Random Musings

The Pigs’ New Digs

It has been almost a year since I publicly humiliated myself with the pictures of Batman’s messy former-bedroom and my subsequent clean up of said space (see “Organizing Batman” from March of 2012 if you are interested).

At the time I was pretty pleased with my accomplishment and the look of the newly organized area.  As a refresher, this is what a small corner of the room looked like before my efforts:

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The room was strewn with toys, books and dress-up clothes.  Drawers hung open precariously and general chaos reigned supreme.  In my defense, I did straighten the room periodically, and it didn’t always look this bad, but still it truly was embarrassing.

After I finished my project that day, the room looked like this:

Before After Picture

I was pretty pleased with myself, if a little over-confident in my ability to maintain the order I had created.  My friend Shane, who has been privy to the cluttered corners of my various homes over the years laughed at me when she saw the room.  “Just wait and see what it looks like in a few weeks,” she said, not unkindly.

She was right.  While the general order of the room generally stayed far superior to the previous state, it still slowly digressed over the year until last week it looked like this:

They're So Proud

I will say once again in my defense (I seem to be doing a lot of defending over this whole area of my life) that the room didn’t always look this bad.  When she heard that I was going to be re-organizing the room, Annabelle “helped” me by dumping the entire contents of a three-tier three-foot long toy cubby in the middle of the floor so that we could start “sorting.”  The room was messy before, but holy moley it was really bad now.

The skinny pigs lived in a cage to the left and out of the above picture, and I am sure that even though they have “pig” in their names they felt intimidated by the piles too.

I decided enough was enough.  We didn’t really need an entire room dedicated to toys, I told the munchkins.  What we needed was a Reading Room. I told the kids that we would sort through, keep, and organize only the toys that they really played with, get some bookshelves, and move a comfy love seat into the room so we would have a place to read our stories every night.

This would serve two purposes:  first, we would have a place to neatly store and easily access the dozens (hundreds?) of books that the kids owned and which currently were strewn from room to room, in totes, or under the bunk bed in their shared room.  Secondly, we would have a quiet and comfy place to read where we could all sit together and enjoy our evening time.

The kids were on board for this whole-heartedly.  Batman was especially ecstatic over the idea of a Reading Room. He loves his nightly books, and he was eager to get started with the project.

I tried to have the kids help me in the sorting process, but that went about like you would expect.  The further we dug, the more toys they found that had been buried awhile and thus were like new and must be retained.  I put the project on hold until they went to school one Monday morning and committed myself.

I started ruthlessly culling.

Starting to Sort

It wasn’t long before I had several large black garbage bags full of toys to donate, and several more to throw in the dumpster.  Once the initial sweep was done the hard part came.  I had to find homes for the blankets and pillows that had formerly been stored in the closet of the room to make room for the three large totes that I had filled with keeper toys.  That entailed a purging of the shelf on top of the closet in the kids’ shared room to store said blankets and pillows.  Once that was done, I needed a place for one of the two toy cubbies that had formerly resided in the skinny pig/toy room.  That entailed moving the bunk bed over a couple of feet and finding a new home for the small bookcase that had formerly lived in that space.

This was one of those project that seemed like it would never, ever, end.

Despite all appearances, I am a very tidy person (throughout the rest of the house anyway), and all of this uncategorized clutter was making me crazy.  I got really edgy, pretty crabby in fact, and almost obsessed with finishing the project. The whole process took over a week, but the room was finally empty, the kids’ room was re-organized to accommodate some of the toys, and the hallway and living room contained no collateral damage from the project.

The kids had helped me pick out some paint that would match pictures I had brought back from Africa and had been stored under my bed since we had moved into our little house (hmm, maybe I’m starting to see a pattern here), and once the room was emptied out they helped me get the painting going.

As usual, they were more than happy to start slapping some color on the designated wall.

The Painting Crew

They went right to work.

Making Progress

Once the wall was painted, I got DH to put together the tall, inexpensive (translate that as pain-in-the-ass behind to put together) bookcases, and started trying to organize the room.  I am a fairly intrepid and experienced furniture mover and can generally accomplish great room transformations through sheer will alone, but this small room presented a significant challenge.

The love seat was *almost* too big to fit, and it took me pretty much every possible iteration of placement before I was happy with the setup and functionality of the space.  To my dismay, the color of the wall didn’t mesh well with my existing curtains or the rug that was in the room, so it took another couple of days to find and purchase items that would be more complementary.

When I was finished I looked at the walls, and determined where I would put my African bamboo artwork.  The only plausible choice was the wall to the left of the door when you entered the room.  That left one wall empty and in need of decoration.  I scanned my options, but couldn’t find anything around that would fit the color and ambience of my new space.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am the type of person that likes to finish a project completely once I start it.  This unfilled wall was really going to bug me.  Especially since it was facing the love seat and would be the primary focus of any occupant utilizing the cozy little space.

In the happiest of coincidences, I got a totally unexpected box in the mail that same afternoon.  DH carried it in and placed it on the kitchen counter.  It was fairly large and not very heavy, and the return address was from a friend in Arizona whom I have never met in person, and know only anecdotally through his friendship with my in-laws, emailing, and interaction on my blog.

My friend David had no idea that I was in the final stages of a lengthy and painful transformation of one of the rooms in our little house, or that I had a wall in need of a peaceful adornment.

I had no idea that David was a painter.

Still, when the box was unwrapped, this is what I found:

The New Picture

It was a beautiful, peaceful, perfectly color-coordinated painting that was just the right size for the space I needed to decorate.  I sat it on the love seat for this photo so you could see how well the colors mesh.

The whole room looks like this now:

Reading Room (2)

The African pictures are positioned next to the love seat and I believe they go nicely with the new wall color.

Reading Room

And my new painting (beautiful though not-yet framed) is hung on the wall opposing the love seat, giving the skinny pigs a little culture in their area too.

Skinny Pig Culture

The kids and I love to sit and read for an hour or so before bedtime, and the room is just as cozy as we had hoped, especially with my new painting on the wall.

But wait there’s more…

Just when we thought the decorating was all finished, another box came in the mail.  Also from my friend David.

We opened it up to find the coolest oval-shaped canvas you could imagine.

Coolest Batman

The sight of the perfectly painted and signed canvas created quite a household debate.  For some strange reason Batman thought it should hang in his room; I looked around my office for a spot for it, but that was fairly full after my last re-decorating binge.

And I still love the way it turned out.

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I think it looks pretty cozy from any angle.

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I ultimately put Batman in the dining room, where he is visible from many points in the house and really enhances the ambience of the space.

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Although I know intellectually that it can’t be true, I feel that Batman is watching me.  I think the picture glows with an inner light even in the dark.

Call me weird, but I feel that my own little Gotham City has a new sense of peace and protection.

Thanks David.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country, Random Musings | 6 Comments

A Dead Horse and the Snow Cat

After my sort-of-whiny post the other day about our long stretch of cold weather, a friend of mine called to empathize with me.  She said that she was getting sick of being inside too, and was making plans to leave the valley for a couple of days for a change of scenery.  Then she said something that really resonated with me:

“Sometimes you have to make your own change.”

Wow.  So simple yet so true.  I decided right then that I would embrace these chilly days of weather in any way I could.

Yesterday morning presented the perfect opportunity.  With temperatures outside  hovering right around zero and lots of humidity lingering in the air, everything in sight was absolutely covered in heavy frost.  It made for some awesome photo opportunities, so as soon as the sun started to peek out from under the haze I put on my snow boots, grabbed my camera, and headed out the front door to try to capture some of the beauty.

The animals were thrilled to have me out and about with them, and they bounced happily around as I crunched through the snow taking pictures of everything in sight.

The first volunteer for my impromptu photo session was Annabelle’s little cat, Ava.  I was sort of surprised when she came bounding over the snow toward me, since Annabelle is really the only person in the family she likes.

But bound she did.

She ran over to one of the fruit trees in the front orchard and sat playing with the frost that drifted lazily down from the tree branches.

Falling Snow

Winston-The-Maniac-Teenage-Birddog helped me out with the next part.  He raced over toward the vulnerable grounded cat and left Ava no place to go but up the frosty tree.

Wheres the Cat

She climbed up and walked carefully along the slippery branches, stopping every now and then to look around at the goings-on.

Frosty Cat in Tree

Eventually she jumped down from that tree and hopped through the snow to the tree next door.

She climbed up and sat for a long time peering down at me as the sky slowly brightened behind her.

Avie in Tree

After awhile she got down and ran away, with Winston in hot pursuit.

The rest of us meandered down the road to the horse pens, and I saw a sight that nearly took my breath away.

Is she dead....

My pretty little bay mare, Spice, was lying in the snow, completely motionless.  Her mouth was slightly open, and I could see her teeth shining through her gaping lips.

I really thought she was dead.

I watched for a few moments, and after a bit I could see her flanks gently heaving. She was just sound asleep.

As the dogs and Ava and I continued our ambling photo shoot, the next place Winston chased Ava was to the top of the post above the dog kennel.  She actually spends a lot of time up there.

I guess she likes the view.

Cat on Post

We wandered down the lane and toward the front of the property.  I wanted to get a shot of the chain link fence covered in frost.

Frosty Chainlink

Along the way I stopped for a picture of the snowy pasture.

Snowy Pasture

We headed back up toward the house with our ancient schnauzer Maddie slowly leading the way.

Maddie Snowy Road

I got a photo of Toby-The-Old-Man-Dog sniffing around the front yard.  I really don’t know what he was expecting to find in all that snow.

Old Dog in the Snow

I took some pictures of driftwood and bushes…..remember the “Flying Pig” from our Stanley camping trip?

Flying Pig in Snow

A couple of the big trees in the front yard looked pretty against the blue sky.

Frosty in Blue

And I loved this cool shot of the same tree from the other side with the sun shining through it.

Frosty Tree

It was pretty amazing to me that during  the hour I was outside the light changed so dramatically, and the hue of the sky varied completely depending on the direction of my camera lens.  It was so engrossing that I never even felt the cold.  Mother Nature sure is a fantastic artist.

Embrace the moment, my friends.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Life in the Country, Random Musings | Tags: , | 4 Comments

California Comes to Idaho

A couple of weeks ago our family was thrilled by a visit from some old friends of mine from “back in-the-day”.  I have known Tony and Sandy for something well over fifteen years.  I don’t like to think about exactly how long because it makes me feel old, but it’s been a long time.  I met Tony first, when I went to work at a company in Alameda, California called Ascend Communications.  Sandy came along a couple of years later, and she fit right in with our eclectic group of friends.  So well, in fact, that she and Tony were married a short time later.

Ascend was a small start-up company when I began, with only about fifteen employees.  As was the case with most of the Silicon Valley start-ups, we were a close-knit group, bonding over “Friday Feast” (a big company-sponsored drunk-fest held every Friday afternoon in the company break room) and lunches out at the excellent Thai or Sushi restaurants the small town of Alameda offered.  With the mega-hours we spent at work, you would think that the employees would avoid each other in their rare off-hours, but that wasn’t the case.  Our group spent lots of time together outside the office too, mountain biking and hiking in the summer and skiing or taking a trip to Mexico together in the winter.

We all worked during a spectacular time in the Silicon Valley.  Our company went public on a Friday the 13th, 1994 at $13 a share (and I still think 13 is a really lucky number).  Shortly after our IPO we all enjoyed the meteoric rise of our stock, and the commensurate disposable income afforded both to us individually and as company employees.  The days of first class airline travel, five-star hotels and competitions over who could order the most expensive port and cigars were legend, and they will surely never be repeated in most of our lives.  It was definitely an over-the-top time.

I left Ascend in 1997, and Sandy and Tony retired within a year or two after that.  Our company had grown to a world-wide company with thousands of employees, and it was no longer the familiar and cohesive place to work it once had been.  I moved to Idaho, where I met Desperate Hubby and got married for the first time at age 36.  Sandy and Tony built their dream house in Pismo Beach on California’s central coast, and started splitting their time between there, a mountain cabin, and their home in Mexico.

We hadn’t seen each other in all these years, so I was wildly excited when I got a message via Facebook that they were planning a tour of the Northwest and wanted to stop by for a visit.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I also had a few trepidations about my friends’ stay.  Since I moved back to Idaho my life has changed dramatically, in all ways for the better, but I was a long way from the lithe blonde driving down Interstate 80 blasting country music in my Porsche Cabriolet that my friends had known.  I am truly happier than I have ever been, but my current life offers few of the trappings that I felt were important way-back-when.

Would they find me frumpy, I wondered?  Boring?

I set about planning a schedule of activities for my friends’ visit that would introduce them to some of the wonderful things that our great state has to offer, and give them a taste of the ridiculously awesome life that I am fortunate to enjoy.

Annabelle and I were flying home from Seattle the same evening Sandy and Tony arrived,  and we would start the trip off with picking them up for a whitewater rafting trip at 7:30 the next morning.

As soon as I pulled into the hotel roundabout and saw my old friends sitting on the bench outside the door all of my nervousness flew right out the window.

Just take a look at them!  You can see how down-to-earth and wonderful they are with only a glance.

CA Tony and Sandy (2)

When they climbed into the truck it was as if I had seen them just yesterday. Sandy sat in the backseat between Batman and Annabelle, and they were jabbering away a mile a minute before we even hit the highway. Tony and I started getting caught up with all the events in each other’s lives as though it had been days instead of years.

The drive to Cascade Raft Company flew by as we all talked a mile a minute in the car.  We got checked in and loaded up in the  rafting bus for the short drive to our launch site.  After being fitted with our life jackets, aboard the raft we climbed.

I admit I was a little nervous about the rafting trip.  I had had a (literal) near-death experience while rafting some years ago in California, and I hadn’t been on a boat much since.  Our guide was Jeremy, who is co-incidentally the son of one of the local well-known equine veterinarians who had helped me with my horses tremendously over the years.  Jeremy was personable and competent, and that helped us all relax and have a good time.

And have a good time we did!

The kid started off in the back of the raft, sitting on the middle supports.  They thought that was pretty swell.

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Then Jeremy convinced them to move up front where they could get more action from the waves.  They both gamely climbed up and really enjoyed the next couple of rapids.

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Until this happened.  Yep, they’re there.  Up in front.  Completely submerged in whitewater.

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I think the look on Batman’s face afterwards pretty much says it all.  The kids politely asked to return to the back of the boat, where they rode out the rest of the trip in a little more controlled fashion.

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We counted our rafting experience a big success, and after a hearty lunch in Eagle, we headed back to Caldwell to get ready for our next event.  The Caldwell Night Rodeo.

The evening activity was Desperate Hubby’s first chance to meet Tony, and they hit it off immediately.

CA Tony and Greg

The kids took the opportunity to work on our dentist’s retirement fund with a little cotton candy.  Batman looks a little sugar-crazed, no?

CA Kids Rodeo

We all had a great time at the rodeo, and then returned to our house for a few more stories and cocktails.  I’m not sure exactly what time my friends headed back to the hotel, but suffice to say that we celebrated their arrival with great zeal.

The next morning arrived earlier than any of us were really ready for.  Tony was scheduled for a flying lesson with Greg’s instructor, Darren, and I had to rouse Desperate Hubby out of bed shortly before eight o-clock to go and introduce the two.

Desperate Hubby had work to do, so Batman hung out with him while Sandy, Annabelle and I went to Eagle Island State Park for a nice horseback ride.

I’ve always known Sandy’s email name to be Samantha Cowgirl, and she lived up to it that day.  Despite not riding a horse for the past twenty-something years, she climbed up on Grumpy like a pro and we set off. She looked like some sort of cowgirl movie star up on old Grump.   She even had the hat!

CA Saddled Up

We had a beautiful ride along the trail, over bridges and through a variety of summer foliage.

CA Crossing Bridge

Grumpy tested out Sandy’s skills by stopping to eat and refusing to budge a couple of times, but she lined him right out and they got along great for the rest of the trip.

CA Sandy Rides

When we finished riding, some shopping was in order.  After a quick stop by Costco we were set for a big barbecue dinner.

With a special guest.  It was our adored neighbor Grandpa Vernon’s birthday, and somehow we had convinced him and Kay to share the evening with us.  He even made us a fantastic peach pie.

And a small banana cream one for Annabelle.

She is so spoiled.

Sorry about the picture Vernon.  I didn’t get one with your eyes open.  I know you hate having your picture in the blog anyway, and I’m sure this doesn’t help!  You’re still handsome, though.

CA Grandpa Vernon

Our dinner was filled with lively conversation, great food provided by Desperate Hubby and Grandpa Vernon, and grand stories about Tony’s first time piloting a small aircraft.

Sandy and Tony and I had the chance to get all caught up on everybody from our past life, and I was so happy to hear how all of my old friends were doing.  It had been easy to imagine that everyone’s lives had stayed exactly the same once I left the great state of California, and it was great to hear that everyone (well, most everyone, with a couple of notable exceptions) had grown up and settled down to one degree or another.

After another late night, we were all tired the next day.  Tony and Sandy took the opportunity to do some laundry, take a nap and get ready for the next stage of their travels, and we reconvened for an early dinner at Smokey Mountain Pizza.

I’m not entirely sure what Tony is talking about in this picture.  Let’s just say it is a fishing story.

CA Tony Fish Story

When we got back to our house we had to pose for a few more photos.  Annabelle didn’t want to be in the picture with our family.  She wanted to be in the picture with Aunt Sandy and Uncle Tony.

I am sure she would have left with them if they had let her.

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But at least Batman stood with me and Desperate Hubby. Kind of like a partial family photo.

CAOur family

Later that evening we sadly bid our friends farewell.  They were scheduled for an early morning departure (which ended up being delayed by an optic-emergency, incidentally) and they wanted to get to bed early.

It was so gratifying to see my old buddies again.  They fit right in here in Idaho, and I think that a little Chateau in Caldwell would be an awesome fourth home for them.

What do you think, guys?

Categories: Random Musings, Travel | 5 Comments

A Cast Change

Today has been three weeks since Desperate Hubby’s foot surgery, and we went back yesterday morning for a cast change and x-rays to see how everything was coming along. 

DH is getting really tired of me taking pictures of him all the time, but as he is still on crutches and unable to catch me (barely) I was able to bring my camera along to document the occasion.

Heading In

DH and I were both anxious to hear what Dr. Hirosi would have to say.  He has been feeling very well, experiencing little pain or swelling, and we hoped that was a good sign for his recovery.

We checked in and were taken right back to the cast change room, where we were greeted by Dr. Hirosi’s young protégé, Joe.  He and DH shook hands like old friends.  They seemed really happy to see each other, and I thought they might have hugged if I hadn’t been there. Just kidding.  Sorta.

Hi Joe

After inquiring all about how DH had been getting along, with obvious and sincere interest, Joe went right to work cutting off the old cast.

He sawed down one side with what looked like a tiny electric pizza cutter (note:  awesome invention idea).

Sawing Once

Then he cut down the other side.

Sawing Twice

DH said he could feel the vibration of the saw but no pain. 

Next Joe cracked the cast open with something DH called a “rib cracker.”  He pulled apart the two pieces of the cast and dropped them on the floor, where they lay like the discarded husk of a cocoon.

Cracking Cast

Then he cut off all the cotton batting that had been cushioning DH’s foot and leg. When he started to take that off I steeled myself for the worst, relying on my journalistic professionalism (again, just kidding) to make me keep taking pictures.  DH had accidentally filled his cast with water two days ago in the shower, and I had visions of rotten green flesh falling off of the foot when it was unwrapped.

Cutting Cotton

DH confessed his faux pas to Joe as the foot was unwrapped.  He also explained his emergency treatment procedure, which had involved taking my blow dryer and blowing air down the cast until it felt dry.

I admit I had kind of scoffed at this plan as it unfolded, but Joe was impressed.  He said that was exactly what he would have recommended be done.  Sometimes I don’t give DH enough credit.

At last the great reveal.  There was no gangrene to be seen.

Bruised Foot

The foot looked awesome.  Joe went right to work taking out the stitches.

Taking Out Stitches

I offered to take the stitches out myself to let Joe have a little break, since I had done it lots of times on horses.  For some reason DH rejected this suggestion without even giving it any consideration whatsoever.  He probably didn’t want to hurt Joe’s feelings.

Joe was fast and gentle with the stitches, and DH said he couldn’t feel a thing.  That made Joe laugh.  He said you’d be surprised at how many grown men are brought almost to tears by the stitch removal process.  Big babies.

When he was all done the foot looked like this.  Pretty good for a double joint fusion involving a complex metal plate and a bunch of screws, huh?

Good Foot

DH said it felt great to have his cast off, and Joe encouraged him to wiggle his ankle and toes as much as he wanted.

Next it was time to address the hip. Joe took off the large bandage that had covered DH’s bone marrow removal site for the past weeks.  We were interested to see what was under there.

This is what it was. The stitches in this incision were under the skin, so Joe just had to take off the tape covering the top.  He said this looked great too.

Hip Incision

Next DH went down the hall to have his foot x-rayed.  We returned to the cast room and waited for the doctor to arrive.  He came in a minute or two later and we all looked at the x-rays on his phone.  Very impressive technology by the way.  Everything moved too quickly to take any pictures, but Dr. Hirosi pronounced the recovery to be right on track.  He was pleased with the healing so far, and genuinely happy that DH had managed the pain so well.

He prescribed lots of calcium, several minutes of sunshine each day, and limiting caffeine.  He said to come back in one month for another look.  If things looked good then there was a possibility that DH may get to have a boot instead of a cast, but he still would not be able to put any weight on the foot for a full month beyond that time.

DH was intrigued with the idea of the boot. He asked if he could take the boot off to sleep at night.  Dr. Hirosi said yes.  He asked if he could take the boot off to take a shower.  Dr. Hirosi said yes.  Then he asked if he could take the boot off and start doing rubber band exercises to speed up his rehab.  Dr. Hirosi said no. Absolutely not.

I am pretty sure there is no boot in DH’s future.

Dr. Hirosi said goodbye, and then it was time to put a cast back on.

First Joe put a big socky thing over the foot and leg.

Cast Sock

Then a few rolls of the cotton batting.  He said because there would no swelling to worry about this time he could make the cast a little smaller.

More Cotton

As he worked Joe told us that he would be leaving this fall to attend medical school at the University of Utah.  He was excited to have been granted admission there, and I could tell he was going to be a great doctor.  I told him so.

After more deliberation than you might expect DH chose the color of black for his cast.  Joe assured us that the kids could still write on it, using a sparkly silver or gold Sharpie. 

First Joe took a roll of fiberglass out of the package.  It looked exactly like the Vet Wrap I have used dozens of times bandaging my horses.  The roll of fiberglass was dipped in the water for a few seconds to soften it.

Wet Fiberglass

Then he rolled it smoothly around the cotton batting.

Finishing Heel

About midway through Joe realized that the cast was a little tight, so he gently removed DH’s smallest two toes to accommodate the tight space.

Trimming Toes

Ha!  Just seeing if you were paying attention.  I actually have no idea that he was doing with the scissors.  I crack myself up.

Loves His Job

In no time at all we were finished and headed back home.  DH was happy with the comparatively slim line of his new cast, and we were both glad that the healing was right on track.

More progress reports coming in a month!

Categories: Life in the Country, Random Musings | Leave a comment

Happy Mother’s Day

It has been almost fifteen years since I lost my beautiful, wonderful mom; my best friend and closest confidante. In some ways it seems like a long time ago. In many ways it seems like yesterday.

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As a mom now myself, I have gained some perspective on the loss of my own mother.  I know that she would want me to celebrate her life and not cry over her loss; to remember the many happy moments that we shared rather than grieve over the ones we were denied.  So I do try to do that.  But sometimes it is hard.

So much has happened in my life that I wish she had been here for.  Mom never got to meet my husband or hold my two babies when they were born.  She won’t be here for Annabelle’s pre-school graduation next week, or her or Zach’s graduation from college many years from now.

In a way, though, mom is still with me.  I see her in my daughter in so many ways.  Annabelle loves sticky bread and butter and tomatoes with sugar, just like her grandma did.  She has that same wry sense of humor and the wonderful quality of being able to really laugh at herself.  She has tenacity and drive, and never gives up.

My mom raised six kids with patience and humor, and held down a full-time job at same time.  As I fall into bed exhausted each night after taking care of two little ones, my only job that of taking care of a happy household, I marvel at how she did it.

My early childhood could best be described as idyllic.  We always had everything we needed and never lacked for much we wanted.  We rode horses and swam in the canal, raced our bikes around the neighbor’s horseshoe-shaped driveway and flew our kites in the big pasture out behind the house. 

My mom let us have every imaginable sort of animal.  Over the years we had everything from horses and 4H steers to rabbits, chickens and pet rats on our little one acre plot of land. I was famous for bringing home “stray” dogs that would usually sport a mysterious loop of twine around their necks, and I never got in trouble for it.  Every night my mom put a wholesome dinner on the table, and we all sat down together to eat.

When my parents divorced during my high school years, I know it put a terrible strain on my mom.  She had three kids still at home and was working a full-time job that didn’t really pay enough to support us, yet she still managed to always make us feel that everything was OK. 

Even though my dad left her in a horrible position, mom never said a bad word about him.  My little brothers weren’t old enough to understand what had happened, and they missed my dad.  Mom always told them that dad really did love them, and he had done the best he could.  As an adult looking back on the situation I am in awe of the character my mom showed in making that statement, and the self restraint it must have taken for her to never let us kids know just how bad things were.

My mom worked so hard to take care of us during those years, but she never complained or let on that it was a burden.  We didn’t have money to buy heating oil for the furnace under the house, so mom would get up early every morning and start a fire in the fireplace so that the house would be warm when us kids got up.  We didn’t always have wood to burn, and sometimes the fire would be made out of newspapers or cardboard boxes.  I would usually arise to find mom in the kitchen, a welcoming smile on her face, sipping coffee and warming herself in front of the open oven door.

As I got through high school and then college, my mom and I enjoyed a very close relationship.  She was always there for me, and we talked often. Mom and I didn’t have the sort of troubled relationship that graced many mother/teenager households.  She was my closest friend, and my biggest fan. 

I moved to California to work after college and I talked to my mom almost every single day.  She counseled me on job choices, boyfriend troubles, and just about everything else a young girl far away from home for the first time needed help with.

When I got a little older and more established I got my first cell phone.  I would call my mom every night on my commute home, first from a handset attached by a curly cord  to the bread-loaf sized base that sat next to me on the seat of my Bronco II, later from the hands free speaker phone wired into my shiny black BMW.

It didn’t matter when I called, mom always had time to talk to me.  I don’t remember a time when she ever asked me to call back, or even cut our conversation short.  She was my best friend, and to this day I still miss that connection terribly.

My mom was an elegant woman who looked dressed up even in jeans and a t-shirt.  She always had her nails polished, tasteful makeup on, and an air about her that said she was a lady.  In her last years of life, before she became sick, we had the opportunity to travel together.  Mom was so proud the day that she got her passport in the mail, and her biggest dream was to be able to get that passport stamped on the European vacation that we always planned to take together. 

Mom did get to use her passport a couple of times, on trips that we took to Mexico, but she was disappointed that she never got a stamp from a “real” foreign country on it.

In her later years, mom became pretty adventurous.  Although she had never been taught to swim, she gamely learned to snorkel with me in Hawaii, and she delighted in seeing all the beautiful fish.  I know on some primal level the water terrified her, but she was determined to join me on the adventures, and join me she did.  She ate sushi and artichokes; rode in a helicopter and a speed boat, a convertible and a white water raft.

On one of our Mexico vacations she posed with an iguana that was being carried down the beach by a local resident.  Mom hated reptiles of any type, but she smiled gamely for the camera, even though her toes literally curled with discomfort over the situation.

clip_image002

Mom loved to visit me in San Francisco, and she delighted in all of the differences between the city and the quiet country life she led at home.  I lived in a studio apartment near the marina for many years, and I always took my clothes to a little laundry down the street owned by a sweet old Chinese man.  When I picked the clothes up they would be perfectly folded and wrapped in blue paper, with my name written on the paper in neat black marker.  In Chinese.

Once when I was home for a visit to Idaho, my mom did some of my laundry for me while I was out one day.  When I returned that evening the laundry was sitting on the kitchen table, neatly folded and wrapped in a brown paper sack, my mom’s version of Chinese lettering adorning the front of the package.  We laughed until we cried.

My mom was the most amazing person I will ever know. 

As I celebrate Mother’s Day today with my own kids, I will cherish every moment I have with them.

And I will think of my mom and smile.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Categories: Random Musings | 5 Comments

Desperate Hubby Returns to Work

After spending the last ten days in pretty much this position, Desperate Hubby took it into his head on Sunday evening that he was going to return to the office yesterday.

In the Recliner

Ten days down sounds like kind of a long time, but after the major surgery that DH had that is about half of the time the doctor thought he would be out of commission. 

I was somewhat skeptical of DH’s return to work.  In the past ten days he has only gotten dressed twice, each time in slip on gym shorts and a t-shirt when company was coming over, and he has not been out of his chair for more than half an hour at a stretch.  The half hour stretch was a day this weekend when I took the kids grocery shopping and DH decided to get up and play his guitar for awhile.  It took several hours to recover from that exertion.

I’m not saying I was not ready for him to return to work. 

DH has been a model patient.  He is unfailingly polite in his requests, and has been for the most part extremely good natured about his confinement.  He has continued to have virtually no pain from his operation, which is almost unbelievable given statistics and history recited by his doctor and other friends in the medical field.

I do not mind caring for my husband, and truthfully I kind of enjoyed having him around full-time to pop out of my office at any moment I wished to go down the hall to tell him some fascinating piece of information I had seen on the internet, or plague him with titillating details about how I had changed my mind yet again about the manuscript I am trying to finish writing for a looming competition deadline.

But on Sunday evening DH committed a transgression.

I was tired.  It had been a long day, and on top of all my regular household duties I was trying to do a few things that DH normally takes care of.  In reality, the burden of completing household jobs is for the most part my realm of responsibility.  DH is more than willing to help, but he works so much that he just isn’t around to do a lot of day-to-day chores, and then of course there is the little fact that I don’t have a job.  I feel (don’t shoot me ladies) that since I have the luxury of spending the majority of my time either riding my horse or playing with my kids (usually both), the household duties belong to me. They are my job.  And I’m good with that.

What is not my normal job is cleaning the garage.  Or taking the garbage out to the dumpster.  It’s not that I can’t do these duties, and I often do, but in my mind they are extra-credit duties.  I know, I know, I am revealing some deep pathology here, but anyone who knows me very well knows that I am a closet credit-seeker.  I am willing to do whatever I can to help most anyone, most anytime.  I share my time and energy pretty happily when possible to make someone’s life easier.  All I want is a little credit.  Nothing formal or fancy; I don’t require a thank you card or even a kiss on the cheek, but a quick “good job” keeps me going.  DH has recognized this about me in our nearly thirteen years together, and is normally quick to provide the kudos that keep me rolling from one load of laundry to the next.

But not Sunday night.  I came in the house, eager to recount my accomplishments.  I told inspiring tales of organizing the garage (which had never fully recovered from Batman’s party), how I weeded the front flower beds (OK, it took me all of ten minutes, but still) and that I had hauled three bags of garbage and a full can out to the dumpster that we hog (I mean share) with our neighbors Kay and Vernon.

Did DH say “OH thank you so much!  That is awesome!  I was wondering how I would clean that garage out on crutches!!  And ALL the garbage.  What a star!!”?

No.  He said “Wow, you’re a goer,” then went back to reading his magazine.

I was hurt and mad (I told you there was pathology involved and I didn’t say I was proud of it). After I fed everyone dinner and made sure DH had a full jug of water beside his chair I went to bed.

Without saying goodnight.  HA!  That’ll show him. 

I got up early yesterday morning to work on my writing project, waiting for DH to get up and say “How come you didn’t say goodnight last night? Is everything OK?” 

But he didn’t.  He just said “Good morning.”  The nerve.

So that is why I was ready for him to go back to work.

To return to the original story, DH got up and took a mini-shower which he accomplishes by standing in the doorway of the shower stall in the master bath and sort of dunking his head under the stream of water. He got dressed and was ready for me to drive him to work.

Up and Dressed

I drove him the three minutes to our downtown office and he crutched it inside.  Aren’t I a gem for standing back and taking photos instead of helping with the door?

Going in the Door

He got settled in behind his desk, and I told him goodbye, snickering to his assistant as I left that I hoped he would let me get all the way home before he called me to come back and get him.

At His Desk

I went back home and went to work on my project.  The house was pretty quiet with no one to run down the hallway and talk to every five minutes.

At noon I stopped working to go get the kids, so I called DH to see if he wanted me to come get him too.  He said “Sure, I’ll come home for lunch”.  He had been at his desk for three hours. 

DH came in the house and ate lunch and sat with his foot elevated for half an hour.  Then to my utter surprise he then got up and drove himself back to the office.  Where he stayed until five o’clock.

When he got home at five he sat back down in his chair.  He said his foot felt fine, but his body was tired from the exertion of being up all day.  He fell asleep.

I was amazed and impressed.  I forgot all about being mad because he did not thank me for doing his jobs. 

That man is a goer.

Categories: Life in the Country, Random Musings | 2 Comments

Blondes With Guns

Once a month I get together with a group of girls to shoot at the Impact Guns range in Boise.  I am a newcomer to the group; the other women have been getting together to practice their marksmanship for years.

Yes, I know the glasses look ridiculous.

Paula Shoots

The group was created and organized by my super-cool friend Christine.  Christine is a phenomenal woman in so many ways.  In fact, she is so cool that I am going to devote a whole blog post to her awesomeness, just as soon as I can figure out how to capture the essence of it in less than a couple thousand words. 

This is Christine.

Christine Shoots

Last night there were just the three of us shooting.  In the months since I have been privileged to join the girls our shooting numbers have ranged from five or six to our small select group last night.

We call Tawny the “Charlie’s Angel” of the group.

Tawny Shoots

We generally get a couple of lanes at the range on Ladies’ Night and fire away.  There is always a plethora of weaponry to sample between all the shooters. I shoot a Hi-Point .45 most usually, which is remarkably reliable and accurate for an inexpensive gun. 

Christine always has a selection of weapons with her. I enjoy shooting her .22 revolver the most of any of the guns because it is so friendly and has no kick at all.  She often has to help me when we shoot, because my ROTC days are long behind me, and I can’t always remember all of the steps required to get the gun up and running to start my marksmanship practice.

Last night I reloaded my clip with the bullets backwards.  Yep, backwards.  When I couldn’t get the clip back in the gun Christine came to the rescue.  I can be such a dork.  But that’s why we practice.

Yes, I know the glasses look ridiculous.

Paula Target

After we were finished we had the nice guy at the front desk take our picture.  Don’t we look tough?

Blondes with Guns

When we are all finished practicing we caravan to a local establishment for snacks and liquid refreshments.  That is more than half the fun.

Target Door

The moral of the story is this:  Don’t ever come after me in a dark alley.  I just might shoot you.

If you give me a minute.

Categories: Life in the Country, Random Musings | 1 Comment

Through the Ears of a Horse

This is me, on Mitsy, at about a year of age.

Paula on Mitsy

I have loved and ridden horses since I was a baby. Many of my most significant life moments have been experienced on the back of a horse, and in fact my relationship with them has been so significant that I’ve discovered the most efficient way for me to track time is to think of all the wonderful horses in my life and relate from there.

The horses represent chapters in my life, and more than that.  They represent the love of my grandparents; the camaraderie of friends; the thrill of competition; the indulgence in luxury and adventure; and the joy in spending real quality time with a child.

When I reflect on a horse, I instantly remember the other details in my life from that time: who my friends were; where I rode the horse and what I did with it; in later years where I lived; worked; what car I drove; who I dated.

Here I am at about eight with Buck. Buck was the first horse I was allowed to lope, an anxiously awaited privilege accorded to me at age five.

Buck

As I child I spent entire summers and as much other time as possible at my grandparent’s ranch at the base of the Owyhee mountains in Idaho. There I rode everything I could catch, often with a twine tied around the lower jaw, “Indian Style.”

Here, at eleven, with Buck, Mitsy and Peanuts. Peanuts was the first horse that was really truly my own.

Buck Mitsy Peanuts

My sister and I grew up showing in Horse 4-H. Here I am on her mare, Kelly, at the Owyhee County Fair.

Kelly

As a junior in high school on my second “very own horse,” Cinder. I rode this horse through high school and most of college, until he got a broken leg when he was kicked and had to be put down. I was gone to school at the time and my grandparents didn’t want to tell me the news until I got home. I got up early my first day back for break and bounded upstairs with my boots on to go for a ride. That was a sad day

Cinder.

After college I lived in San Francisco and didn’t ride much until I was about thirty.  At that time I got the bug to learn to jump.

After thirty days of lessons I bought Hennessey, a fancy bay thoroughbred gelding. This is our first show, sixty days into my career as a hunter rider. We got first place!

Hennessey

That started a strong love of the discipline of jumping.  I bought Austin next, as a “practice” horse and ended up winning more on him than my most expensive mounts.

Austin Barn

After a couple of years I started travelling to Germany and Holland with my trainer.  There I would buy horses and import them to California for resale.  It was a magical time in my horse world, travelling all over Europe with famous Grand Prix riders, riding every horse they would let me throw my leg over. I rode dozens of cool horses, and met lots of interesting people. I even had one memorable trip travelling around Holland with the Princess of Jordan.

This is my favorite horse that I ever imported.  Her name was Atlanta, and she was a Hanoverian mare out of Germany.  I rode her for several months and I was so sad when she sold.

Atlanta

I travelled more of the world on horseback adventure trips.

I rode over the roughest country imaginable on this non-descript sorrel horse in Australia.

Australia Horse

And crossed raging rivers and mountain peaks on the back of a giant black draft-cross mare in New Zealand.

New Zealand River

I even ran full speed across the plains of Africa on the back of a polo pony, right in the middle of a herd of giraffe.

Giraffe in Africa

When I moved back to Idaho in my mid-thirties, I brought some of the hunter jumpers with me, but found it was impossible to maintain such high maintenance horses without my trainers. I eventually sold them off and moved into barrel racing and roping.

This is one of my nicest barrel racing and roping horses, Jet.  He was the first western horse I bought when I moved back to Idaho.

Jet

When I married I was able to introduce my young stepdaughters to the joys of horses. This is Sami and Hana riding Annie and Jet.

Hana and Sami

Eventually I moved into the sports of reining and then reined cow horse.  It was from these demanding disciplines that I learned the most about horsemanship and riding.

This is me showing my mare Daz in the novice bridle class at the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno.

dazcow

When my little girl Annabelle was born I wasted no time in introducing her to the back of a horse. Her love of this magnificent animal started as early as mine did. This is her and I on Lucy.

1st ride March 18

We raised some babies for a few years.  It was so fun to watch them grow up. This is Blossom (Shiney Dresser), with her baby Addie (Shineadoodledoo).

Blossom and Addie

Life forced me to take a little break from owning horses for a few years after the kids were born, but I still rode on occasion through the generosity of friends and relatives.

A couple of years ago I got another horse to call my own.  She is a little bay mare named Spice, and I have enjoyed hours and hours of time on her back so far.

McCall Birthday

The vast majority of time I spend with horses nowadays is shared by my Horsecrazy daughter Annabelle. It is so rewarding to be able to share this joy and passion with her.

Annabelle Grumpy

Some of the best times of my life have been spent looking through the ears of a horse, and I look forward to spending many more years experiencing the wonder of these incredible animals.

 

Copyright 2012 Paula Cook

Categories: Horse Adventures, Random Musings | 4 Comments

Since you asked….

I have had a few people email me and ask if I could send them my posts via email when I publish them.  I could do that, but then you are relying on my memory and the attention span influenced by small children playing around the office whilst I type.

If you want to receive my posts each day, you can click on the “Follow” button on the bottom right corner of the title page at adesperatehorsewife.com.  Enter your email address and you will get an email of the posts.

Again, I am humbled and honored by your interest.  Thanks for reading.

Categories: Random Musings | Leave a comment

To My Dear Readers

Here it is, Friday morning, the end of my first week of publishing my musings for all the world to see.  I want to pause here for  a moment to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who take time out of your busy day to join me on my journey.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me why I would want to so publicly record events of my life – lay it open for all the world to see, if you will.  Good question.  I have answered that the “public” part is not the point at all.

My whole point in starting this blog was to remind myself every single day how damn lucky I am to have this awesome life I have.  I have always tried each day to mindful of all the blessings that have befallen me, and writing these stories is a way for me to quantify those blessings, and to make sure that I am fully present as I enjoy them.

I cannot express how much I have enjoyed this week of sharing with all of you. I feel honored and humbled by the tremendous response I have gotten from people supporting me.  The comments you post, emails, texts and even a few phone calls really touch me.  If you enjoy reading my blog half as much as I enjoy writing it I will have done my job.

Thanks again, from the bottom of my muddy boots,

Paula

The Desperate Horsewife

Categories: Random Musings | Leave a comment

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