Friday, September 20, 2013

On the Topic of Wrangling Wild Northern Beasts


When I was a large/massive/weird child, I used to read books about horses, play with toy horses, draw pictures of horses, and memorize horse anatomy and breed types. For three years I religiously and selfishly prayed every night that God would use my polished manipulation skills to convince my parents to get horses. My parents were impressed with my knowledge and enthusiasm and my prayers were answered. So, we resurrected our falling down barn and built a barbed wire fence on our acreage. We ended up getting two inseparable Arabian sisters who had rebellious teenage attitudes.

Horse ownership isn’t all glamour and glitz. Frankly, it’s peasant farm labor. I shoveled monumental amounts of horse sh--, carried buckets of water up the hill to our barn, (since our barn had no running water), and loaded heavy hay bales from the truck into the loft. Then there is cleaning their hooves, tacking them up, bathing them, feeding them, getting them shod, and dealing with their neurotic tendencies and impossible psychology. Horses are exhausting.  

I haven’t done much horse riding since I was a kid. However, I’ve resurrected that hobby and I’ve found myself a little petulant horse to ride. She’s a feisty Icelandic/Paso Fino horse. She has a bushy black main, a little brown face with a bump on her nose, small dainty legs, and a ballooning belly.

And she’s a little pill! She tries to eat when we’re riding in the meadow – even though she’s just eaten and is, in fact, full. When I make her trot, she tosses her head in defiance, trots for a few steps, and then stops. I have to keep my legs glued to her sides to keep her trotting (and even that doesn’t work). It’s exhausting and harder than doing a wall sit. She bucks when I make her cantor. And then runs towards the barn, hoping to be done with the torture. It’s like dealing with an obstinate two year old. Now I know how you parents out there must feel.

I tried to manage her naughty behavior by saying things like “No!” or “Don’t do that!” Then I tried rewarding her positive behavior. I said affectionate and comforting things when she did as I said, like “good girl!” and “you’re doing such a good job.” It was somewhat successful. But then she just went back to her usual wayward ways. So, in a moment of frustration, when she refused to listen to me, I slapped her butt. She jumped a bit and then did every thing I told her to do from there on out. She figured out that when I mean business, I mean business.

We made a good team. I felt like a wild county girl with the power to domesticate a large beast (by beast, I mean small pony). I patted her and told her she was distinguished and esteemed. She beamed in delight as she tottered about. 

After the frustration and joy, I eventually dismounted my beast and de-tacked her. Then I sat down in the shade, put on her halter and she lazily grazed by me. Eventually, I put her back into her pen and stroked her. She stood next to me rubbing her head digging into my belly. I put my arm over her head and tousled her chin. And she nuzzled her little head into my armpit and gave me horse hugs. 

It was nice to know that after all we’d been through. The roller coaster of emotions - we were still friends.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Playful Case of Dysphagia

Ha – you take-things-for-granted person. You probably don’t even know what dysphagia is. You probably think it’s the name of a beautiful Italian actress in one of those confusing foreign sub-titled films, or a province in Northern Spain, or a flashy new car model. All of those guesses are wrong. You’re off. Way off. Dysphagia actually means having difficulty swallowing. And, it’s no fun at all.

You’ve probably never even thought about swallowing!

We swallow about 6,000 times per day. We swallow our food, our saliva, and even foreign objects – quarters, fish bones, and beer caps to name a few. And no one thinks about swallowing. Except Speech Pathologists. They think about. They think about it all day. Then they go off and read books about it. They need to get lives. 

I met a sick cute little old lady with dysphagia recently. She was Spanish-speaking and so I had to slosh out a pathetic Spanish word salad as a means to communicate with her.  Poor her. I should send her a sympathy card. I need to go to the post office to get stamps... Anyways, back to my poignant story.

I haven’t spoken Spanish for a very long time. So, I kinda majorly suck. But, we made it through.

Anyways, this cute old lady called me “mi amor,” and made a point to say “gracias” and “adios” when I left. (Maybe she felt she had to be extra nice to me because she thought I was mentally disabled). But, when I bossed her on how to swallow, she got all sassy and playful and repeated “unn traaagiiiito!!” and looked at me with a mischievous edentulous smile. Then we laughed. Then we smiled. Then we giggled. Then I said it back to her and wagged my finger - with my usual dopey grin. Then we laughed again. Then we smiled. Then we got back to business. 

That lady made my day and put a smile on my face. When I got to thinking about why it because she was endearing but also because we played. We joked around and we didn’t even know each other. We even had communication barriers - her with no teeth, and me with my crummy Spanish. This got me to thinking about playing. Adults need to play more. Seriously. Most of the adults I know are stone-faced, almost all the time. We’d all enjoy our lives more if we played more. And we might even like each other - without having to dole out bribes. Think about the money that could be saved by not having to bribe people with extravagant gifts!

So, if a sick little old lady, with dysphagia, can play and joke – with an outright stranger, and in broad daylight, well, then so can you and I!

Listen to what your mother said and “go play!”

Play!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Validating Beaming Grandeur



Generally, our galaxie's sun is allegedly supposed to shine. However, in the Northwest our loving sun is completely inattentive to its primary task of casting warm sunbeams on the masses. This sun of ours comes up with all manner of reasons not to do its rightful job. Or perhaps it’s frightened and hides behind big heavy dark rain clouds. Well whatever the sun's excuse is, everyone is dreary and cross. It’s quite troubling really. They (By "they," I mean everyone) listen to Radiohead, drink beer, and have depressing introspective thoughts as they stare out the window upon the gloomy weather. It’s true. It really is. Just come to the northwest and you’ll discover this for yourself. The people here take large amounts of things like Zoloft and Prozac. Those drug companies make a killing off this place.

But not this week! Or last. Or the week before that.

Finally, this sun of ours, has been dutifully and obediently shining and shining and shining. It is finally listening to the needs of the people. No longer do we need to use our OTT lamps and make extra efforts to maintain a positive attitude.

It’s sunny here! And it continues to be sunny!

All this sun has caused a bit of a raucous. People are chatting to one another in the elevators, smiling and whistling absentmindedly whilst ambling down streets, and even making small talk alongside pools – and all of this is happening in broad daylight!


But, since I’ve resided in this corner of the world so long. I know it shall not last. So, I must relish this. Soak it up (literally and figuratively). For before we know it – it’s going to be gloomy again. So get outside! Talk to that person on the elevator! Strike up a conversation about the price of zucchini with the complete stranger down at the farmer’s market. Or, for that matter – actually go to the Farmer’s Market. Because, if we don’t – our sun might get offended and think we don't even care that it is shining and then it might go off and hide for another nine months.  Now we don’t want that, now do we? We must validate the sun.
It's our civic duty!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Operation of Book Reduction

I have recently begun the process of becoming a minimalist. Now, I've never been a person with a debilitating packrat problem but for some reason - with the arrival of Spring, I have this urge to GET RID OF STUFF! Let's see what do I have that I don't use much. There is my ukulele, five tennis rackets, a guitar, a futon, a printer, an old laptop, too many clothes, too many shoes, too many books, too many towels, and TOO MUCH STUFF! I'm pulling out my hair in large clumps as a result of the abundance of stuff. So, I've decided I must ensure stuff is not so plentiful. Therefore I'm on a major warpath and getting rid of my worldly possessions and taking a vow of poverty and solitude. (Okay, I might be getting a bit ahead of myself here...)

Why get rid of stuff? 

Stuff is overwhelming. Stuff gets in the way. Stuff is stupid. Stuff is unnecessary. Stuff is fluff and you don't need fluff. It's liberating not to have stuff. I don't know about you but I like liberty (and life and the pursuit of happiness). Liberty is one of my inalienable rights as endowed by the US constitution and my lifestyle has caused me to put a constraint on that. I must put a stop to this madness! So, I shall. 

Today I did a small exercise and I got rid of 70 books - I now own 64 books (including text books which are professional reference texts). 

Rationale: Will I ever read these books again? They're heavy. They take up space. And, if I'm desperate to read them again, there is always the library - or a Kindle. I used to have books to ensure people would think I'm smart and then those people would say "Wow, you're sooo smart. I can see you read so much." Well truth is, I'm actually illiterate and I bought books to fool people. If people think I'm smart because I have a bunch of books well, they think too much. People will know I'm smart if I actually am smart. And if they think I'm smart, even though I'm not smart, then they're not smart for knowing I'm not smart. Duh. 

Do it. Get rid of your extra books. Face up to the fact that you're not going to read them again. Trust me, you're smart. You don't need a massive bookshelf validating you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Impressive Icelandic Adventure



Trip to Iceland. Check. 

I have just experienced what one might call "a trip to Iceland." Yes, I engaged in my typical tom-foolery and bought myself a flight to that empty island in search of adventure. And, adventure I found!

I took this trip sort of on my own. Some people choose not to travel if they cannot find a friend to go with. I say "poppycock!" to such thoughts. There is always someone to travel with. You might not know that person right now, but you can get to know them if you choose. You can find these people in adventure groups or, in my case, on couchsurfing. I met a girl on couchsurfing, we rented a car together, split the costs, had dinner together a few times, went to the local soaking pool, and stayed in a rural cabin for a night. No, we did not become best friends but it was nice to have a companion. Before I took this trip, I was on my own. I had no one to do things with. But, I quickly remedied that situation.

Never stop yourself from taking a trip because you have to go alone. You don't. Be gutsy and find someone. Trust you instinct as to whether you would be a good fit. If not, you can ditch them. If your choice is don’t go at all if no one will go with you – well, you’re selling yourself short. And don't sell yourself short. 

Being Desirable

Most days pass by with few notable events. Even when one rides the bus and is surrounded by people who characterize themselves as "bus people" life just isn't always exhilarating. However, the other day I was sitting on the bus when a woman boarded with two young children. The young children boarded in front of her and she attempted to heard them to three empty seats in the front. The younger walked on to the bus with a hood on his head and an oversized backpack. He appeared to be about four or five. He then looked at me, gave me a mischevious smile, and sat himself down right next to me. Then the mother beckoned for him to come and sit by her because he chose to sit quite far from his mother (next to me!). In any case, this small child choosing to sit by me on a bus full of other people happened to make my day!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Politics of a First Grader

"Punishing honest mistakes stifles creativity. I want people moving and shaking the earth and they're going to make mistakes." 
Ross Perot

I recently stumbled upon this quote by Ross Perot. Aaahhh, Ross Perot. A man who has always had a bit of real estate in my heart. I have been one of his ardent followers since I was six. 

When I was six, my elementary school had a simulated election where we voted for the president. I hadn't quite figured out my political ideals but I was working out various political theories in my mind. In fact, I hadn't even heard of the people on my ballot and I wasn't even sure how to spell their names - much less write them in my primitive penmanship. 

So, the time came to cast out ballots in the election. "Whom should I vote for?" I anxiously asked myself. George Bush, Bill Clinton or Ross Perot? I had no idea who they even were or what they believed. But I knew something. I knew that Ross Perot was really rich. So, based on that knowledge and that knowledge alone, I voted for Ross Perot. 

Here's why:
I heard that he had money. I also knew that it took money to pay something called taxes. I knew my parents didn't like paying taxes. Hmm. So, if Ross Perot had money and you needed money to pay taxes then he would probably charitably use his own money to pay all the American tax bills therefore reducing the tax rate. You see, he would pay off so much of the taxes there would only be a minute portion that the American people had to pay. Ross would use his money. "What a magnanimous man - he's got my vote!" I enthusiastically thought to myself. 

It was a nice idea - even if only for a moment. But, my universe collapsed right onto me one day during phonics class. I learned that Bill Clinton had won. Comrade Ross Perot would not lead the movement. He would never get the chance to use his own money to pay everyone else's taxes. I wondered for years if my theory would have worked? Would a rich president say "Oh America, don't worry. I'll pay your taxes with my own money. You go back to watching reality TV and drinking boxed wine. S'all good!" 

Which brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this insipid essay I have just written. Go ahead and make mistakes. Why? Because Ross said so. 

No really though. Ross didn't win and become president. Was that a mistake? Who's to say. But go ahead and take a whack at something where you might just make a mistake. Maybe some six year-old will believe in your cause.

That's worth something.