do anything new. I rode the same two tests I rode last year. But the best way I can explain it is that I went into the arena, in front of the judge, random spectators, and some family and friends, and I actually thought and rode. I made corrections when I saw fit and allowed other mistakes to stand after thinking it through and deciding that letting them be was better than trying to correct them. It felt inexplicably good. It is amazing how when we stop placing too much emphasis and importance on a moment we not only become more successful but also enjoy the moment more.

 It makes me excited for the next show. I know I can go in the arena and be successful now and it makes me want to do it again. I am glad we have a bit of a break though- I can work on improving some areas so hopefully we can really commit to First Level soon. Regardless of whether I have really and truly killed my monster, I know I can take it on now. How was your weekend? What personal victories have you made or are you working towards now?

 RAWR!!!!

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Tolerances

Once again, I am back. It’s been an interesting few months for me, but I am not really all that crazy about looking back on it. Suffice it to say I feel like RA may have taken over for a bit but I am working on clawing my way back to where I want to be.

Our first show of the season is this Saturday. Or so goes the theory. If I learned anything last year it is that you may have your entries in and ride times sent out but the show doesn’t happen until you are entering the arena. I don’t feel quite as ready as I want to be, but we have worked hard over the winter so I feel like at least Strider and I are further along than we were last year. We are still sticking to easy stuff, especially since show nerves have been a consistent struggle for me. My trainer finally got to witness my show nerves (she was inGermanyfor the one show I got to do last year) and her assignment to me was to show as much as possible! One of my friends suggested I slip some Irish Cream in my coffee on show mornings. My goal for this show is to just go out and focus on helping Strider as best I can and accept the fact that we won’t be perfect. I will let you know how it turns out.

But I actually had a bit of a point I wanted to make as well. In the struggles of the past few months I have learned that not only is each person’s situation with RA or other autoimmune diseases different, but also there is another key deciding factor to what each person can and cannot do. Very much depends on tolerances. Here is what I mean by that.

 The tolerances of anything basically describe what it is it can handle. Depending on what the object is the tolerances can be described in a variety of ways, but with autoimmune diseases there are some key descriptors I have found for myself at least.

 Recently I have discovered two of my own tolerances- pain and energy. I know I can withstand X amount of pain on a certain day, but only if I have a certain amount of energy. Each tolerance will be slightly related. If I decrease energy then my ability to push through pain will decrease. If I increase pain my energy will decrease. So much of learning to actually live with RA for me comes down to finding where my energy and pain tolerances are and try to make sure I am balancing them appropriately. If I push through too much pain, I lose enough energy I have to crash, if I push through a lack of energy for too long; I end up in more pain.

I mostly discover my limits with work and running. I now know that I cannot work a 50+ hour week, run 10 miles a week, ride my horse 4 times, and then expect not to have consequences. It may seem obvious but I used to do so much more in a week. I am slowly but surely getting better at planning my week so I get to comfortable levels of everything: running maybe 6 miles each week (though I wish it was more….more on that in a moment), riding three or four times, and working under 45 hours. Then add in a night really and truly off- such as a knitting meet up with my friend, or a night at home watching tv with my husband or even by myself. I am slowly figuring out where the right balance point is; what my tolerances really are.

 One point of surprise for many people, even who know me well, is that I still try to run. I usually get a reaction of surprise that I can run or a reaction of surprise that I think it’s a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, running is probably not the ideal sport for many people with RA. I am not completely bonkers (well, maybe I am, but I am pretty rational when it comes to other people). But the more I thought about why running is important to me the more I recognized a few key points. First, every run feels like a victory for me. It doesn’t matter how painful, how short, how hard, or how slow, but every run I complete makes me feel like I have won a small battle against RA. Additionally, I realized running for me is different than for many people. Pain is a constant. Not a little- a lot of pain. But because I know that at least most of the time I am not doing myself harm by running I push through the pain. It may be a struggle to walk, to pick up a cup, to do buttons, wash my hair, or make my bed, but running, though painful, is me choosing to challenge the pain. So it’s not so much that I can run, it’s that I make myself run. It is once again about tolerances. Sometimes for a mental victory, it is worth physical pain. Sometimes I just can’t work myself up to it though.

 It all comes down to balance though. I can only knit for so long before my hands give me trouble, I can only run so much before the pain is too much and I can only work so many hours before I lose the energy to even move. I think regardless of whether you are totally healthy or are struggling with an autoimmune issue, we would all do well to know our limits, find what we want to tolerate, and work towards balancing our lives in a way we can enjoy and maintain. What in your life is worth it to you to push through something unpleasant?

 That is all for now. Hopefully I will have a show report early next week. Until next time….RAWR!!!

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Conclusion: Because

I recently came to an important conclusion about my riding. I am sure you are waiting with baited breath to hear what it was. But to I think I should give you a little background first.

It started when I finished a few knitting projects I had planned on for quite some time. I had, in rapid succession, quite a few knitting projects I had planned to give away as gifts. I, of course, have many more I wanted to do, but I didn’t really want to start on them yet and none of the gift deadlines were particularly looming. So I felt a little depressed. There are so many beautiful projects in the world to be knit, how could I knit them all, and if I couldn’t knit them all, why should I bother knitting anything? Thus went my completely ridiculous line of reasoning. So I listlessly flipped through my knitting books and magazines thinking how fabulous it would be to knit this sweater, or that hat, but I just didn’t have the right yarn. Then I started going through my yarn stash and feeling the beautiful yarns and thinking of how I would love to knit with this yarn or that yarn, but darn it, I just didn’t have the right pattern. And then it hit me. I madly grabbed the two skeins of homespun yarn my mother had sent me ages ago that had been sitting in my stash begging for the perfect project and then lunged for the issue of Piecework that I knew had a pattern I had been longing to knit if only I had the perfect yarn. I knit a test swatch (but only a very small one because I generally don’t believe in them and because it is a shawl pattern for heaven’s sake) and then I paused…I realized I had no real reason to knit this beautiful shawl pattern from 1930, that perhaps Miss Marple would have knit. I had no one in mind that I would give it to, and I had no real use for it myself, though I suppose I could use it at work. Why would I knit this project? That was when it hit me- why not! I would knit it, as huge and ridiculous as it may be, because I could and it was there and I wanted to do it. I would enjoy it, the yarn was just right for the pattern and vice versa, it would be beautiful and special. Of course it will take ages and I am praying I have enough of the unique yarn that I cannot get any more of, but I am doing it because it will be knitting for the sake of knitting. What does that have to do with my great conclusion about my riding?

Well, of course, though I qualified for our state’s dressage championships at training and first level I decided that I wouldn’t go. It would be fiscally unwise for me, I haven’t been able to take as many lessons as I would like, and aside from the shows at which I qualified I haven’t shown Strider at all. And did I mention those shows were at the barn where I board? He usually travels well and winning certainly isn’t everything, but I want our first trip to championships to be over the moon wonderful. I don’t want to be worried that I am not prepared and that I can’t really afford it. But I still have been riding like a crazy person. At least 4 days a week, no matter what, I am at the barn riding. There was a brief time I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Was I trying to prove something? Was I determined to get to second level by next year? No and no. Well, kind of no. Mostly no. I realized that right now I am riding religiously for the sake of riding. Because I love riding and my horse and the barn where I board and the experience of it- and I didn’t really need another reason. So my great realization is that goals are wonderful. Having a reason to do something can often be very important. But sometimes it is just as important to do something for no reason at all.

So, I hope you do something you love not because you have a goal to accomplish, but just because. And until next time, RAWR!!!!

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Totaled

Last Tuesday I had a bad day. It wasn’t an RA flare, or just being in a bad mood, and I know that attitude really effects how we perceive things. But I think this counts as a genuine bad day; not that I don’t see a few positives. I will get there, just bear with me for a bit. But let me tell you what happened:

 First, I set my alarm clock one hour late on accident. I plead that when I set it after 11pm the night before I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing. As far as why I was up that late the night before- that is a longer story but suffice it to say my schedule right now is pretty rough. Sometimes I think we get cosmic foreshadowing of things to come. Perhaps my having all of 2 minutes to get dressed and out the door to have any prayer of getting to work on time (I usually leave before my alarm even went off that day) should have been a good clue that staying in bed that day would have been the better choice.

Miraculously, I made it to work on time and work though less than fun went as well as it usually does- nothing remarkable there. I managed to leave nearly on time for my dentist appointment that afternoon. It was a bright sunny day, I was just heading in for a cleaning, and really things were going well after such a rough start. Until I went to get on the interstate. For those of you that aren’t familiar,Coloradohas relatively speedy interstates. The speed limit in many sections is 75mph, but many people go 80mph and merging can be interesting since often drivers are less than kind about allowing people in. I was driving on an on ramp with a tight curve, and to my awareness, I was suddenly swerving out of control; every correction I made to try to gain control just made the situation worse. I hadn’t been going very fast, since I drive that on ramp all the time and know the turn is tight, but I slammed on the brakes and pulled my car into a skid away from traffic. Good idea, right? Well it was until the skid took me into a pole sideways. Ears ringing and vision returning after the side airbag deployed, I sat there in disbelief. I have never been in a real car accident (that is qualified by the term real because I did have a minor one once but someone essentially backed in to me from a stop because they took their foot of their brake), and at the time I couldn’t figure out what had happened to cause it. I was dazed and shaken but otherwise ok. I got out of my car and glanced over it. It looked remarkably fine considering, and seeing the interstate a few feet away made me grateful that the situation hadn’t been worse. A driver that had been behind me stopped and made sure I was ok and I took a minute and gathered myself. I looked at the time, well, I still had plenty of time to make it to the dentist, even if I went slowly.

I eased onto the interstate and my car felt a little odd but ok considering, or so I thought. I got about a mile down the road when it swerved a little again and then I heard a distinctive sound. I admit my first thought wasn’t particularly printable. I pulled over, and got out and started attempting to change my tire which was rather flat. I was beyond shaken at this point so I really wasn’t making good progress. I had the jack out but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to put it together all of a sudden. So, I am fiddling with pieces of the jack when a Colorado Department of Transportation truck pulls up. The two CDOT guys were amazing. They had the tire changed so quickly I hardly knew what was happening. Thankful for my full size spare, I was on my way again, if rather slowly, since by this time I was quite terrified to drive. I got off the interstate at the next exit and took a back way to the dentist’s office. I made it just in time for my appointment somehow, so I was lucky enough to find out I need more dental work done. (I have major jaw problems so though not surprising the vast amount of dental work I have had and how much trouble it is for me makes it an ordeal.)

 So, I readily and hastily submit that I am grateful that I wasn’t hurt beyond a bruise from the airbag deployment. I also am rather glad I had switched insurance companies a few months ago and have much better insurance than I used to have. Bythe next afternoon I had a rental car, covered by insurance, and my husband was steadily working through the insurance claim process. So it was pretty bad as far as days go, but it seems like things are working out. Unfortunately, per the insurance company, my bug is squashed, or rather, totaled. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. One point of relief though, was that even in a rental car, Strider still comes up to the pasture fence when I drive up. Don’t ask me how he knows its me, and believe me, I have asked other people if he does that when they drive up and they assure me he doesn’t (so I either have friends that want me to feel flattered by my horse or a horse that is pretty wonderful. Or both.). 

Unfortunately that means that this week will be devoted to dental work, a rheumatologist appointment, and car shopping. I think those are three of my top five most dreaded activities. I am hoping for riding as many days as I can and a knitting night to ease the pain. So far I am at least on track with riding, even if I did mostly stretchy work with Strider last night. We have no more shows this season (I know, we really only had one: between EHV-1 and finances it has been a good season for me to focus on training), though I will get to groom at one, so it is nice to just ride and try to keep improving.

I guess all that to say, I think we all have truly bad days, thankfully, a day only lasts 24 hours and even seasons have to change someday. And horse time usually helps. Well, until next time, RAWR!!!

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