10 months with Ryon

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Haay girl, do you work out?
In the past few weeks, cold temperatures have rushed in like cattle through a corral chute.  Heavy blankets were hastily brushed down and thrown on.  Fans were quickly turned off and the barn is now eerily silent at night, without the whooshing of over a hundred fans spinning endlessly in the heat.  But contrary to his past behavior and everything I saw in him this spring and summer, ever so quietly, gently, and softly, Ryon has eased into winter weather.  Perhaps it's finally getting past his 9th birthday and emerging into adulthood, but our boy has grown up - no longer spooking at every dark corner and throwing a tantrum when his extra large personal space bubble is intruded upon.  He's still a character, don't be fooled.  He is still impatient in the cross ties and when waiting in the arena and will kindly remind you with a nudge when he thinks we're done riding for the evening.  But things rarely phase him now and his confidence has increased dramatically.

Ryon's also been jumping like he's been born to do it.  I honestly think he's been waiting his whole career to be challenged to this level.  The more complicated the course, the higher the jumps, the more technical the turns, the more he likes it and enjoys himself.  He pulls on the reins with his mouth as if to say, "Mom, just sit back and relax and let me figure it out.  I got this."  He's terribly independent like that.  Don't fuss at him, don't micromanage.  Just breathe and sink into your heels.  My trainer paid him the kindest compliment tonight, saying that he is the most progressed horse that she works with and has come the longest way with his training.

Our "accidental" cloven hoof
If you're friends with me on Instagram, you'll also have noticed the steampunkish (thanks for ther term Amy) contraption on his back hoof.  Ryon's had a half crack in that hoof for forever and as we've signed on to a new farrier, he's suggested a different way at attempting to fixing it.  It works similar to braces, where Warren can tighten or loosen the device as Ryon's hoof grows out, to bring the hoof walls closer together.  It doesn't hurt him and he doesn't seem to notice it, but only time will tell if it truly works or not.

Our boy is growing up (sniff sniff) and it's really just been over the past few months.  Let's hope this good behavior isn't a fluke and he improves to the point where I can take him out in polite company.  So long as they don't mind getting licked and slobbered on.

Recent Reads: June and July 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Remember that one time I was really behind on book reviews this past summer and promised you guys that wouldn’t happen again?  Yeah about that.  Whoops.  Honestly, instead of feeling wholly uninspired by the books I was reading this fall, I came across some really stellar ones and then cranked up the reading a notch or two.  So much so that I fell behind on both the reviews I've been writing for my blog and also for Amy’s Bibliophile's Adventurers Club.  There are a ton of great books that I've powered through this fall and I will eventually get around to sharing them all with you.  If you're looking for a real time way to follow my reading, GoodReads is still the best bet.  I will endeavour to be better about book reviews on my blog though, really have to be better at follow through, particularly as I rely so heavily on others for book recommendations.

I’m not a crier - nary a tear has been shed at the barrage of heavy-handed holiday commercials - but The Universe vs. Alex Woods made me tear up.  That’s always a good way to start a book review, right?  Alex Woods is a teenage boy who strikes up a relationship with his antiquarian neighbor Mr. Peterson through a mutual love of Kurt Vonnegut.  For fear of giving the bulk of the plot away, it revolves around the choice of death and gets heavy pretty quickly.  The quick moral of the story is that both life and death should be treated with respect and dignity.  I’ll leave it at that; don’t forget your Kleenexes.

March: Book One is the first graphic memoir in a trilogy about the life of John Lewis, US Congressman and US civil rights leader.  Illustrated in black and white, the book tells the story of Lewis’s life by way of flashback and how he became an advocate for non-violence as a means for protesting.  I am often guilty of being wrapped up in the fantastical make-believe world of many comic books but it’s worth reminding myself of the real life heroes that exist and the tough road for them to get there.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (yep, Banana) may be one of the most poignant books that I’ve read all year.  I’ve dogeared, highlighted, underlined, and flagged paragraphs in this book.  It’s one of those that’s quietly impactful, a little like being stunned by silence.  The book is made up of two short stories which are centered around loss of a dear one.  The first one, which claims the title of the book, is about a young woman who after the death of her grandmother, moves in with her friend and her friend’s transgender mother.  The kitchen of their apartment is what draws in our main character and connects her with the new family.  A Silverstone frying pan and a delightful German-made vegetable peeler - a peeler to make even the laziest grandmother enjoy slip, slipping those skins off.  Like lyrics, I tell you.

If you’re looking for an epic swashbuckling adventure series, the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch are it.  Locke Lamora is a Robin Hood-type character in a Venice-based city.  Learning to steal and deceive as a child orphan working for a master thief from a young age, Locke now runs the gang of con artists (think Ocean's 11 set in medieval times) except for instead of pinching purses from crowds in the street, now they are after larger, more valuable and more dangerous prizes.  As a testament to how popular the series is, there are three books out so far and at least four more planned as well as a film in process.

Rat Queens is a package of vibrant, flamboyant girl power bundled up into a graphic novel.  There is no doubt about it, this is one bright and punchy book, which is fitting for the subject.  Rat Queens is about a gang of girl dwarves, elves, clerics who find trouble and kick it in the front teeth.  The girls  are filled with sass and kick-assedness; they swear, spit, flirt, manipulate, intoxicate, seduce, and generally have a ball of a time and who can’t get down with that.  This comic book has won All The Awards including the 2014 Eisner Award and is also in the process of being turned into a tv series.

I read the e-book version of The Weird: Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories over a series of months whilst running on the treadmill.  As if the text bouncing up and down would shake some sanity into the stories it contains.  The book is a chronological collection of Weird stories, some of which are scary and creepy and others that are just plain weird (as the title suggests).  Oh you'll find Lovecraft, Mieville, Gaiman, Bradbury, Jackson, and many many more.  This is the kind of book that will make you want to sleep with the anthology safely in the other room.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading 84, Charing Cross Road.  It is a collection of the correspondence between Helene Hanff in NYC and Frank Doel, chief buyer for Marks & Co. booksellers in London, beginning in 1949 and lasting over the span of 22 years.  When you keep in mind when the book is written, the sarcasm and wit of Hanff is so striking, as is the contrasting formality that Doel takes with her.  The friendship that they develop over the decades via post is the result of two kindred spirits finding each other.  Spoiler alert: Hanff sadly does not makes it over the pond to 84, Charing Cross to meet the Frank Doel in person before his death but has blessed millions of readers by publishing the letters written between them.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Besides the rumble of a diesel engine in my ears and the howling winter wind, I am practically numb to anything else that happened this weekend.  In fact, I may or may not still be frozen from the cold.  I think my fingers and toes are all still with me.  After over nine hours outside on a gloomy, windy, bone-chilling day, I am generally ready to call it quits on winter.

On Saturday, we took three girls from our barn to an a-rated horse show.  Between loading and unloading the horses at the crack of dawn, getting them settled in their stalls, watching the events before ours, and then getting them ready for the show ring, I think I might have shivered off more calories than I burned walking the horses and chasing around the pre-teens.  There were ring stewards walking around in ski onesies, and the dedicated parents were surreptitiously sipping on Irish coffees while huddling under blankets in the grandstands.  And here we are, getting snow flurries tonight in mid-November.  In Texas no less.

So it's natural that my eye turns to spring weather in New Zealand (can you tell that it's on my travel list) and this cute little cottage in Wanaka over looking mountains and lakes.  Okay, maybe not so little but it sure has the indoor / outdoor living thing on lock.  I might just live outdoors during the warm months and gaze at the mountains during my writing breaks.

Zip it

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Suck it in.  Hold your breath and don’t inhale.  Lay on the bed and wriggle like a snake.  Or an earthworm.

The struggle is real, folks.  I am trying, with all my might, to zip up the dress I bought for my office’s annual holiday party.  The theme is Casablanca (who really knows what that means) and the dress code is black tie-ish.  And foolishly, I bought a dress that is the same size the model was wearing online.  Even worse, the dress doesn't stretch.  The rest of it fits fine, except for the confounded side zipper, which sticks at the seam even without my trunk of a torso inside of it.  Typically, I don’t ever wish for a roommate or a boyfriend, but this is one of those instances where I could really use an extra set of hands.

You know that moment of panic when you can't zip in or you can't zip out of a dress?  Yeah, I've got that going on.  Somehow, everything starts to feel claustrophobic, like the world is closing in on you.  Or maybe just my chest area.

Besides going on a major diet for the next four weeks, any one have any suggestions of how to get myself into this thing?  A corset?  Removing a few ribs from my rib cage?  I'm all ears.

Over the Garden Wall

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Despite successfully avoiding television for the majority of 2014, with the exception of my two favourites and the occasional terrible movie on TNT, I may or may not have found my new favourite tv show of the year.  It's called Over the Garden Wall and is a miniseries on Cartoon Network that was just released this month.  The show came highly recommended by my composer compadre and rightly so; the music is haunting, folkish, and beautiful.  The style is very Miyazaki-ish and the screenplay is downright clever.

The story is about two brothers, Wirt and Greg, who are lost in the strange and spooky woods and are trying to find their way home.  Emo older brother Wirt is voiced by the well-traveled pilgrim Elijah Wood, and Greg may win the award for my favourite tv show character ever.  And before you ask, yes that is an upside down teapot on his head.  See, winning already.

Each episode is less than 15 minutes (you're welcome ADD folks and small children) and even though this is a children's show, it had me laughing out loud.  Mostly at Greg.  The episodes are also filled with odd and quirky songs, much like the ones you would make up off the top of your head when singing in the shower or the car.  I had one of these songs stuck in my head all day at work (honestly, much better than one of the Pop 40 alternatives).

And just because I know you all have nothing better to do during the day than to watch YouTube videos, below is the full first chapter of the show.  At the very least, it should keep you entertained for ~10 minutes.

Classic Toy by Mary M. Brown

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To our service men and women, past, present, and future, we thank you...

Classic Toy by Mary M. Brown

The plastic army men are always green.

They’re caught in awkward poses,
one arm outstretched as if to fire,
legs parted and forever stuck on a swiggle
of support, as rigid and green as the boots.

This one has impressions of pockets,
a belt, a collar, a grip on tiny binoculars
intended to enlarge, no doubt, some
tiny enemy.

In back, attached to the belt is a canteen
or a grenade (it’s hard to tell). The helmet
is pulled down low, so as to hide the eyes.

If I point the arm, the gun, toward me,
I see that this soldier is very thin.

It’s almost unreal, how thin he is.

The bearded ones

Monday, November 10, 2014

Favourite bearded man and late artists Alan Davie
I strongly believe and am utterly convinced that all bearded men are members of a clandestine society.  And clearly to become a member of this club, you have to have a strong beard game.  A goatee or mustache alone is not going to grant you entry, regardless of how long, curly, or wispy it is.  Ranking or seniority within the fraternity is established by the number of items one can hide in his beard.  Bonus points are given if the beard can be braided or used to frighten small children.  Female members are incredibly rare but highly touted and celebrated.  And of course, November or Movember is recruitment month.

But how, you might ask, do you know this club exists, particularly if it's so secretive?  Because I've been watching (and listening) closely (but not creepily).

At the local wood-paneled coffee shop the other week, a heavily bearded fellow was in the checkout line.  Another bearded gent had risen from his table and was leaving when he saw the other bearded brother.  They exchanged very slight head nods and also some indistinguishable bass tone dialogue.  I imagine it was something like the following:

“Going to the chapter meeting next week?”

“Yes, I think the topic is Beard Oils and Assorted Unguents.”

"Looking forward to it.  Last week's meeting on Beards: Nature's Disguise was captivating.  I'll see you there, brother."

Have you spotted any evidence of the secret fraternity of bearded men?  Petra darling, I know you've got to have a story or two.

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