in Which We Meet Phil and Think About Killing Hudson

I risked my life for this photo.

Meet Phil, Bella’s new trial roping prospect:

IMG_3553
His right ear: “Are we okay? What are you DOING? You lifted your hand! We’re going to die!!”
His left ear: “I should cut and run.”

He’s a teensy bit anxious. Mix in quick, athletic, slightly phobic, and feels safest with other horses, and you can see some of what needs to be addressed. He’s also cute, sweet, and has a killer cowhorse stop. Asking him to stop from the canter is akin to those car commercials where the car suddenly stops dead at a wall or sheer cliff. Unbelievable.  Exhilarating.  Death defying.

FUN.

I like Phil.

Hudson likes Phil too. Hudson likes being a God.  Phil believes Hudson Knows All. He encourages Hudson to pontificate.

The first time I ponied Phil, the conversation went like this:

Phil: GAH. What is that? Are we afraid of that?

Hudson: No. Hay cart. Shut up.

Phil: Okay.

pause

Phil: Are we afraid of THAT?

Hudson: NO. Cat. Shut. Up.

Phil: Okay.

pause

Phil: What about that?

Hudson: Dude. It’s grass. We eat it. Chill.

Phil: Okay.

pause

Phil: (trembling) What about that?!?

Hudson: (long pause, then some concession) Sometimes.  Trainer.  Avoid.

Phil: Okay.

Recently, I was ponying Phil off Hudson. Phil had mostly settled down after a few ponies. The hay barn had been cleaned out for a new shipment, and there was a long narrow piece of black plastic blowing back and forth on the ground, making scary serial killer/chainsaw noises. It whispered: “come closer, I have a cookie.  Then I’m going to dismember you alive….whoohahahaha.”

Hudson planted.  Snorted. Grew another 20 feet tall. Scared the crap out of Phil who hadn’t seen the plastic, causing him to do three Looney Tunes style double-takes.

Looney-Tunes-cn18
Copyright: Warner Bros.
(Marvin the Martian in the role of “Hay Barn”

When Hudson is spooked, I let him look at whatever, process it, and figure out what the thing may be. Then he’s good.  After a few minutes of staring at softly swooshing black plastic, from twenty feet in the air, with a hysterical Phil bouncing on the line, Hudson was ready to walk up to it and investigate.  He wasn’t afraid.

Phil: We’re NOT afraid of this?!?

Hudson: I don’t think so…

Phil: Okay. Wait. You don’t think so???

We investigate. Hudson decides it’s NBD. He reverts from Hulk-sized to horse-size, relaxes, his eyes stray to the hay, and the plastic is not on his radar. Two seconds later, I realize his brain has marinated about Phil and his anxieties.

Hudson fake snorts.  Prances. Calculates if he can snatch a mouthful of hay out of causing a distraction.

Phil is bouncing up and down and weaving back and forth, trying hard not to lose it completely.  I smack Hudson on the neck.  He flicks his ears.  FINE. I just wanted a bite. But his brain keeps processing.  We pass the plastic 400 more times with Hudson on the buckle, yawning, and Phil having successively lessening panic attacks.

Horses. Never go to the barn with a plan that includes an ending time.

Yesterday, I progressed to riding Phil and ponying Hudson.

IMG_3551
This is stupid. Please note I AM NOT HAPPY. Stop talking to him. You’re MINE.

Now we had a three-way conversation going:

Phil: I don’t WANT to be in front.

Hudson: I can handle it.  Move over.

Jane: Hudson, knock it off.  Phil, you’re first.

Hudson: Killjoy.

Phil: But he wants to…and I don’t?

Jane: Phil. Go.

Phil: Going…this okay?

Hudson: No.

Jane: Perfect.

We come up to the hay barn. Phil tries to appear as if he’s walking forward while walking backward. Hudson is smirking. The black plastic is long gone.

I let Phil look at the hay barn. He settles down.  I ask him to walk forward. He cautiously tip toes forward. I ask to stop. We stop so fast that I have to fight the reverse button.  I sneak a glance at Hudson. He’s not yawning.  We stand for a few minutes.

Just as I am about to ask Phil to take another few steps toward the hay (which I would let both of them taste), Hudson’s ears swivel forward dramatically and he leaps in place, one eye on Phil, the other on the grass to his right.

 I. Am. Gonna. Kill. Hudson. Days worth of work, and he knows Phil is going to go with him, not me, or even himself.

I get Phil under control and yank Hudson before he can get his head all the way down to the grass.

Hudson: Geeze…it was just a joke. You don’t have to be so rough.

Phil:  AH AH AH AH AH AH AH

Jane: Phil, he’s having you on, forget forward, just pass the dang barn, okay?

Phil: ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK

Hudson: Heh heh heh heh heh

Jane: One more “heh” and I am going to “forget” your happy meal.  Knock it off.

Hudson: Killjoy.

Phil: Are we going to live? Are we alive? Is it gone yet? I still see it.  I think I still see it?

Jane: We’re alive.  Keep walking.

I see another 400 rounds past the hay barn in our future.  After round 200, Phil’s settled down. I decide to switch directions: may as well get over the hay barn in both directions.

We make a couple of passes.  All goes well.  I’m thinking of quitting for the day. Just as we hit the mid-point of the hay barn on what I’ve decided is our last pass, Hudson takes advantage of my focus on getting Phil calmly through the worst part.  He yanks the lead suddenly, something he’s never done, and manages to get about 3 feet of play. He darts behind Phil’s butt, mouth open, ready to chomp grass.  He tosses in a little panicked leap. Phil now has a serial killing hay barn on his right, a rope around his butt, an apparently terrified Hudson charging away from the monster, and me, who says: “Dude. It’s fine”.

He’s so overloaded all he can do is panic without moving. He can’t go right: Monster.  He can’t go left: Hudson.  He can’t back up: still Monster.  He can’t go forward: listening to Jane, who has clearly lied through her teeth about monsters.

Hudson: heh heh heh. GRASS! Score.

Phil: WHAT DO I DO?????

Jane: (reluctantly dropping Hudson’s lead, for safety) Go forward.

Phil: Okay okay okay okay okay.  Going forward. WAIT.  Where’s Hudson?  I can’t go without HUDSON.

Hudson: (muffled by mouthfuls of grass) heh heh heh. You go.  I’ll be here.

Jane: Can I just hit my head quietly on a wall somewhere?

What is the one thing you do not want to do with a smart horse planning a coup?  Reward him.  By turning him loose on grass.  I take one of Phil’s looooong split reins and wallop Hudson.  He flinches in surprise, but not enough to raise his head.  He knows I can grab the lead rope if he lifts his head.

Great.  All I’ve done is terrify Phil. Not only do I lie to him about monsters, I whack the guy he trusts with his own rein.

If it wouldn’t scare Phil, I’d start banging my head on his neck.

Hudson: Bang your head. He won’t mind.  I swear. (heh heh heh)

Running Water, Chaos Theory, and Sparrows!

There are two ways to look at this:

  1. I’ve been riding Ginger for Laurie.
  2. Laurie has graciously indulged me by allowing me to ride Ginger.

I think the photo below shows that #2 is the correct pick. They’re beautiful together:

Copyright: Centerline Photography
Copyright: Centerline Photography

Ginger is an orange ball of fire: opinionated, believes “forward” is an understatement, and is…impatient…with the idea of anything approaching what she would call ‘sedate’. Anything less than Mach 10 is sedate to Ginger.  Slowing down takes far too much time and energy. She’s also a total glamor girl. Think Lucy before her comedic talent was discovered.

Lucille Ball famously said: "I'm not funny.  I'm brave." I think Ginger would say the same thing.
Lucille Ball famously said: “I’m not funny. I’m brave.” I think Ginger would say the same thing.

She’s also a mare’s mare. She reminds me what it feels like to be a hormonal teenager: out-of-sorts and crampy, making a benign issue a problem because we girls just feel like THERE IS A PROBLEM. THAT THING I JUST SPOTTED MUST BE IT. FIX IT, dang it.

I so get this.

During a recent ride, Ginger decided the wash rack that butts up to the arena was The Problem. There was a hose.  Water was coming out of it.  WATER. Do I understand what she’s saying?!?  WATER at one o’clock!

This is a horse that loves her baths.

We went backward, forward, skittered sideways, bounced up and down, and in general showed our displeasure at having to pass near running water at a speed below Mach 90.  I identify. When hormones are involved, I do NOT back down once I’ve staked out an issue, true or not.

Fairly soon, we’re standing quietly opposite the wash rack, while the water is running, talking to a friend. (We know it’s still going to kill us, but we’re very brave.) We try to focus on the conversation.  Sparrows are flitting in and out of the arena, picking up hair for their nests.  All the horses are shedding.

A bit later, we quietly go to work, and it’s awesome. We are cantering nicely in our least favorite direction when it happens.

Two sparrows come tumbling over each other into the arena, straight at us.  I don’t know if they’re fighting, or it’s spring baby making time.  I feel a wing hit Ginger’s belly. Birds whapping near one’s privates are definitely an allowable meltdown issue.  Ginger pays no attention to the birds. Not even a blip on her radar. We keep cantering.

This is where Chaos Theory comes in.

A plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28, σ = 10, b = 8/3.
Whatever. It’s a butterfly! If they flap their wings in Australia, we WILL have a tsunami in California. Who knew?

The birds should have tumbled out, right?

No. Because we hit a Chaos loop.  Running water scared us, therefore the universe hurled us squalling feathers. Her hooves gathering upward in the canter pushed the rolling ball of birds up and in between her front legs.  I feel them tumbling and richocheting between her legs, their little heads whapping like ping-pong balls.  I feel a wing hit a stirrup, feel the Ball ‘O Birds being gathered back up and into the churning cycle of her front legs. They tumble and flap and toss.

I gauge Ginger, wondering if she is going to go all “Today is a good day to die” on me.

Calm cantering.

Except for the sparrows bouncing and rolling and flapping between her front legs, just another day in paradise.

If I stop her, it’s likely the birds will crash to the ground and get pulverized in the process.  If I don’t, she might notice at some point BIRDS are pinging around between her front legs. My slow thought process takes a couple more canter strides to come up with a solution.  (Hey. How often do birds get caught in our horse’s legs?! It’s not like I’ve had to practice this!)

Down into the trot. Hopefully, that will give the birds time to get out sideways. We trot, the birds shoot out of the spin cycle (they’re fine), and Ginger politely asks to canter again.

As if a downward transition to release frantic, trapped sparrows was a normal part of any workout.

And she thought the hose was the problem?

Note to self: next time I decide THAT THING OVER THERE is the problem, check for sparrows.

Would You Like Some Fries with That?

My entrance into helping at the training barn caused a disturbance in the force.

The former helper was male. The training barn is heavily weighted to mares at the moment. Apparently, they looked forward to their cabana boy.

They were not exactly unhappy with me. Ears swiveled at each other: “It’s not cabana boy! Is this good or bad?”

The geldings response was instant and welcoming: Awesome. Dude, look! It’s a chick! One youngster was oddly gleeful: “Mommy!! Where have you been?!?”  Um. Right here, I guess?

The mares decided to hold a sorority meeting after the barn was closed up for the night.

Girls in a herd are much trickier to navigate than boys.  Ask any high school boy who’s been brave enough to attempt cutting a girl out of the herd. It usually doesn’t go well.

I think about this. It’s never good when one is left out of a sorority meeting.

I was new: I expected to get the horse version of super-glue-to-the-chair, notes passed behind my back, and a blackboard scrawled with derogatory “Teacher is…” phrases when I walked into the barn.

I wasn’t going in blind. The trainer gave me a rough overview of personalities, quirks, and habits.  I was looking forward to one quiet alpha mare in particular.  Barn staff had nominated her as “Least Likely to be Difficult”. Very sweet mare.  Her quirk: she dislikes having her blanket touched. Problematic, since I’ll be taking it off and putting it on at least twice a day.

The next morning, I walked into a barn of unusually docile mares. Sweet faces innocently hang over stall doors. Stupidly, this did not activate either my Mom Mayday Siren or Substitute Teacher Hazard Warning Lights.

Awww… They like me! How cool is that?

I unblanket, groom, bandage and lunge the higher-strung Alphas before the arena is packed.

They were perfectly behaved.

Relaxed, and in the rhythm, I went on to the less-amped alpha and beta mares, leaving Miss Least Likely for last.

Fortunately, beyond The Mare Stare of Death, and slight ear pinning, she’s never acted her feelings out. I remove her blanket under the Death Stare. Try to coax her ears forward. Nada.

Oh well.  We go about grooming and working.

Apparently the Sorority of Mares had a secret nomination and a hazing plan.

Guess which mare drew the short straw?

Returning her to her stall, I quietly pull the blanket over Miss Least Likely’s head, adjust it, and reach under her belly for the strap to fasten her blanket, pleased her ears are momentarily forward.

(I’m making progress! She likes me!)

A flash of movement and a searing pain on my butt instantly told me that while I thought I was cooing this message: “Its safe, you can trust me.” She received this message: “YOU can be the Alpha Mare, I, Jane, am a wimp, please take over.”

You could do a dental ID on this mare by photographing my rear. It’s clear she’s had excellent dental care. Beautiful teeth. Nice and even grip.

Mares 1. Jane 0.

Luckily, she was self-correcting. She had a violent reaction to biting me: assuming (somewhat correctly) I was going to beat her to death, she backed up, reared, and hit her head, looking shocked and startled. She was convinced I’d somehow managed to correct her from afar. I glared at her, to reinforce her mistaken idea I’d actually done the correction. It’s hard to glare when you are mad at yourself for being stupid, not the glare-ee for acting horse-like. But I took one for the team.

Before I shut the stall door behind me, I notice every single mare in he barn is on high alert. Our interchange had been closely monitored. Oh. Good. Miss Least Likely’s huge reaction did me a favor: they all believe I aggressively turned on her and instantly dealt out alpha mare justice.

I’m not about to set them straight. I glare at them too, until they turn away, or put their heads down.

I calm Miss Least Likely by ignoring my throbbing butt, forcing myself to relax, and unnecessarily adjusting her blanket until the tension drains from her body. When she pins her ears, I get in her face. Her ears go forward, relieved. She didn’t really want to be the boss.  She lowers her head and nudges me: I had to. I drew the short straw. Sorry? Do over?

I rub her face.

Do over.

Global Solutions for Positive Directive Implementation

There. That title should satisfy your boss, should they walk by on a Friday, when you are reading doing research at TLH.

You may have seen this already, but I missed it the first time around.  It’s worth muting the ad and looking extremely busy until the video starts. You’ll need the sound on low (or better, ear buds), and a way to keep yourself from laughing out loud.

Drinking beverages past minute 3 are not advised. That’s when “The Riding Instructor” begins to get side-splitting.  I mean, informative.

Disclaimer from your International Response Manager:

do not try this super fun title generator at work if IT tracks which sites you visit. (BS is in website title)

Some People Call Me Maurice…

The Pompatus of Love.

This may or may not horrify you, but I watch TV.  I think of it as an exercise in marital understanding. We’re all different, right? For some of us, TV is entertainment. For others, it’s a tool we use to get through the flu without actually killing ourselves.

Shaun and I baffle each other. How did we ever get married? How has it lasted 16 years?

We stare at each other a lot. And then something unexpected happens.

I don’t understand you, but here: I bought you a horse.

I don’t understand you, but here: I bought you this ugly giant flat screen TV.

We try to bridge the divide.  Occasionally, Shaun volunteers to come to the barn.  Encased in a ton of metal with the doors locked.  What she’s thinking:  “Why would I want to be outside? In the dirt? With bugs? Is that…poop?  Ewwwwww. Didn’t you come home with a black eye recently?”

Shaun asks me to watch TV with her.  “Sure!” I say, stuffing my reluctance deep into an old, unused, neuron.

I stare at the TV. I stare at Shaun. What I’m thinking: “Why would I want to see Inside San Quentin? Blech. I also watch, through my fingers, relationship dramas acted out above anesthetized, bloody bodies.  Is that a LIVER? Ewwwwww.”

Enter American Idol: I love all music, Shaun loves all TV reality shows. It should be win-win.

Keith Urban had to screw it up. (Dang it all Keith, you’re my favorite judge.) This week he wore a T-shirt printed with “Some People Call Me Maurice”. I burst out laughing, and giggled every time the camera panned to the judges.

This looked a lot better on Keith.
It looked a lot better on Keith. I suspect this is probably true of clothing in general.

(I had to laugh at something. The contestants were instructed to sing a Beatles song. Beatles? Who are the Beatles?) 

“What’s so funny?”, Shaun asks, mystified.

“His shirt!”, I gasp, as disturbing memories, mostly involving a dorm room at UC Berkeley and Alex’s make-up from Clockwork Orange, un-spoll in my brain.

“What does it mean?”, she says.

“Space Cowboy?”, I say.

“Himalayan Dental Assistant?”, she says, trying to figure out this wacko game of bizarre careers.

“The Joker?”, I say, certain this will make my point crystal clear.

“The Green Lantern?” she says, baffled.

If only The Green Lantern were here to shine the light of justice and rock and roll...
Shining the light of truth, justice, and rock music. Also rocking the Abs. Why do superheros get the best abs?

We’re in trouble. We go back to the show.

I Play My Music in the Sun

The next day, I bring up video of The Steve Miller Band on YouTube.  Shaun listens with that look on her face.

“You like this?”, she says, stuffing her incredulity into a vacated synapse.

I’m so busy processing how innocuous this song seems in 2013, (it felt very counter-culture in 1974), that I have to make her repeat her question.

“Well, yeah, don’t you?”, I say.

“Not exactly?”, she says, searching for something that won’t hurt my feelings: “I was more in to Motown.”

I can work with this: I like Motown.

Problem: I also like Metallica. Led Zepplin. Janis Joplin. Bach. Jay-Z. Lady Gaga. Loretta Lynn. Mozart. Brooks and Dunn. Eminem. Itzhak Perlman. Barbara Streisand. The Village People.  (Did I say that last one out loud?)

Of course I like them. YMCA? I'm gay.  It's genetic.  Same with Abba.
I”m gay, therefore I’m genetically predisposed to liking the Village People and Abba. I am dance-spastic. But hand me a pink feather boa, and I’m definitely not sitting out Dancing Queen. Even though I should. Really.

Sure Don’t Want to Hurt No One

My dad used to say two things weren’t for sissies:

  1. Getting Old
  2. Love

Getting Old: I nearly had a heart attack listening to some really GOOD musicians say they’d never heard of the Beatles.  Not for sissies.

Love: I don’t think Dad meant actual love?  Love is easy.  Blammo. Love slams you, whether it’s your wife, husband, kid, or fur family.  It just flattens us. Getting up over and over, that’s the hard part.

I’m pretty sure Dad meant sticking to a relationship in which the other half doesn’t like rock and roll.

THAT is not for sissies.

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens…

I love Julie Andrews.  Musicals. Dance numbers. Theatrics.

Why I love my work:

The hills are alive with the sound of hoofbeats!

Also, distant mooing, closer bleating (goats next door), and the high-pitched squeaky-toy noise when this guy whinnies:

We sticked him out: not much taller than a corgi.
We sticked him out: not much taller than a corgi.

No daycare!

I don’t have to haul a sleep-befuddled Hudson out of bed, coerce him into a halter, carry him outside and stuff him into a car seat. No strong arming the seat belt across his chest while attempting to also pull it out of his mouth. He lives there. Hudson-vision plays in the background all day.

Bonus Points!

I’m not checking the weather icon on my desktop 6 times an hour because I’m certain:

      • Hudson is sweating to death under his blanket, or
      • Shivering wildly because it was supposed to be warm, or
      • He’s hungry. Lonely. Tired. Over-energized, or
      • Has figured out how to unlock the new horse-proof gate clip.  Again.

Mondays are awesome!

We all know how rare it is for horse owners to make it to the barn on Monday. It’s usually just me and a dozen potential My Little Ponies. While other horse owners are whacking away at the 72-hour-long Monday, I’m:

      • Singing badly to upbeat Rancheria music
      • Kissing noses
      • Rubbing necks
      • Getting hugs
      • Checking legs, and…wait for it…
      • Brushing! Lunging! Sometimes – gasp – even riding!

My friend’s horses are in the barn!

    • I get to send Laurie bad iPhone photo ‘postcards’ from a ‘talking’ Ginger.  Because horses, especially mares, are so good at expressing themselves, I get some unmistakably emotive shots.  This cracks all of us up.
    • Sample: GingerI got to run wild and free!  In that big sand box! Without tack! This is how it’s supposed to BE, mom. BTW, can I wear my pink jammies tonight? Love those.

Lots of personalities!

As I’ve flowed into the rhythm of the training barn, and come to know the horses, they’ve also come to know me.

      • Grace has a compulsion to rest her muzzle on the small of my back – if my shirt hikes up – when I bend over to check her front legs. No lip movement.  It’s not a mouthy thing.  So sweet. Shirt doesn’t hike up? No ‘kiss’ from Grace.
      • Ginger’s stall is right next to the tack room/grooming area.  We get to ‘talk’ all day.  She’s a lovely chatterbox.
      • Candy Boy has a reaction that I read as fearful: he pins his ears and glares at me (without real substance behind it) when I approach with the halter.  He wants to come out and play so bad.  My opinion: some aggression is aggression, watch out!  Some is fear masking as aggression.  I wait quietly out of reach outside the gate, and chat him up.  Nothing happens until his ears go forward and his eye gets soft. When I finally do halter him, he stands happily, barely containing his excitement. Oh I correct him.  Frequently.  But we have an understanding. Politeness gets you warmth and politeness.

(There’s much more, but that’s all I have time for today, because I have to go play work!)

 

  

Snore-A-Long: It’s a Guy Thing

The doc calls out, after the nurse waves me to the surgery waiting room, “See you in 4 hours!’

Four hours?  I can handle 4 hours of imagining Shaun’s knee near a reciprocating saw, right?

Um. No. I will surpass “train wreck” and go right to “please sedate me soon” status within an hour.

I wobble down the unnaturally bright hallway.  An open door leads invitingly to a windowless, very dark, unlit room.  Oh. Shaun has the first surgery. No one else is here yet.

There’s a dirty bundle linen wadded up on one of the chairs. Blech. I calm myself. Ohmmmmmm. Surely no orderly would leave Ebola infected linens lying around?

Note to self: buy purse large enough to hide industrial-sized can of spray disinfectant.

I walk in. The dirty linen is wearing a baseball cap and snoring. I don’t turn on the light. Poor soul has probably been up all night waiting on a surgical outcome from the emergency room.

I scan for a seat at a reasonable distance from the snoring linen.

That’s when I realize a total of five men are sprawled, draped and squashed around the room, all sound asleep, on what amounts to deluxe bus stop benches that the hospital is trying to pass off as sofas and chairs. (They’re padded! They have backs!)

I wedge myself into a dark corner, in one of a handful of “chairs”.

They are all snoring. Loudly. Emphatically. It’s an Opus of snoring. A remarkably harmonic symphony of snoring. It’s snoring as Wagner would have composed. It’s Ride of the Valkyries snoring. This has to be the work of Mr. Chips.

I try not to worry about Face-Plant guy. He’s sleeping face down, in a sort of road-kill position. Is it possible to be dead and still snore?

I sit quietly, lulled by Guy Snoring.

30 minutes go by before I realize I’m NOT ANXIOUS. This is so unexpected, I’m shocked to find I’m amused.  The Guy Snoring seems to have a serene, calming effect on my nerves.

Dear Universe,

I apologize for thinking you forgot me on the humor-front. This is awesome!.

Love,
Jane

I email a description of this epic cacophony to Daisy and Bella. They’re already at work. (Frankly, there’s probably a pre-arranged plan for how they are going to share tasks in The Great Jane Surgery Meltdown.)

Jane: You are so never going to believe this.

Bella: ?? Everything ok?

Daisy: There’s no way she could have died already.  What?

Jane: I’m fine. I’m in a dark waiting room.  There’s five guys sound asleep.  One looks dead, but he’s not.  They are all SNORING.  Loudly. Zzzz’s to the nth power. It’s so…relaxing

Bella: Bwahahahahahaha. Yeah, guy snoring is pretty soothing.

Daisy: Jesus. It could only happen to you.

It’s so totally cool: I don’t need redirection, damage control, or a blanket fort!

I selfishly pray they have four more hours of sleep left in them. I relax, open my iPad, and  begin to kill zombies.  Life is good. Nothing like a zombie with a pat of butter on its head.

I’m defending my roof from giant zombies with flamingo crossing sign clubs,

pvz_2ndrunllbb

as three women arrive to shake awake three of my symphony members. I manage not to stomp my foot: hopefully they have good news about their loved one?

In moments, there are 4 guys in various stages of waking. Dang. Wait…wait…face-plant-is-he-dead guy is going to sleep on. Relief. Still snoring.

They talk quietly in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish, but I understand enough to know they are discussing getting something to eat. The talk veers into stuff I don’t understand, except for the word ‘hospital’. It gets quiet. It’s clear they are waiting for an update from staff.

The room feels elevator-sized with eight people not sleeping. We all look at the door. Avoid eye contact. Lone snoring fills the air. I go back to silently killing zombies.

Music. Someone brought a radio? It’s playing softly, but distinctively. I cheer up.  Thank the Universe again. Because it’s Mariachi music. (Trumpets! Violins! Harp! Guitar! Guitarron! Vihuela!) It’s happy.  It’s cheerful.  It’s completely out of place.

Enya would have reduced me to a sobbing mess.  Mariachi?  Bring on the pinata, and pass the paper plates.  Frankly, it’s as good as five guys snoring.

Mariachi.  The perfect anxiety antidote.  It goes pretty well with killing zombies too. I love it when The Universe decides what I need.  I rarely get it right.

How has The Universe surprised you, in your time of need?

The Argument Against Little Green Men

Shaun had her knee replaced.

I asked the Universe for patience, faith, steady surgical hands, good thoughts, prayers, and (please, please, PLEASE…) humor.

The Universe spun its wheel, and we landed the winning Power ball Lottery Number for all of the above.

Bing bing bing bing bing!

Amusing event #1: Good Little Lemmings.

Alarm at 4 am. Arrive promptly at hospital at 4:45 am.

At her pre-op appointments, Shaun was sternly told three times she MUST be in hospital pre-op room at 5 am. They also made her sign and initial a sheet of paper stating the same. They left a phone message reminding her: 5 am…or else. (Ixnay on the surgery-ay.)

We wait in the dark lobby under the watchful eye of a security guard with a soft spot. He didn’t want to watch us dripping in the rain on the other side of the glass. Outside the locked hospital. The locked hospital with the locked pre-op room. That opens at 6:00.

Okay, maybe I should have been a bit more specific with The Universe on what is ‘humorous‘ and what is: ‘do you think they disinfect these chairs?’

Amusing Event #2: Highly Caffeinated, Enthusiastic Surgical Team.

Shaun is barely settled in her pre-op curtain-icle. I get to go back with her. Within minutes, a bunch of eager, tall, slender people in green scrubs flock and flit around her gurney. Introductions are cheerfully made over the sound of surgical gloves being snapped on. I’m strangely self-conscious of my sweat pants and bed-hair. It’s like some sort of macabre early morning cocktail party. Why didn’t I dress better? Put on make up? Use deodorant?

They are all so…cheerful. They look like happy kids milling around a school bus on field trip day.

The anesthesiologist chooses this moment to say to Shaun:

“Huh. Weird EKG in your chart. You got any heart problems? No? Have you ever died under anesthetic before? No?” Looks around.  “Okay, we’re good to roll people!”

As an after thought, before walking out of the curtain-icle, he says, “Don’t worry, if you die, well just resuscitate you.” He pats her hand indulgently. Gifts her with a practiced smile.

Before the anxiety building in my body can form into something as solid as words (“Weird EKG?! WHAT WEIRD EKG??” pause “Wait. Have you ever died BEFORE?”), the green suited people put green gloved hands on the gurney rails, and start moving her quickly, as if this were an emergency. Possibly they felt the anethesiologist had just turned this is to a critical situation, and they were trying to save all their lives.

A nurse waves me in the direction of the unlocked doors: “Surgery waiting room, out there, on the left.”

Shaun is rolling in the other direction, to toward the doors with pass code locks. The nurse bends sweetly down over Shaun’s head. It’s clear she’s about to impart something comforting. I feel relieved.  A little too soon.

What she actually says, with a lilting bounce: “Let’s go! Time to cut you open!”

Mayday! Mayday! I can’t process that…I’m still stuck on…weird EKG and casual have you ever died under anesthesia before? 

Shaun glances, pre-op drug-befuddled, at me over her shoulder: “…cut you open? Gah. ME. They mean cut me op…”

And the door slams shut after her.

The Universe is definitely messing with me.

There are no little green men with sharp implements, bright lights, and a gleeful lust to slice open a  human body.

We had it all wrong.  They’re tall.

And they look just like us.

It Came From Outer Space

If we were fit, freshly showered, wearing clean clothes, and bothered to slap on some makeup.

But They All Look Alike! How Do You Know Which Horse is Yours?

This is a post for the non-horsey.

Occasionally, some horses are difficult to tell apart. For real.

Because Bella and I fill in for each other, frequently both our horses are out with just one of us. We ride the horse that needs it that day, and pony the other one, occasionally switching them out during the exercise period. I can see why it might get confusing to figure out which horse belongs to whom.

That’s okay. Understandable. Plus both are Quarter Horses.

But to new boarders, or people new to horses, Hudson and Woodrow look identical.

This sends Bella and I into fits of laughter.

Hudson is taller, and leans to the thoroughbred type. (think pro basketball)

Woodrow is a tank: wide, well-muscled, he’d strike fear in the heart of defensive linebackers everywhere. If he was less good-natured, the Oakland Raiders would be all over trying to sign him.

My favorite comment: “is Hudson the one with the blaze, or the one with the star?”

Hudson is the taller dark brown horse. Woodrow is the shorter, but broader, orange horse. You can skip the facial markings.

There is still hope for the body or color impaired! Noticing the horse’s personality can be a big help.

I went to say good night to the boys before I went home.

Exhibit A: Hudson.

His thought bubble reads, “Uh, okaaaaaay. Goodbye. Again. Haven’t I seen you like ALL DAY?”

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Exhibit B: Woodrow

His thought bubble reads: “Hey! How have you been? Whatcha got? What is that? Can I eat it? Oh oh oh!!! Take a picture of my nostril for your blog. That would be hilarious.

You’re leaving? Why? You should stay. Hugs! My back itches. Did you know your pocket had a cookie in it earlier? I still smell it. yum. Why didn’t you save one for me? That’s okay. I get one tomorrow, right? Or you could go get one now. I’ll wait. Hey. My back still itches. Scratch?”

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Personality is what makes you really remember a horse. Essentially I tell people, “The bored looking horse with a slight smirk of contempt is Hudson. The happy, curious, friendly horse with the look of extreme interest in everything around him is Woodrow.”

For our horsey friends, how do you help people differentiate your horse from the one for which he’s usually mistaken?

In Which the Bathroom Explodes, Cubits are Required, and Murphy Monday is Postponed

I noticed our water bill was far too high for January.

Hellooo. It’s January. We just let the plants freeze to death.

We have low-flow everything (including brain cells). Hmmm.
I noticed one of the toilets was running, in a minute sort of way. Fixed it.
A few days later, I noticed it was running in an even subtler minute way. Huh.

At times, I take a page from Gone With the Wind: I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Shaun’s next surgery is on Thursday this week. The good news? She’s getting a brand new knee!

The less good news? It’s going to hurt. A lot. I figure there’s no sense waiting to worry. if I begin now, I’ll have a decent head start, and can coast into an absolute frenzy by Thursday without breaking a sweat.

I turn on the shower, get ready to get in, and wait for the hot water.

Waiting. Waiting. Dang toilet is still making that noise. Fine. I’ll turn it off at the emergency valve underneath.

Apparently the toilet has the maturity level of a 3-year-old with a boo-boo. “Don’t TOUCH it! Don’t LOOK at it!” I bend over simply to look at the shut off valve.

It explodes out of the wall.

A split second later valve is followed by about 100 gallons of icy water.

Very James Bond.

My first solution depends a lot on Magical Thinking:

NO! I ABSOLUTELY CAN’T HANDLE THIS RIGHT NOW. TAKE IT BACK!

I try to stuff the broken valve back on the spewing pipe. Have you ever tried to screw a nozzle on a hose when the water is turned on full blast? It was sort of like that, if you add in lack of clothing, Disney-Like water show sprays and arcs, and me screaming for help. Screaming is a good indicator of Magical Thinking: I knew no one else was home.

I believe this firmly answers the philosophical question: when a trees falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make noise?

YES. The pipe burst, and there was no one to hear me screaming. I definitely heard myself.

Finally, after bracing myself against the vanity, and pushing as hard as I could, I got the valve jammed on the pipe. Minor dribbling. Mucho pressure back at me.

This bought me some time to think it through, once I stopped swearing, and before hypothermia set in.

My clothes are floating around me in 3″ of water. I’m stretched out like a trussed pig. There is no back up.

  • The water needs to be turned off at the main junction, between street and house.
  • If I let go, a zillion more gallons will flood the house.
  • That timing scenario doesn’t include yanking on proper emergency attire.

I dismiss the running-naked-out-of-the house option. We all know that wishing this hadn’t happened is a much more productive line to pursue.

Annnnd….hypothermia begins to set in. To think I believed, only minutes ago, having high water pressure was a good thing.

I’m going to have to let go and let Act of God.

Plan A: Pulling on fully saturated jeans in under 10 minutes: unthinkable. 10 minutes at 100 gallons a minute….we’re talking CUBITS of water here. Noah’s ark levels of water.

Plan B: Hoisting a fully saturated 40 pound towel and slapping it around me: 10 seconds.

Good to go. Plan B it is.

Towel mostly in place, I dash out the back door, shedding water in sheets.

I stop dead on the stairs. Did the lock just click? GAH. Don’t think! Find the shut off valve! There!
I slam it down. I hear the water stop rushing into the house.

I resist the urge to wave at the neighbors as I run slap-slop up the stairs.

Door. There is a God. Unlocked!

I open cupboards and dump baskets. Now I can say ‘I told you so’ to Shaun, who accuses me of towel hoarding.

Water has spilled out the bathroom, pushed down the hall, and is making a bee-line for the bedroom. Doesn’t bother with Micah’s room off the hall. Huh. He’s protected by the biblical name?(Or the house isn’t as level as I thought.) I pull a register cover off the bathroom floor. Three inches of gently undulating water fill the heating duct. CRAP.

By one am, with everyone’s help as they slosh in, all the water is soaked up, a giant fan is on, I’m properly clothed, and we are once again safe from unnatural disaster and horrifying nakedness.

Shaun has found a plumber, and made an appointment for 7 am. No weekend overtime charges. Yay, Shaun!

Problem: everything is fine now, right?

Not according to my brain. I will no longer coast into an emotional frenzy on Thursday. The frenzy decides The Exploding Bathroom is what we’ve been working toward. Thus begins the hysterical crying, hiccups, and (yes) why-me moaning.

I hear feet shuffling and shoulders huddling outside the bathroom door. “Jane, what’s wrong?!” And
“Mom, you okay?”

“Nooooo….”, I wail.

Nothing feels okay.

My brain latches onto a random thought that, at the time, feels like a logical explanation of my overwrought state, and I respond:

“What Is a CUBIT?!”