On my spoiled boy

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Last week, my entire family and B turned up to watch one of my jump lessons with Ryon, which is the first time my parents have seen me in a horseback riding lesson in the past 20 years.  They were adequately impressed, the way Asian parents are where they won’t tell you how proud they are but instead take loads of pictures and video.

It got me thinking about how far Ryon and I have come since his first summer in Dallas in 2014.  Back then, each flinch, spook, and head toss was a message that I honed in on - one that I heard as if through loudspeakers.  I’d try to decipher his body language - oh he’s mad at me because he’s eating dinner late today.  Ryon would wiggle and wobble all through the arena, refusing to pick a direction or listen to any of my suggestions on where to go.

Now I don’t make a note of each head toss, stomp, and tail whisk and can even occasionally get him to execute a perfect 20 meter circle or even a straight line.  Sometimes (a lot of times) he still acts up because he’s ornery - pissed off that he’s in a barn with all these animals - and sometimes he’s a pleasant, even-tempered, sort-of-sweet horse.  My trainer and I remark that we don’t know what animal we’re going to get on a given day.

However, he is getting downright spoiled.  Every visitor earns him a cookie and head scratch.  B hunts down grass and clover for him to snack on after my lessons, and we’ve installed his THIRD box fan in his stall.  Now that he has a punk rocker look going on, I make a point of trimming his mane every few weeks.  He also gets a full shampoo and conditioner treatment on a weekly basis, in addition to the daily brush down with a natural bristle brush (and a separate softer brush for his face).  His “spa” treatment is more extensive than most Dallas women’s (and that’s saying something).

We go flying in our jump lessons on a weekly basis now.  He’s impatient over low jump courses and rushes through them, as though he knows if he finishes them quickly, he’ll get to move on to higher jumps.  My trainer and I are teaching him that he WILL get to jump the big ones eventually.  I can’t help but feel that it’s partly my fault.  I had a mental hang up at the intimidating three foot level, but since we’ve sneakily moved up, three feet doesn’t look so high anymore.  It’s officially hotter than hell in Texas now, so by the time we’re finished, both of us are drenched in sweat.  The horses have new turn out paddocks with large, plastic water troughs.  Ryon turns each of these into his own private kiddie pool and plants his front feet in them, spilling water all over in the process while he splashes about.

I’m sure next week - actually probably tonight - will bring a separate set of challenges from him that I haven’t foreseen.  I've learned to expect the unexpected, but despite the inconsistency of it all, I count it as my good luck that I get to spend my time sweating away with my spoiled boy.


Death by a thousand scratches

Monday, June 13, 2016

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I’m currently typing this blog post in an effort to keep my hands busy.  I’m sporting two mosquito bites on my face, several fly bites(!), and half a dozen more mosquito bites around my ankles, feet, and knees.  As if that wasn’t gross enough, my right foot was so puffy and swollen from one of these that I could barely fit it in my shoe on Friday.  To add insult to injury, the vast majority of these bites were obtained inside vs. outside.

Of course I’m scratching, as much as they tell you not to scratch - more irritation, permanent scarring, etc.  But I can’t not scratch.  Even the bites on my face that look oh-so-lovely already.  Benadryl and Cortizone anti-itch creams only provide extremely temporary relief.  It’s all annoying as hell and stretching my eggshell patience this Monday.  I suppose that’s one way that I know that summer has begun.  Dallas has had its first documented positive test for West Nile, and the OFF isn’t keeping the mosquitoes away.  Complete with a storm-driven headache, I think it’s all I can take of this week on a Monday, no less.  Maybe I’ll scratch myself into a new skin or into a new week even.



Midwest is best?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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As I alluded to before, I’m taking a trip up north in a few weeks to Michigan, land of the Great Lakes (I had to google that).  It’s where B is from and where he’s lived out 30 of his past years before making the smart decision to move down to Texas.  Okay, so maybe he moved here for a job (details).  He begrudgingly says that he likes living in Texas but within the state, he enjoys the countryside more than the cities.  We’re working on it.

Prior to meeting B, I knew next to nothing about Michigan.  Here’s the short list of things I did know:
  • It’s up near the Great Lakes
  • It’s in the shape of the hand
  • There’s an upper part
  • It’s cold there
Although I’m leaving a lot up to B and his family with regards to the itinerary when we’re up there, I’m curious and wanted to do some digging on what it is that people actually do up in Michigan in the summertime.  I've found a few Michigan travel-centric twitter accounts but surprisingly, there was a real lack of recent travel guides.  I found the best ones from Food52, which I’ve included below:
Here are the things I have recently learned about Michigan that you won’t find in any of the articles:
  • Don’t ever confuse Michigan for the rest of the states in the Midwest (or Canada) lest you catch an earful
  • Don’t ever tell Michiganders (that’s the term for them) that they have an accent.  They’ll never admit it and deny it until they're blue in the face - it’s scientifically proven.  In case you're wondering, the accent is called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift and you can learn all about it here 
  • Out of state Michiganders will find each other anywhere - in restaurants, bars, you name it.  It’s as if they have a radar for others who have also survived the cold, cold north
I’ve been told that for this summer vacation, I’ll need to pack jeans and a sweatshirt, which is a completely foreign concept for a Texan.  If y’all have any recommendations of things to do, places to see, or - most importantly - food to eat in Michigan, please do share.


The Big(ish) Sleep

Monday, June 6, 2016

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On Saturday morning after I got back to my apartment from a late night of watching movies on Netflix (wild child, I know), I put my head down for a quick nap which somehow turned into three hours of straight sleeping.  And when I got back home from a sweaty afternoon at the barn, I picked up a book and promptly fell asleep for another three hours.  After waking up each time, I reluctantly got out of bed and thought really hard about turning in for the day but something about that just seemed wasteful of a weekend (says the girl who watched the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Friday).

Sadly, the last time I remember napping like that was about a year ago.  We can call it an annual catch up on sleep although I’m kidding myself if I think that six hours is going to be enough to make up for all the sleep I’ve missed.  It does make a perfect argument for why someone like me needs a smidge of alone time and quiet time.  Systems disengaged, and I slowly power down when I don’t feel obligated to be on anyone else’s schedule.

I spent the rest of the weekend eating brisket nachos, watching movies, reorganizing, and decluttering, which always makes me feel refreshed and rejuvenated.  On Sunday morning after my long rest, I opened the door to the patio and sat quietly listening to the neighborhood church bells.  I’m typically running (okay so I did actually go running this weekend) around, headless chicken style, but in my rare quiet moments now, I’ve tried to consciously get more centered and grounded.  Perform activity for a purpose and not just for activity’s sake.  And in the blank space, I’ll find more peace (hopefully) and sleep (definitely).  It may sound a bit like a sad life if all I have to write about is the sleeping I did this weekend, but I’ll gladly offer up that and more for another nap of epic proportions.


Texas touring

Thursday, June 2, 2016

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It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve been back to Houston.  I had lived there for six years after I graduated from college and before moving back to Dallas.  Minus a quick stopover for a wedding over Memorial Day three years ago, I hadn’t gone back to visit since I moved in January 2013.  I could make up a plethora of excuses - no time, drive was too far, work / friends were too busy - but there aren’t really any good ones.  I didn’t quite expect for the visit back to be as fun or as familiar as it was.

What was supposed to be an easy four hour drive from Dallas to Houston turned into a six hour trip, including almost turning my car into an amphibious vehicle to ford the roads.  There were torrential rain showers (and still are) on the way down south, so much so that the service roads and highway started flooding.  At one point, we saw a truck attempting to pull a VW bug out of a drainage ditch on the shoulder.  I had declined BW’s kind offer to take his truck and was regretting it at this point.

After a rather long detour skirting most of traffic, in celebration of our successful arrival and not flooding my engine, we stopped for dinner at a local cafe that serves deliciously trashy Cajun food in my old neighborhood the Heights.  We ordered beers, po-boys, shoestring fries topped with liquid cheese and roast beef, and boudin balls.  Oh those boudin balls - little round mounds of fried goodness!  If you’ve never had them before, they’re made of ground pork and rice and taste like a southern Thanksgiving dressing.  We kept eating those even though we were stuffed; I’m going to dream about them for weeks.

During the short amount of time we were in Houston, BW and I spent the majority of it in the Heights.  The cute Airbnb we rented was smack dab in the middle of the old neighborhood directly north of downtown, which has exploded with hipsterness that’s borderline obnoxious.  What used to be a “transitioning” neighborhood has fully embraced its “transition” while trying to hold on to as much of its old character as possible.  The Heights that I knew from before was a little bit scary to run in after dark.  Now all of those streets are lined with million-dollar homes with big wraparound porches.  There are now themed bars, gourmet doughnut shops, and artisan ice creameries with lines that wind well into the parking lot.  However, despite all the curated hipsterity (that’s got to be a word, right?) and right before we came back to Dallas, we feasted on crawfish served out of trash bags from a seasonal restaurant located in a repurposed mechanic garage.  It tasted the closest to a backyard crawfish boil that I’ve ever ordered from a “restaurant” even though said “restaurant” had no AC or doors, for that matter.  With plastic chairs and tables and food served on paper trays, it’s more of the Heights that I’m used to.

I’ve spent all this time writing about the food (let’s be honest, that’s a big part of traveling around Texas), but the main reason that we took the trip was to visit old friends and their new babies.  Which makes it sound a little like the babies are their new accessories or newest gadget of the year.  The babies were everything I expected them to be - cute, well-behaved, squeezable, and sweet.  And as adorable and polite as they were (for little boys under the age of 5), they were still overwhelming.  You can’t expect for kids to sit still for more than an hour, even if their mouths are filled with pancakes.  Their schedules are not to be tampered with, like a train, it’s leaving the station whether or not you’re ready.  I’m still bewildered as to how parents do it and maintain their sanity.  I’m working on solving that puzzle and will get back to you.

After the downpour that we had on Friday, the rest of the weekend was beautifully brilliant, humid, and hot.  The air was thick and sans mosquitoes believe it or not (take notes, Dallas).  I had also forgotten that in Houston, you hide out indoors during the afternoons - the hottest part of the day - and venture out in the evenings when it’s cooler.  My hair got big in the humidity and I remembered how much I missed how my skin feels without dry, baking heat.

BW and I took a detour on the way back to Dallas into the Sam Houston National Forest.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven past it and not even noticed that it was there but we turned down a country road and four miles later, we were parked at an abandoned ranger station and trailhead.  The loop trail was waterlogged and after winding past an empty helipad, we were stopped by a pond that had decided to extend far beyond its reach and drown said trail.  BW, ever the Eagle Scout, pointed out tiny frogs no bigger than a dime and raspberries growing in the bushes.  I was distracted because a) I needed to pee and b) I wanted to get to Buc-ees for some beaver nuggets and jerky.  And even despite my distraction, I still spotted three deer on the side of the road - before BW and the woodsman / hunter that he is - so ha.

I feel embarrassed and guilty for being gone from Houston so long and neglecting my friends there.  The babies have grown up faster than I thought was physically possible and will be going off to college soon (isn’t that how it works with children?).  Another trip is on the horizon, to the north this time, but since Space City is only a short drive away, maybe I’ll have to make a spontaneous visit sometime.  I’ll just remember to bring my boat.



Swimming in Texas

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

It's June and on the cusp of summer, yet the rainy weather is hiding the blazing sun for now in these parts.  We are getting heavy rain for at least the next week and it's both a blessing and a curse.  There are floods galore throughout most of Texas (poor Houston) but at least we won't be plagued with the drought that we've been suffering from for the past few years.  All of the (fake) Texas lakes should be full in time for summer boating and swimming fun, if you're into that sort of thing (swimming in lakes, I mean).  I know it's wishful thinking for me to hope that the rain washes all of the mosquitoes away but a girl can dream, can't she?

Speaking of dreams, this cute home built in 1915 is ready for the summertime, what with its greenery abound and crisp whites punctuated by splashes of bright colour.  There are a few cushy rocking chairs on the front porch for those of you who like to keep an eye on the neighborhood and a dining table set for a dinner party in the backyard.  I'm still on the look out for little gems like this to share with y'all - now move on down to Texas and bring your boat!










How to tell that you're lucky

Thursday, May 26, 2016

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I’ve been lucky these past few years, I tell you.  I’ve made a regular habit of picking up scars from all sorts of places as souvenirs of my adventures.  And there have been a hell of a lot of adventures (wish there were more but I’m working on that).  

There are a series of diagonal lines marking the outside of my wrist, scrapes that have scarred over from where Ryon’s horseshoes and rubble have scratched my skin when I pick his hooves.  It gets re-aggravated when it’s muddy out and his feet become caked in concrete-thick mud and rock, the fresh scratches creating an interesting layered effect of scarred skin.  I also have a pencil eraser-sized mark right underneath my butt from where Lombardi, our barn’s grey Westphalian, bit me - through my pants - when I walked him up to the mounting block.  I am not the only human he has ever bitten on the butt but have the distinction of being the only person he’s left with a butt scar.

I have a divot on my ankle from God-knows-what next to the remainders of a nasty mosquito / spider bite.  These are recent, I think.  Did I get them from shallow diving into the swimming pool?  The bike ride on the trails?  Running into the coffee table?  Who knows.  There’s also a shard-shaped scar on my left knee, from a bad burn or abrasion, I don’t know.  It’s been there for the past month and I’m uncertain as to how it got there, when it appeared, or how long it’s going to hang around.  Other mystery scars include the triangular one on my elbow from opening a door (maybe?) or the one that looks like a claw mark on my right forearm.  Shrug.

Of course I still have the scar on my right shin from the ski accident in Beaver Creek a few years back.  It’s a remnant of one of the best ski days I’ve ever had, even with the accident and shredding a new pair of ski pants.  To say I should have gotten stitches is an understatement.  This one isn’t going anywhere and won’t be fading over time.

I’m not at all embarrassed of the scars and the road map they leave on my body.  If anything, they remind me to go out and Do More Awesome Things.  That my clumsiness has translated into only superficial marks on my skin is amazing and a forever reminder that I am so lucky.


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