I should have done this weeks ago

Our grocery cart/high chair cover came weeks ago, and I FINALLY tried it out at the store with Jack the other day.  He did great.  I still have to work on getting it in place quickly and with one hand.  For this outing, I put the car seat in the cart, got the cover on, moved Jack into the seat, and then piled groceries on top of the car seat.

Plenty adorable, right?  It got so much better.  I turned back to the cart after picking up milk, and found this:

Poor sad baby chicken.  Not quite 9 months old and already completely done with grocery shopping.

Just call me Dharma

I’m a science person, right?  Not a holistic medicine person.  I don’t believe that apple cider vinegar can cure everything from blisters to cancer, and of COURSE we’re vaccinating Jack.  I don’t plan to change my mind about any of that, but I AM willing to try just about anything to make sure I can continue to feed Jack.

A couple of weeks ago, maybe three now, Jack started to behave strangely while nursing, and without going into all the details (because I’m tired and that takes too long), I’ve asked for help, and two other moms, his doctor, and two lactation nurses (one of whom witnessed him nurse) all think I have low milk supply.  Jack is still gaining weight, so no one is seriously concerned about him, but I’m not ready to give up on being his sole source of food.

Solution #1: pump constantly.  Sharon (the visiting lactation nurse who looks and sounds like John’s Aunt Toni – it’s eerie) suggested pumping after every feeding for 24-48 hours.  I haven’t managed EVERY feeding (sometimes I let him nap if he falls asleep eating), but I’ve been pumping a lot and not seeing a lot of improvement.  We’re coming up on 96 hours, and MAYBE making some progress.  We’ve replaced the bedtime feeding with a bottle because that late in the day I’m producing practically nothing and both Jack and I are very not happy about it.  Anyway, the pumping is supposed to be telling my body that the baby needs more so, damn it, produce more.  We’ll see.

Solution #2 is the one I want to talk about.  After suggesting pumping all the time, Sharon asked, “Have you tried any herbs?”  Part one of the answer: I haven’t tried ANYthing because I didn’t know what the problem was.  Part two of the answer: um, what?  What kind of herbs?  Like, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme?  Or, like, herbs?  What is happening here?

Apparently, some herbs are galactagogues, meaning they’ll help produce milk, like fenugreek, alfalfa, and, I kid you not, something called blessed thistle.  I feel hippy-dippier just typing that.  So Sharon suggested I try those herbs, in addition to the constant pumping, either in pill form or in Mother’s Milk Tea.  (I can’t believe this is a real thing.)  I like tea, so I ordered some of that, and it arrived today.  I was worried about the fenugreek (I really don’t like licorice), but the tea tastes pretty much like a basic chamomile (I don’t drink much herbal tea, so give me a break here if I’m totally off base), and I can deal with that.  Of course, I have to deal with it 3-5 cups a day for it to be effective.

The tea has been in the house for 90 minutes, and I’ve had two cups already.  I’ll get at least three in tonight.


This will be…interesting

Tomorrow morning we head for PA for Christmas.  This will the first time we’ve driven more than half an hour with Jack, the first time we’ve spent a night somewhere other than home with Jack (not counting the hospital), and the first time he’ll be around more than five people at once.

I’m not terribly worried about the drive.  He’ll probably sleep much of it (although I most likely just jinxed it).  And the people – he’ll be fine.  It’s the nights away from home that have me a little worried.  No, I’m not worried.  I’m resigned to the likelihood that we won’t get any sleep.  He’ll be in a new place, in an unfamiliar crib (or something), new noises (including another baby), so he’s likely to have trouble settling down, and since he’ll be in our room, I think I’m likely to have trouble settling down.

Maybe he and I can tire each other out during the days enough to sleep like logs at night.  That’s actually pretty likely.  🙂    And maybe, just maybe, the experience of sleeping somewhere other than home will make sleeping at home that much more attractive to him and he’ll go down for naps easier.

I can dream.

Zannah’s first art class

I took my first art class EVER (well, since 5th grade) last night, and it was pretty neat.  It’s the first of six sessions, Monday nights, and there are five of us.  Okay, there are nine of us, but four people are returning students who are well ahead of the rest of us.  And based on what I could see of the other newbies, they’re all better than me, but hey – that’s why I’m taking a class.

The instructor is this old guy, Don, who shuffles across the floor, has a fairly dry sense of humor, and is pretty blunt.  He had us all fill out some basic information about ourselves – what experience we have, why we’re taking the class, whether drawing has anything to do with our jobs, what level we think we’re at – and then he read them out loud to everyone.

“Zannah…she thinks she’s a beginner…NO experience since elementary school?!?  Not in high school?”  “I took the music path.”  “Hmph.”  Similar for the others, although at least one has more recent drawing experience.  The others apparently just have more natural talent.

Favorite line of the night:

“I’ll ask you to tape down your paper.  I will rip the tape for you because I teach children.  I will repeat instructions multiple times because I teach adults.”

He started by asking us to draw vertical lines an inch apart, all across the page.  Then he said to erase the worst ones and fix them.  I erased all of mine.  Then we progressed to drawing things we could see – angles, shapes, flower pots.  He very briefly showed us shadows and then it was 9pm and time to go.  But I get to go to an art store this week and buy stuff!


Testing the sunrise

Mom and Dad got us the sunrise alarm clock thing that wakes you up by simulating the sunrise next to your head, a thing I have wanted to try for YEARS.

Trial: Day 1

We tried it the first morning we got home, but that wasn’t really a good test.  We set the alarm late enough that the room was getting bright anyway.  Didn’t get the full effect.

Trial: Day 2

The NEXT morning, we set the alarm for 6am like usual, and it works!  We woke up gently, the room was lighter, and since it was only 5:59, I turned off the alarm before what is described as “gentle beeping” could begin.  But then, we were so comfortable and happy that we didn’t get up.  Went back to sleep for an hour, woke up too late for the gym, so we shut the light off and slept for another hour.  It was a lovely morning, but maybe the gentle beeping is necessary to get us out of bed.

Trial: Day 3

We set the alarm for 6 again and actually got up!  The gradual light really is nice, but “gentle beeping” my Aunt Sally*.  It’s not the all-out horrible alarm sound they always play on TV, but it’s not gentle, either.  The answer is yes, when it’s really that dark and cold outside of bed, the beeping is necessary no matter how nice the simulated sunrise.  It’s a shock, but it’s less of one.

Verdict after three days: I like the new alarm clock.

*Apologies to someone’s Aunt Sally.

Too sweet? Too dry? I can’t tell.

When we visited Seattle in May, we stopped in this sort-of-ice-cream-parlor for dessert one night because John had an ice cream craving.  He got a sundae, probably with peanut butter in it, and I got prosecco in one of those old-fashioned wide-mouth champagne glasses with a scoop of blueberry sorbet in it.  It was delicious.

Since it’s the perfect summer treat, I tried it at home tonight.  Burgers for dinner, sorbet and prosecco for dessert.

It didn’t turn out so well.  I mean, it was okay…sort of.  The sorbet (I got raspberry) was good with the prosecco, but the prosecco was not good with the sorbet.  I’m not sure what went wrong, and I’m not sure I want to find out enough to try it again.

It was a nice idea, though.

I sewed!

Washing my sweater/hoodie broke it apparently, since after it dried (gentle cycle, air dry) I noticed that one of the pockets was hanging half off.  Luckily for me, the thread was still attached at one end, so I unearthed my bag of sewing kits (I have four or five travel kits), figured out how to thread the needle, and FIXED IT.  You can’t even tell.  Then we went to see Dunkirk and I spent two hours crying.  I cried horrified tears, sad tears, tears of pride, a few more horrified tears, and then some happy tears.  Stupid emotional movie.

I also ate all the popcorn in existence, so I’m skipping dinner and going to bed early.  All that crying wore me out.

New skill

I’m toying with video editing for the first time in my life.  My first practice project was to edit clips out of half a dozen minute-long videos of a squirrel being super-weird in my backyard and string them all together into one two-minute video.  I think it was successful.  It needs a soundtrack, maybe, like Yakety Sax.  That’s a project for some other afternoon.

And because you so patiently watched that video for me, you get a bonus video of the squirrel eating a stick like it’s corn on the cob.

I hope my face doesn’t freeze like that

My facial person moved to LA last month, so I had my first facial with my new facial person (aesthetician is too formal) last week, and I’m not sure I like her.  I certainly don’t like her as much, but we didn’t click very well.  It was all awkward chitchat and too much of it.  She rallied at the end of the hour when she massaged my face.

No one has ever massaged my face before.  It’s a weird thing to do.  Rub temples, sure.  Gently move in circles while applying products, yes.  This was an all-out massage.  Both hands on, whole face covered, pressure added.  I could feel my whole face contorting as she rubbed and twisted and IT WAS SO GREAT.  I would never have put that on a list of things I wanted, but now I want it again.

So yes, very young person with the awkward chitchat, I will see you again next month.  And then I might cancel my membership because I have other priorities for that money.  But she doesn’t have to know that.

This is my way of helping others make a difference

I did a thing I haven’t told you about yet, but I can tell you about it now because it’s live.  It’s live and it’s out there and, like, real people can see it, and you know?  It’s pretty cool.


At the first rally I went to at the courthouse, maybe five or six weeks ago, I met a woman who was taking email addresses for the local chapter of NOW.  They had just started up, didn’t even have their officers selected, and they were looking for members.  I went to the monthly meeting four weeks ago, and before I knew it, I had volunteered to be their tech person.


In the last month, I have worked with the president of the chapter (the woman who was taking email addresses – more on her some other time) to create and manage the official website of the South Willamette Valley chapter of the National Organization for Women.

I really should just upload the official logo. Instead, this is a picture I took of a banner with the official logo. Please don’t let this affect your opinion of my technical skills.

I am the web master, I am a member of the PR team, and I am a member of the Budget and Finance committee (because, like Mom, I sometimes have a hard time saying no to things).


The website is live as of today (www.swvnow.org), the March monthly meeting is tomorrow night (Monday), and the plan is to tell everyone about it then even though it still has a couple of placeholders.  Don’t tell me if you hate it, do tell me if something is wrong with it, and no, I’m not fishing for compliments.  In fact, let’s just stop talking about it.

I’m going to jump all the jumps

After I recovered from my fall yesterday, back on Tigger, back in charge, right back into cantering, it was time to jump.  We did this thing I’ve never heard of* called gymnastic jumping.  It’s lining up a bunch of jumps together, and it’s meant to help me focus on my jumping form.  There are probably other reasons for it, too, but that’s the one Wendy told me about.  So she set up the jumps in two long lines.  The first time, there were only two jumps, one stride in between.  Horse goes over the first jump, takes one stride, goes over the second, and then we come back around and do it again.  Then she added a third, another stride away, then a fourth.  The fifth jump was four or five strides past the fourth.  That’s the top row in the sophisticated diagram below.

Not to scale, duh.

All of that went pretty smoothly, 1-foot jumps, way fun.  We took turns running through it, Daisy and Dobby first, then me and Tigger.  There was one incident…Wendy set me and Tigger up to go through that set of jumps after Daisy and Dobby, but Tigger could still see Dobby at the far end, and since we’ve already learned that Tigger wants to be near Dobby all the time, you can probably imagine the speed at which we barreled through that set.  It was exhilarating and scary and fun and TOO FAST FOR ME, especially since it happened maybe 10 minutes after I fell off.  We adjusted so that Dobby was well out of eyesight before Tigger lined up for the jumps for the rest of the lesson.  That helped.

Oh, and then Daisy, wunderkind, jumped that set on Dobby with her arms held straight out from her sides.  Like she was flying.  It was AMAZING.

I did not try that.

Then we switched to the second line of jumps (the bottom line in that diagram), and in addition to setting up the jumps in a close row, Wendy raised two of them to 2’3″.  TWO OF THEM (the ones with the double x).  I’ve jumped that high twice only, in one lesson weeks ago, and it was a single jump.  Like before Christmas, so months ago, really.  It was SO COOL.  Exhilarating again, but in a less scary way.  I can’t wait to do more of that.

So, yeah. My lesson was exciting.  I’m curious to find out how afraid I’ll be of getting back on Tigger next week.  Right now I feel okay, but when I’m standing in front of him, knowing how he gets, knowing that I can fall off, will I be scared?

*It’s safe to say that nearly everything I’m learning is a thing I’ve never heard of.  Even if I’ve heard of it (dressage, for example), I probably don’t really know what it means or what it is, and I certainly don’t know how to do it.

I got it over with

Well, today was exciting.

I shared my riding lesson today with Daisy, which was helpful for me in a couple of ways and a bit of a hindrance in just one.  She’s the 14-year-old I’ve mentioned before.  Having Daisy ride with me teaches me about sharing the arena, riding etiquette, and other small things I won’t pick up riding alone.  Watching Daisy ride shows me what I can look forward to doing as I get better.  It’s actually Daisy’s horse that causes the one hindrance.  She rides Dobby, who shares a pasture with Tigger, and who Tigger always wants to be with.  So if we’re trotting around the arena, Tigger trots faster to keep up.  If we’re cantering around the arena, Tigger canters faster to keep up.  Tigger is pretty lazy most days, so faster is usually what I want, but I DON’T want to deal with the traffic jam that will occur when Tigger tries to run up Dobby’s butt.  So that part was a little stressful.  Manageable, thanks to Daisy’s experience (she peeled off to cross the arena the one time we got really close), and I learned from it, but still a bit stressful.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but Tigger can be…difficult sometimes.  Willful.  And I’m still learning to assert my will when that happens.  Today, we were cantering around the edges of the arena, after I’d managed to put some distance between us and Daisy and Dobby, and I lost the stirrup on my left side.  It happens occasionally, and Wendy swears it happens to everyone.  Usually, it happens to me while we’re trotting, and I’m enough in control that I can either get it back or slow Tigger down and get it back while we’re walking.  Today, while cantering, not so much.  So I lost my left stirrup, we were going faster than usual, I started to lose my balance a bit because my seat isn’t steady without that stirrup, and Tigger decided he didn’t want to stay on the edges of the arena anymore.  When he does that (it’s his preferred method of acting out – going where he wants), I’m supposed to yank hard on the rein in the opposite direction.  Well, two things: first, I’m not good at the yank hard thing because I don’t want to hurt him, and second, I wasn’t secure enough in the saddle to have any leverage.  I pulled instead of yanked, and I pulled again, and I got him to slow to a trot mostly, but he was in the middle of the arena, so I concentrated on steering him around the jumps.  I was still trying to regain control of the steering, of course, but the last thing I wanted to do was go over a jump with one foot just dangling.  I was totally failing to regain control of Tigger, and Wendy headed my way and reached for his bridle.  He jerked sideways and spun around, and I didn’t go with him.  It’s like he stepped to the side out from under me.  I’d say falling was about 10% my decision – there was a point where I was like, “well, I’m going to fall.  Go with it,” which I think helped my landing.  I fell off to the right, just sort of leaned over and out, and I landed on the meaty part of my right thigh and hip.  It was jarring, but otherwise didn’t really hurt.  Tigger ran away, I got up, and Wendy caught him and corrected him, and before I knew it, she had him back at the mounting block and I got back on the horse.  (I’m sorry – I had to say it.)  I was still shaking a little, but I got over it, and after a few steps walking, I got him to canter again and it was all over.

My first ever fall off a horse is behind me, and it wasn’t so bad.  And that wasn’t the only exciting part of the lesson!  But I’m exhausted, so come back tomorrow for the conclusion to our tale.

You’re gonna make it after all

I am a goddamn wizard.  CELEBRATE ME.

Today, I was driving home from my riding lesson in the rain, and the windshield wiper came loose.  Driver’s side, naturally.  The wiper was wiggling all over the place in the wind and the rain and NOT doing its job of keeping the windshield clear.  I pulled over, of course, stepped out into the rain, of course, and tried to figure out how on earth I could fix this.  I’ve never replaced a windshield wiper, but I know they’re replaceable.  At first glance, I thought there might be a piece missing, but I spent the next five minutes (in the rain) switching from one side of the car to the other, inspecting the working wiper and then fiddling with the broken one, and FINALLY I figured out how to snap it in place.


I got back in the car, turned the wipers on, and gazed on my handiwork.  Which appeared to be upside down.  Or at least bent in a weird direction.  But it worked!  It wiped rain away.

I got back on the road and got on the interstate to go home.  Not five minutes later, still on the highway, the wiper came loose again and wiggled and waggled all over the place.  I pulled over on the side of the highway, still in the rain, keeping my distance from the trucks hurtling toward me, and fiddled with it again.  I tried to put it on the other way, since it had looked upside down before, but I couldn’t figure out how to attach it that way.  Maybe it was just bent.  I managed to click it into place, still possibly upside down, but firmly attached, and got back on my way.


I roared with the intermittent wiper speed a little slower than I was comfortable with considering the amount of rain coming down, but I made it home without having to fix it again.

BECAUSE I FIXED IT.  Without a manual or Google or anything.  BOW DOWN TO ME, PEONS.  I humbly accept your adulation.

Not it

No jury duty today!  On the one hand, I’m happy because I don’t have to disrupt my life for it.  (Where “disrupt” means what?  Not work for the day?  I probably could have handled that.)  On the other hand, I’ve never done it, and I might enjoy it.  I’ve never even gone to the courthouse to possibly get chosen for one.  I’ve only been summoned twice, and both times I’ve found out the night before that I don’t have to go.  Maybe next time.  I do think it’s a little weird that I got one summons in VA over the course of 12 years and then got my OR summons in less than a year.

I did decide to put my “I can’t focus on work” minutes to learning ukulele chords instead of playing sudoku online.  If I just do that for a few minutes every day, I might actually be able to play a song without fumbling through chord changes one of these days.  I will consider that a major accomplishment.  The next step will be singing and playing at the same time (!).

Doing it during the work day, using time I wasn’t working anyway (everyone needs a break!), makes me happy.  Banjos might sound happier than ukuleles, but I think it’s a close race.

Breaking habits

We went out for New Year’s Eve last night, back to that arcade bar we like.  The DJ played 20s music with techno beats (which was kind of awesome, actually), and more than half of the games (Mario Bros, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Tron, Asteroid, Pacman, Missile Command, some racing game, some of the pinball games, others I can’t remember) were set to free play, so we drank and played and danced until midnight and then walked ourselves home.

I can’t remember the last New Year’s Eve we were out.  Like, OUT, out.  In public, with people we don’t know.  That’s not how we do New Year’s Eve.  Last year, we rang the new year in at Emily and Sean’s house, with them and Molly.  The year before that, we were at home with Jess and Chuck, and the seven? eight? more? years before that, we were at home in Ashburn with most of our friends over.  That was before we became the total hermits we are now.  We used to have actual grown-up parties at our house with food and drinks and friends.  I used to throw Derby parties and New Year’s Eve parties, have the occasional cookout, host Friendsgiving (maybe that was only once…)…  Now, I think about all of that and wonder how I did it.  I’m not a natural hostess.  It feels like a completely different life.  Fun, but far from how I feel now, which is totally weird because it hasn’t been that long.

Eh, that’s enough navel-gazing for New Year’s Day.

Learning quickly

My horseback riding lesson is the highlight of each week.  I started on Willow, learning to catch her, groom her, saddle her, etc.  Around week 4 or 5, I switched to Tigger, a younger and occasionally more difficult horse.  He has opinions, and I’m learning how to show his stubborn ass that I’m in charge.  I switched back and forth between the two for a few weeks, re-learning how to post, learning two-point (prep for jumping), and trotting courses through and around the jumps in the arena, with all the horizontal poles on the ground so I could get better at directing the horse where I want him to go.

All of that was going well, and I was really enjoying it.  Then one day, lesson #9 I think, I had just finished a course with the poles on the ground, and then Wilhemina (name changed to protect the innocent) set one of the jumps up to one foot and said, “How do you feel about jumping today?”

SUPER EXCITED was the answer.  So I did, and it was awesome.


The middle of that X is a foot off the ground.

From there, she set up all the jumps like that, and my courses around the arena have included LOTS of jumping, and I just can’t tell you how much fun it is.  (Hint: SO MUCH FUN!)

A couple of weeks ago (lesson #11, maybe), she had me pick up the speed a little so Tigger starts to canter when he lands the first jump, and the week after that (or maybe it was the end of that week?) I could canter the whole course (starting after the first jump).  It’s incredible.

So then this week, she was describing the course she wanted me to take, no different than the others that I noticed.  She had me going over two jumps straight down one long side of the area, making a wide turn, and then taking the jump at the far corner on the way back and angling diagonally across the arena to another jump, then stopping at her end.  It’s about half the course and pretty typical of what we’ve been doing.  I did the long side, took the one in the corner on the way back, and when I was about a horse-length in front of the last one, my brain went HOLY SHIT THAT ONE IS HIGHER.

It looked kind of like this one, except not nearly as picturesque.  No uprights on either side, just kind of a dirty white low wall.


The jump went fine, and weirdly, it didn’t feel any higher than the other jumps, which is the first thing I said after stopping.  She swears it’s 2 feet high, double the size of the jumps I’m used to.  So then I did it again, and THIS time, it felt higher, which is also the first thing I said when I stopped.  Turns out I’m not crazy or imagining things just because I knew it was higher.  Wilhemina said that the first time we went over it, the distance perfectly matched Tigger’s stride, so he just cantered over it.  The second time, the distance wasn’t perfect, so he jumped it, and yes, I actually went higher that time.

I’m jumping two feet!  Okay, Tigger is jumping two feet, but I’m not falling off!  It’s so cool.

Also, I’m riding Tigger all the time now because he loves to jump, and I guess Willow doesn’t.  It means I get more practice enforcing my will, which is something I really need to be better at.  There was one point last week where we took a jump because he wanted to, not because I wanted to.

This past week was lesson #13, and it’s wonderful, and I love it.

The perfect place to learn

After my super uncomfortable but personally triumphant (because I didn’t shrink into myself and run away) lesson at The Stable That Doesn’t Care, I let a couple of days go by to decompress and then I googled riding in the area. I emailed three new places and left voicemails at one or two more. This time, the email went like this (and at this point, I would take English or Western lessons – I just wanted to learn):

I’m an adult beginner, and I’d like to take riding lessons. I have ridden before, but basically only trail rides. I’d like to learn to ride, take care of a horse – general horsemanship. I’d be happy with one-on-one or class instruction. Either is fine, as long as there actually is some instruction. 🙂 I have found myself in situations where my abilities are assumed, I’ve been left on my own, and I’ve felt somewhat lost. I’d prefer not to go through that again, but I’m sure that’s now how you operate.

If you do teach beginner adults, can you send me some details? What are your rates? And when we could start? I’m usually free after 2:30pm on weekdays and pretty flexible on weekends.

I got two responses pretty quickly, and the second one was PERFECT. The woman who wrote back (we’ll call her Wilhemina) told me everything I needed and wanted to know in her first email back to me. (If only I could get people at work to answer emails so completely.)

Yes, I work with many adult beginners. We would work one on one in the beginning, until you felt confident enough to ride with another rider (this usually takes a while). Our lesson sizes are rarely larger than 2 or 3 – and I only combine riders into a lesson when I think it will actually enhance their learning experience. All of our horses are ridden English, but for those who want the security of a western saddle we do have a couple available to use. Our lessons cover everything from catching and haltering the horse, grooming, riding, horse psychology, and basic care of the horse. Our lessons are $50/lesson.
I have some openings on weekdays at 3pm, and some availability on weekends as well.
If you would be interested in coming out to my stable to meet me and the horses, feel free to let me know what day and time you would like. I live on the property, so I am here pretty much all the time.
I look forward to hearing from you!

I was SO EXCITED to get that email. I made John read it right away (he was equally excited), and I made myself wait a whole hour before I emailed her back. She gave me excellent directions, and I went out to meet her the very next day.

Wilhemina is so great. Super nice, super understanding, about 60 years old. She and her husband bought 30 acres a while back, and now they own and board around 30 horses, and this is all she does. (She told me yesterday she almost never goes out.) She gives lessons and spends the rest of her time working on the place. She doesn’t have any other employees, but some of the boarders and people who have been taking lessons for years help out regularly.

I told her what happened to me – without naming the barn – while we were talking. She was appalled but not surprised, and she guessed which barn right away. Apparently, this is not unusual for them. Coincidentally, she taught Roxanne (trainer who basically ignored me at that barn) how to ride. I spent a pleasant half-hour with Wilhemina, and I set up my first lesson with her for the very next week.

Her feeling is that riding should be fun. The rider and the horse should be having a good time, be relaxed, be there because we want to be. She doesn’t make any money at it – everything she brings in goes right back to her horses – but she loves it. It was obvious within seconds of meeting her that I made the right call to leave the other place and come to her.

I rode a horse and learned something about myself

After we got back from our Florida trip (with all the Harry Potter and Disney World and Star Wars and oh yeah friends and wedding stuff we could wish for), I googled riding lessons in Eugene and left voicemails with trainers at two local stables.  One of them called me back (let’s call her Roxanne), so I told her I’m basically a beginner, that when I was around 12 I spent a couple of weeks at a day camp learning to ride Western, and since then, I’ve gone on maybe half a dozen trail rides spaced every 2-3 years, the last one in 2011 or 2012 (family trip to Georgia).  I told her I’ve never ridden English, but I want to learn.  She told me she has an adult class of beginners of various stripes, I said great, and she said come out next Sunday for the 12:30 class.

My questions for her:

  • What do I need to wear?
  • What do I need to bring?
  • Where should I park?
  • Is there anything else I need to know?

Her answers:

  • Jeans and some kind of boot – no special riding clothes needed
  • Nothing
  • The barn is at the end of the long driveway.  I’ll see other cars.  Park there.
  • No

The class started at 12:30.  She told me to arrive at noon, so around 11:45 I turned into the long driveway, right behind another car.  And boy, was I lucky there was another car turning in just ahead of me.  Turns out there was a gate with a keypad across the top of that driveway.  Would have been nice to know the code.

I parked at one end of a really really really big L-shaped barn.  There was no one outside, no sign.  I poked my head in through a doorway at the end near me and found a couple of guys cleaning stalls.  I said I was here for a class, looking for Roxanne.  They shrugged and pointed down to the other end of the barn, in the middle where the L takes a turn.

When I got down there, I could see the arena, and it looked like a class was going on in there.  Just on this side of the arena, there were 4 or 5 young women milling around an office and the open space in front of the arena, so I kind of asked, generally, if any of them could help me find Roxanne.  One of them said she was in the arena, teaching the class.  Okay – was I supposed to go in there?  Interrupt?  So I said again, generally, I’m here for the 12:30 class.  Is there something I’m supposed to do?  Fill out?  Another one of the women handed me a release form and a pen.  I filled it out and turned around to hand it back, but she was gone.  Does someone in particular need this?  Another woman (maybe the first one?) took it from me and put it in the office.

I should mention here that they were all perfectly nice to me, but distant.  I was not their responsibility.

So then I asked what I should be doing next, and one of them (the first one, or the third one who might also have been the first one) beckoned to a fourth woman and told me that she (Caroline) would help me.  Cool.  My new buddy Caroline came over to me, leaned into the arena, and shouted to Roxanne, who was half the length of the barn away, What horse is Susannah riding?  Once Roxanne was reminded of who I am, she told us to go get Bijou.  So I followed Caroline back up the way I had come, out to where we parked, and over the opposite end of the barn to go get Bijou.  On the way, she asked me about me, I told her how little I knew and what I was after, and she seemed pretty nice, super helpful.

I led Bijou back to the first side of the barn, with Caroline, of course, and when Bijou reared at the sight of a dog bed the barn owner was carrying, I handled it pretty well.  (It freaked me out a bit, but I kept that inside.)  We (and by we, I mean Caroline) got Bijou in the cross-ties, and then Caroline said something about finding her saddle.  Well, for one thing, I don’t know where anything is, and for another, I don’t know what to do with it once I find it.

Caroline helped me get everything I need.  Then Caroline helped me groom Bijou.  Then Caroline helped me saddle Bijou.  Then Caroline helped me put polo wraps on Bijou.  Then Caroline helped me put Bijou’s bridle on her.  All along the way, I thanked her for helping me and apologized for being useless.  I don’t think she realized that I knew NOTHING when she volunteered to help me.

By then it was about 12:30, so I led Bijou down to the arena, and then someone (not Caroline) helped me lead Bijou into the arena and over to a mounting block and helped me get on the horse because I have NEVER MOUNTED A HORSE WITH AN ENGLISH SADDLE BEFORE THAT VERY MINUTE.

So, to start with, Caroline was wonderful and friendly and patient.  Then I looked over at my fellow students, and hey, there’s Caroline!  So no, Caroline doesn’t work at the barn, and no, Caroline doesn’t teach this class, and yes, Caroline helped me out of the goodness of her heart.

I got my first glimpse of Roxanne, the only person I’d seen so far who I was sure actually worked there, after I was on the horse and in the arena.  There were three other women in the class, including Caroline, all ahead of me, but not crazy ahead of me (I can say now in hindsight).

Anyway, the class itself was okay.  Well, no.  In comparison to before and after the class, the class was fine.  Compared to actual lessons I have had since, it was a total waste of time.  During the class, I wasn’t nervous.  During the class, Roxanne had to be reminded that no, I’ve never ridden English before, and yes, the last time I was on a horse was four or five years ago, and YES, I’M A BEGINNER.  She didn’t need the reminder because I wowed her with my skills – she couldn’t SEE my skills (lack of) because she was staring at her phone the whole time.  I spent an hour walking or trotting around the arena, not really learning anything.  Towards the end, she noticed I was holding my reins upside down (how is that even a thing?), and she helped me fix it, but she didn’t really explain in such a way that I knew how to get it right or notice when I got it wrong in the future.

Then the class was over.  The other students disappeared so quickly, and I was left sitting on the horse, by myself in the arena, with Roxanne still staring at her phone on the wall.  The next group of students was coming in, and I’m like, Well, crap.  I guess I have to get off this horse and figure out what happens next.  I managed to get down without embarrassing myself, got Bijou out of the arena, and stopped.  What was I supposed to do next?  Someone (another student) took pity on me and handed me a hoof pick.  Hey, I remember those!  Something to do with standing next to the horse’s leg and picking up each hoof and scraping out the crap that accumulates in there.  Well, I was standing facing the wrong way (you face the back of the horse, not the front) because IT’S BEEN OVER 25 YEARS SINCE I LAST DID IT, so whoever handed me the hoof pick turned me around and helped me out with the first hoof.  That chore done (probably badly because of the lack of supervision or teaching), I brought Bijou back to the cross-ties so I could unsaddle her.

Thankfully, Caroline appeared again, and I used her shamelessly to get everything back off of Bijou and put away.  She asked me if I was comfortable taking Bijou back to her stall (I was) and said she’d meet me right back by the cross-ties so we could clean the tack.

Great.  Cool.  LOVE Caroline.  I was able to get Bijou back in her stall without incident, but when I came back to where I left Caroline, she wasn’t there anymore.  I can’t blame her – it wasn’t her responsibility to help me.  She had gestured in the direction of the arena when she mentioned cleaning the tack, so I picked up Bijou’s bridle (helpfully, it had her name on it) and headed back that way.  There were more people milling around, watching the next class, so I just up and asked someone for help again.  A nice woman, older than the rest, showed me what to do (and then showed me when I did it wrong anyway).  She was the mother of one of the younger students.  Finally, I finished with that and put the bridle…somewhere…and then I leaned on the gate with the mother and a couple of other people to watch the two teenagers practice jumping (which was really really cool).  Eventually, though, I needed to get home, and I hadn’t yet paid for my lesson.  I asked the people near me if anyone in the general area worked here so I could pay someone.  The mother I’d been talking to introduced me to one of the barn’s owners, who asked me if I knew how much I owed.  Are you KIDDING ME?  The website had said it was $45 for a class, so I said yeah, and she said I could just write a check, made out to the stable, and pin it to the bulletin board.

Okay.  Done, I got in the car, drove home, and breathed again.  Then I went round and round for days about whether this completely ridiculous experience was one I should return to (because it can only get better, right?) or if I should find another place to ride.

Now that I’m months away from it, I can be comfortably outraged, but right then, in the moment, I was SO out of place, SO uncomfortable, SO unsure if this was something I could do.  I didn’t want to throw a fit, and I didn’t want to just decide to find a new place because what if every other place was horrible?  What if this is just the world of competitive show-jumping, and there’s no other method for learning to ride English for people who don’t necessarily want to compete?

Now that I’m months away from it, it’s obvious they were terrible (it was obvious then, too, but I was worried about those other things).  They weren’t terrible just to me, the beginner student who needed someone to actually teach her, but to themselves, their barn, and their horses.  Who the hell was I, to be left alone to take care of their very expensive horses?  I could have gotten hurt, I could have hurt the horse, and all of it would have been because they weren’t paying attention.  I kept asking for help, and while I did get it, I didn’t get it from the people who were responsible for helping me.

Did I go back?  Of course not.  Am I riding somewhere else?  Stay tuned again, while I continue the LONGEST STORY EVER.

Just do it already!

I’ve been talking about taking riding lessons for years.  Like, over a decade.  I always put it off because it seemed like a hobby/skill that wouldn’t go anywhere since I’m unlikely to buy a horse.  Guitar lessons?  Sure, we own guitars and it’s a skill I can practice on my own and keep up over time.  French lessons, same thing.  Tap dancing?  Well, it counts as a skill I can practice on my own, even if it has less use than most.  Horseback riding requires, you know, a horse and a place to ride and even if we weren’t planning on moving around a lot, what happens at the end?  Let’s say I get pretty good at riding.  Will I compete?  Almost* certainly not!  Will I own a horse?  Almost* certainly not – WAY too much work.  It’s not something I can practice on my own, so do I just keep laying out money forever?

So I put it off, and then I put it off some more.  And then it had been 10 years, and we’re in Oregon, and I STILL put it off.  And then I met Lindsey, the wife of one of John’s high school friends, at that wedding we went to in August.  Lindsey rides.  Lindsey used to ride competitively.  Lindsey rides English and jumps.  Lindsey teaches riding at a place in Rhode Island.  So I talked to Lindsey all weekend about horses and riding and what she’s done and why she does it and what I know (which is practically nothing) and why I haven’t done it, and she said the same thing John has been saying for years: “What’s the hold-up?  You enjoy it?  Go do it.”  Also, she promised she’d give me advice.  🙂

We got back from our Florida trip Labor Day weekend, and the Sunday after that, I rode a horse.  It was not a good experience.

Stay tuned.

*Never say never.

Adulting slow-cooker style

Check it out.  We bought a slow cooker, it arrived yesterday, and I’m cooking in it today.  Can you believe it?  I’ll give you a minute to fan yourselves and get over the shock.

Here it is, yelling at me, apparently, telling me to COOK.  Yeah, I get it.


And here, beneath the steamy lid, you can kind of see dinner.


My first recipe is beef and broccoli, and if the recipe is correct, it’ll be ready in 5 minutes.  I didn’t tell John what I was making, but he’ll find out soon.

I hope it’s good.  I hope it’s edible.  Good is secondary.

Update: It was DELICIOUS.