Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In my mind I'm going to Carolina...

     Most of my friends already know this, but in case you didn't hear the news...Jonathan and I are moving to Aiken, SC. In fact, we're moving next Friday. I can say that all day long, but it still doesn't seem real to me. Why, you ask? Well, I keep looking around our house (which is half packed, thanks to my hard working husband) and all I see is "stuff". "Stuff" that has to be packed, my hairbrush, nail clippers, the pretty blue bottle on the kitchen windowsill, the patio furniture, a candle, and the list is endless. Will it all fit in the van? I just don't know. What do we do if it won't all fit? I don't know. I've become almost mute on the subject of our move. I have so much to do and plenty of time on my hands to get it done, but I'm almost paralyzed. I've asked everyone and their brother about how they think I should transport the cats since we have a four door car and two dogs and four cats won't all fit. Even I'm sick of hearing myself talk about it. So, I'm done talking about it. Suffice to say, that somehow we'll all end up in SC sometime before Christmas, ensuring that the holidays will pass in a bedraggled blur for us this year. I'm fine with that, though. Really. I just want to be down there in one piece with the dogs, cats, horses and Jonathan. And have this agonizing pre-move anxiety be a thing of the past.

  The above picture is the living room in our new house. It's an oldie, circa 1907 with four fireplaces, built in cabinets, nice wood floors and high ceilings. Those are the positive points. The negatives add up to a lot of time and money in renovation costs, but we'll do all slowly, one piece at a time. See that odd blue/green color in the background?  That would be the kitchen. The entire room (cabinets, too!) is painted that wretched, puke inducing color. The guest room is the same hue, also. It makes you feel like you're in a crack house. Must've been a sale going on when the old owner went to buy paint.  The land that goes with the house adds up to a little over 7 acres and it will eventually be our home base for JEM Stables. At the moment it resembles a small wildlife preserve, but it's flat and with strategic clearing we'll have a nice spot for a stable, ring and paddocks.

  There is one small wrench being thrown into the works for our actual move. The weather. It isn't cooperating. At all. Yesterday we had an ice storm, which rendered the entire farm a skating rink. The driveway literally could've been skated on, no joke.  Today's treat is a snow storm, on top of all the ice. It's been snowing since I got up and it's still going at almost 1:30 p.m.  Now, the reason why this winter weather is a bit of a challenge is that our house is up on a little hill from the driveway. Carrying furniture isn't fun on flat, safe, dry ground, so try adding some ice and snow on a downhill slope and see how you feel about that.  Yeah, I thought so. This is going to f*&%ing suck. There is just no other way to put it. I've been joking all along about how it's going to snow before we leave, ha ha ha, won't that be a drag, etc., in hopes that by saying that it wouldn't happen.    Why haven't I learned not to fool with Mother Nature?? Did I learn nothing from the commercial in the 70's that said that very line? Apparently not. We are screwed. 

  When you tell people that you're moving you generally get two types of reactions. The first is that of pity. If you've ever moved, wether it was 10 miles, or 1000 you know that it's a gigantic pain in the ass. On many, many levels. So the pity people put a hand on your shoulder and give you the pursed lip look that says,  "I'm so glad it's you and not me. Hang in there." The second reaction is the overly positive, "You're going to get through this and be so happy in your new place!!", complete with pom pom's and a split. If we were mega wealthy and could afford to hire movers this would all be so much easier. But alas, we're saving our money by doing this on our own. And I swear this is the last time I'm moving.

  So y'all (hello, practicing!) probably won't hear from me for a bit. For the next two weeks I'll be walking in circles and wringing my hands, while muttering about all the loose ends I have to tie up. When I return to the surface of life  I'll try my hardest not to be one of those people who moves to a warm climate and proceeds to continually gloat about how nice the weather is while everyone back home is buried in six feet of snow. I might have to do it once, or twice, but then I'll hold myself back. Promise. Happy Holidays and I'll be back with a new blog name in January. I'm thinking "Adventures in Aiken", but I'm open to suggestions from the six people who will actually read this.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Meant to be

   The other day I had to drive out to Clinton Corners, NY to the Agway to buy a special type of horse grain that's only available at a couple of places near our farm. Jonathan was away so I had a limited amount of time to get the grain and drive home to do more horsey day care activities. I had brought the dogs with me, because they LOVE going on rides in the car. Doesn't matter if it's hours in the car, or just a quick run to get coffee. They want to be with us all the time. Australian Shepherds are loyal to a fault and by and large, great dogs.
 I was finishing paying for the bag of grain when a paunchy, disheveled balding man sauntered in and said, "Hello!!" in a booming sing song voice. The cashier looked up and gave him a nod and a wan smile. He proceeded to ask her where the cat food was located and he bounced off through the store to find a big bag of Meow Mix.

"Are those your lovely dogs in the black car out there?" he asked me in a lilting accent, which I took to be British as he stood next to me at the check out.
"Yup," I replied. "They're my steady companions."
"What breed are they?"
"Australian Shepherds," I said. "A black tri and a blue merle"
"Ohhhh," he said. "I love Aussies! I have to get my phone and show you a picture of my Aussie, Dozer. He was a beauty!"

He shambled off to his car, and I looked at the cashier, with my eyebrows raised. She told me he's a talker and bid me good luck as I left the store to give the grain guy my ticket for the bag of grain. Great. I was in a hurry and I really needed to get back to the farm. And I had a talker waiting for me. Sweet, I thought, only me.

I went out to my car and waited as the man came over from his car, while excitedly thumbing through photos on his phone.

"Hold on," he said. "I can't find the picture."

I waited patiently and studied him quietly as we stood side by side. Clad in baggy, navy athletic shorts, he was an middle aged man, thick in the middle, with two day razor stubble, and he seemed like the type of a man who had let himself go a bit.  He asked if he could pat my dogs, who were straining at the open windows. My one dog, Becks is over the top friendly. He was more than happy to have a stranger reach through the window and give him pats and love. Within seconds, Becks was licking the man's face and giving him all of the love that a dog can give. I sighed, because I know Becks and his immense need for love from all people, but this guy was in heaven. I could tell. Remy, our blue merle, in his gentle way was looking into the man's eyes and reciprocating love while the man scratched his ears. As he patted my dogs, the man proceeded to tell me all about his divorce, the fact that he had to give his dogs away, he'd had recent trip to South Africa to get his head straight (he's South African, not British turns out) and tells me that his wife had just left him for another man. It was a heart wrenching story. Suddenly, my impending need to move on went away and I let his guy pat Becks and Remy to his hearts content. I didn't care that I needed to get home.  This man was hurting in ways that I couldn't relate to personally, but it was palpable. The man needed to touch the dogs and they were giving him therapy that no human therapist could provide. This went on for quite a while and eventually, the man found the picture he was looking for on his phone and I saw his Aussie dog, Dozer. He was a beautiful dog. Gorgeous blue merle Aussie and I saw tears in the man's eyes as he showed me the photo.

"I hated to give him up," he said. "Hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I'm not in a place to have dogs now."

"He's lovely," I said. "I'm so sorry that you've had a rough patch, but I think you've done the right thing. I bet he's happy where he is right now. "

What more could I say? I don't know. He gave my dogs parting kisses and told me that visiting with them was the best thing that's happened to him in a long time.  We parted company and I got into my car and drove away, wondering if I was meant to show up at this particular feed store just to see this lovely man, who was in a bad way and needed to love some Aussies to help him through a tough day and share his story with a perfect stranger. Funny enough, we never exchanged names. It was an anonymous meeting of two people at a feed store in Clinton Corners, NY. Yet, it felt like it was meant to be.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Birthday Tale

   Last Thursday was my birthday and my aunt suggested that I write a blog about a birthday from the past that I hated.  My childhood birthday's were all very lovely, with parties, cake, presents, friends and family. None of them qualified as a hated birthday.  During my 20's and early 30's, my mother-in-law took it upon herself to give me a birthday party every year when they lived in Connecticut.  I would feel like a boob teetering over a fancy cake lit with candles, while the drunken party goers cheered. I loathed opening the presents in front of everyone. It felt like a gross display of greed on my part, though I hadn't asked for any of it.  I never could get my MIL to throw the party sans gifts. She felt like it was important for people to bring gifts.  Eventually, I learned to make sure I was half crocked at gift opening time so I could get through it all without somehow feeling like a petulant brat, screaming "mine, all MINE!" as I stood in front a pile of brightly colored boxes with extravagant bows and ribbons.

  I don't know why it took me so long to figure out the birthday that I hated the most. It's quite obvious to me as I look back. Turning 40 was by far the most traumatic, crappy, bum me out birthday ever. Bar none.  My dog Izzy had become very ill early on in the summer before my 40th. I was depressed about her steady decline, despite the numerous medications she'd been put on. I stopped coloring my hair that summer. Soon my natural roots appeared and the silver ribbon along my scalp began to creep down my skull. Faded brunette ends became overtaken by the silver (I prefer calling it silver to grey, it just sounds more exotic and less...old).   I had to say goodbye to Izzy on August 1st, 2009. It was a horrible, emotional drain and still "the birthday" loomed in the upcoming weeks.  I cried over Izzy on a daily/nightly basis, which didn't help my state of mind. When I looked in the mirror I saw The Bride of Frankenstein hairdo and deepening wrinkles on my face. It made me cringe. And I was still on the cusp of turning 40.

"No party!", I shrieked at Jonathan every day. "No gifts, either! I just want this damn birthday to pass with no acknowledgement."

   He would nod and give me a wan smile. And he respected my wishes to a T.  My 40th birthday was a non-event, as birthdays go. I can't remember what I did that day, other than most likely cry at some point about Izzy.  Jonathan made me a fine dinner, which he does almost every night of my life. He got me a cupcake for dessert, but no candles to blow out, no smartly wrapped gifts, no clever cards.  Later that evening, I began to feel even more sorry for myself that I'd turned 40 without an ounce fanfare. It was a milestone that I was sure didn't need to be marked with joyous celebration, but it turned out that no recognition was even worse.  And it was all my doing.  I'd been so stubborn in my approach to turning 40 that I cheated myself out of the one day of the year when you're entitled to be celebrated for being born. Isn't that funny? We don't make the choice to be born. Our parents do that for us. We should celebrate our lives and our parents for bringing us into the world on our birthday's.  Well, it was too late for celebration on that hot August night so I climbed the stairs on leaden legs and went to bed a very sad, newly 40 year old woman.

  Total bummer of a story, right? Ha. Turns out that turning 40 was a great thing for me. A week went by after my non-birthday and I decided to call my hairdresser and make an appointment for cut and color.  I emerged from the salon with shiny, sleek brunette locks. I felt like me again, not some two tone, silver haired sea hag.  I faced the reality that I wasn't going to get carded again, but I didn't really care. In fact, turning 40 took away a lot of stresses in life.  I learned that stressing over money is a completely stupid waste of time. I'd spent a lot of my 30's worrying about making ends meet and where had it gotten me? Guess what? The ends always meet, because we make it work, not because I'm up nights wringing my hands.  I stopped caring about what other people think of me. I bought a pair of bright purple corduroys that make me laugh when I put them on. I have a Hello Kitty bathrobe. My iPhone case is Barbie pink. It turns out that turning 40 was a liberating moment for me.

  This last birthday wasn't filled with exorbitant fanfare. My Mom had come for a visit so we'd gone out to dinner the night before to celebrate, which was really fun.  Jonathan and I went to Lowes to purchase a new wheelbarrow, which I jokingly referred to as my "present"and in actuality, I'm totally cool with that. It's a kick ass wheelbarrow.  And as a total random act of kindness, a FB friend whom I haven't seen since 8th grade graduation gave me a $5 Starbucks gift card. How bloody cool is that??  I'm so skeptical about getting sent things on FB that I originally thought it was a scam, but it turned out to be real. I redeemed it today and am currently jacked up on a tall latte. Thanks FB friend!!!

 So, there's the story of the hated birthday, Aunt Judy. I hope you liked it. Thank you for the writing prompt!  Happy Labor Day everyone! (and if one more person tells me it's the end of the summer I'll cut them!!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wake Up Call

    Yesterday started in a most unusual fashion. I emerged from the fog of deep slumber to have my ears met with a noise that I initially couldn't make sense of for a minute. It was deranged, confusing, deep and primal. What the dickens? Then I remembered that the woman from the Millbrook Hunt had called me the day before to alert us that they'd be coming through our area first thing in the morning.

"What...is...that...noise?" Jonathan mumbled from under the covers.
"Hounds," I answered. "Lots of hounds."
"At 6 in the morning?" he said. "What is wrong with those hunt people! Idiots!"

  The noise was deafening, like the hounds were in our very living room. I decided to get up to have a look at what was going on. Grabbing my robe off the door, I made my way to the front porch, where Remy, our big Aussie was standing at full attention.  I hustled him into the house and peered into the dawn light. The hounds were swarming in our front paddock, bellowing and braying, circling and sniffing.  The huntsmen were all yelling and whistling different calls, none of which seemed to be having any effect on controlling the wayward pack. Then hoofbeats could be heard and a deep agitated voice called out, "What's going on here?"  I recognized it as the voice of our landlord, who is a Master of the hunt.  Muddled conversation ensued, as the hound pack zig zagged to and fro, with random resonating bays.

  Fox hunting is an age old tradition and people who do it find it to be fabulous fun. I've hunted a few times and Jonathan grew up hunting quite a bit in his hometown of Fairfield, CT. It's not a sport that requires any particular skills, other than the ability to run pell mell over all manner of terrain and stay on the horse. Also, natty dressing skills are mandatory. I don't remember all of the details, but there are different outfits for roading, cubbing and formal hunting. The latter is the most fancy of them all. The Masters wear scarlet coats, called Pinques, which lends one to think they might be color blind, but the coat is actually named after an English fellow who made them.  Many of the over 21 crowd in the hunt like to indulge in a "stirrup cup", or a shot of John Courage, to be taken from a silver flask, when the hunt is stopped at a check.  Depending on how many checks, or stops the hunt makes on a given day will determine the level of inebriation at the end of the hunt.

  I headed back to the bedroom followed by two nervous dogs. Jonathan was propped up on his pillows, looking annoyed as he checked the news on his iPad.

"The hounds are out of control," I said, staring out the window.
"Hounds are always out of control," Jonathan said dryly. "They're the dumbest dogs in the world."

  Through the foliage on the edge of the property I could see a collection of riders lined up on the dirt road, not thirty feet from where I stood in my bedroom. Clip clopping hooves on the hard packed street and the excited whinnies of nervous horses rang through the air.  One horse kept prancing and turning in a circle, loaded with anxiety to get the day going. At last the call came from the hunting horn. Toot toot toot toot!  And they were off. The hounds were going full bore down the hill and the riders followed at a brisk trot. I couldn't believe how many horses and riders were passing by, the line seemed endless. When the last straggler trickled by, I looked out at our own barn. Four heads were sticking out of their doors, frozen in place like statues as if the passing of the hunt had rendered them into marble. Horses that don't hunt, or have never hunted tend to be a bit overcome by the chaos of hounds, hollering, horns and masses of riders converging in one large unit.  It was going to take our horses a while to calm down enough to have their breakfast. I slipped back under the covers for another half hour of rest, pondering the marvels of living in the country and how many times that very scene I'd just witnessed had occurred right outside my door over the years.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My prompt for the flash fiction challenge was this: The story starts when your protagonist swears to remain single. Another character is an unscrupulous sort who was forced to commit a crime. 

    A shard of sunlight bore through a crack in the dusty, crooked blinds and pierced my sleep encrusted eyes.  I fumbled out from under the covers and swung my feet onto the floor. Was the razor sharp sunbeam a sign from God to get my miserable, hung over ass out of this putrid room, filled with dirty clothes and crushed beer cans? Glancing over my shoulder, I checked out the sleeping mound next to me. Tangled brown hair, high forehead, cheeks slackened by slumber and lips parted slightly blowing out small pockets of rancid breath at regular intervals.  Good old, Tony. I kept trying to stay out of this guy’s bed, but somehow after a few Bud Light’s I followed him home like a stray dog every time. It’s not that he was a bad guy, or anything like that. I just hated the idea of being stuck with one person. It made me shudder and yet, here I was again. What a hot mess I could be when I really put my mind to it. 

  Trying to ignore the brain numbing banging going on in my head, I reached around on the floor for my jeans and tank top, both of which were inside out in a heap. Inside out. Super classy, Rose. My mother would never speak to me again if she could see this scene of her little girl heaving herself up from the brawny construction worker’s bed that had sheets on it that hadn’t been changed in so long they had a crusty feel.  I tip toed on the balls of my feet to the bathroom, dodging the land mine sized piles of clothing. I could feel the grit from the floor ingraining itself into my flesh, causing me to wince when I stepped just right. Flicking the switch on in the bathroom, I sighed. Why are men so damn nasty when they live alone? Tony’s sink was full of grime and hair and big blobs of old toothpaste. A lone sour smelling towel hung on a hook next to the mirror. Vowing not to look in the shower, I snatched at the towel and flipped open the clothes hamper and then...froze.  Laying at the bottom of the hamper were rows and rows of stacks of money. I knew I was what I was looking at, but all I could feel was confusion, maybe due to all the beer I’d consumed the night before, or the bowls we’d smoked when we came home, or the hours of, well you know, hot, sweaty sex. This can’t be real money. Where would Tony get this kind of cash? Why would Tony have this kind of money laying at the bottom of his dingy clothes hamper. On impulse, I grabbed a stack of the money and marched on with loud, angry footsteps back to the bedroom.

“Tony,” I said in a soft voice next to his ear. “You need to wake up.”  

  He mumbled and rolled over allowing his bare backside to be exposed from under the covers. I saw my opportunity and slapped his beautiful, round butt cheeks with a crisp open handed smack. 
“Whaddtha faahhh...” he yelled as he jumped a clear foot off the bed, landing with a fine mist of dust particles shrouding him as they settled. 
I held up the cash and glared at him. “You really need to change these sheets, Tony. They’re disgusting, and where did you get all of this money?” I yelled.
“That isn’t really mine, technically, but...well, I’m holding it for a friend,” he stammered.  
“Who do you know who has access to that kind of cash? Certainly not Norman, the foreman. Or Gary, the dump truck driver. Could it be Keith, the crane operator?  Maybe Susie, the secretary with the bad teeth and peroxide hair? I know, it’s Walt, the alcoholic welder!” I was on a roll. 
Narrowing his eyes, he got a pinched look on his face and decided to play the tough guy act. 
“Just put it back, okay. It doesn’t concern you and why were you snooping in my shit anyway?” he spat. 
“I was attempting to de-funk your revolting bathroom by sequestering that board stiff, stinky towel to a smaller space, known as the hamper that in theory has dirty clothes in it that are meant to be WASHED!”  My voice had escalated in volume as I went so the end came out kind of crazy, but he got the point. 
“Okay, okay, baby. I get it,” he said softening his tone and rubbed his face. “Just put it back, okay? I’m not doing anything shady, I swear.”
 He said that last part with his eyes cast down, therefore convincing me that he was lying. Well, what did I care anyway. We weren’t any serious item, just casual friends that slept together now and then. He could do whatever he wanted, shady, or otherwise. Chewing my lower lip to keep my mouth shut, I returned the money to the hamper, splashed some water on my face and fluffed up my hair with both hands. I looked like a fright, with puffy, bloodshot eyes accented by dark circles. Sunglasses would help a little, but I still had “girl who made a lot of bad decisions last night” written all over me.  

“Alright, Tony I’m leaving now. Good luck with that pile of money and don’t spend it all in one place,” I called over my shoulder as I headed toward the front door.  The door opened, seemingly all by itself, but then a large figure holding a gun appeared in the doorway.  The man was one of those freakishly giant people. He looked at me with beady eyes that were so cold, I froze in my tracks, my mouth open in an O.  
“Where is that slimy, little dirtbag,” the beast bellowed at me.
I made a vague sweeping motion toward the bedroom with my arm and the beast stomped past me. 
“Tony!!!!!!” I yelled. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Fun

  Ahh, sweet summer. It's here! And last week we had the beastly hot temperatures that the northeast is famous for, which brings out the whiner in all of us. We whine when it's too cold and snowy and we whine when it's too hot and steamy. It's a rite of passage for all who live in New England. Last week was brutal. Prime whining weather. HOT! HUMID! UNCOMFORTABLE! Don't get me wrong, I'll take it over cold and snow any day, but it was tough to bear, especially since we don't have any a/c in our house. Friday the 19th was hotter than Hades. There was no escape from the heat, even when one was placed in front of a fan turned on turbo. I was reading on my guest bed, barely breathing shallow breaths, and I had sweat dripping off of my body. Dear friends of ours had invited us to go "tubing"in the early evening on the Housatonic River, which is right below their home. Let me start by telling you that I'm a nervous nelly when it comes to water. Especially, oceans, ponds, lakes, or rivers. I'm fine in a clean pool, but the other aforementioned bodies of water freak me out. I'm just not an aquatic person. Never have been.  I don't like the thought of unknown squishy things being below me in the water. Fish? Muck? Algae? Eww!! I almost died on our honeymoon when we rented a boat and Jonathan coaxed me into snorkeling. I barely got into the water when I saw a big, icky fish and scrambled up the ladder of the boat so fast that I nearly broke my collarbone. After a hyperventilating anxiety attack on the floor of the boat, Jonathan saw my true colors and didn't try to get me to snorkel again on that trip. He's smart that way. It was embarrassing. I can jump horses over five foot jumps, but swimming makes me truly weak in the knees. I've gotten better in the water since our honeymoon, though I'm still not exactly comfortable.  Truth be told, I'm not even close to being comfortable. I knew that Jonathan really wanted to go tubing on the river, so I was grappling with whole prospect of putting myself in a potentially spazzy situation. The practical me thought it would be fun. The freak show me was having an anxiety attack at the idea of getting on a tube to float down the river. I was torn. Anxious. Addled by days of extreme heat. But I wanted to be a big girl and do this!! Not to mention that it was Africa hot and the water would no doubt feel great. Conquer those demons, I told myself!  So, with shaking hands I donned my bathing suit and off we went to our friend's home.

"Hello," I called out in a high, breathy voice when we arrived. I knew there was no backing out now. I had to be brave. I had to face the river and my fears.  Our friend's were happy to see us.
"You'll be fine," Emma consoled me as she patted my back (she knew I had trepidation about this adventure).  The guys were laughing and beers were opened for the trip.  We threw the big tubes into the back of their truck and headed out. When we arrived at the shallow spot for us to take off, I shuddered a little, but not enough for anyone else to see. I took a last pull of the beer and gamely, I dragged my tube into the river, hoisted myself upon it and began to...float. I was floating! It was actually pretty easy and fun, even for a water chicken, like me. The Housatonic is very kind at this time of year. It rolls slowly, the views are breathtaking, birds are on the water, you float in a dreamlike state. It was almost fun! I was stiff and nervous when we got the first fast flowing section. We had to navigate through some rocks and I proved to be successful and didn't kill myself. Phew. First hurdle, conquered.  We floated and floated and passed through some more faster, rocky areas, with no issues. Hah! I was DOING this! I was being brave and though secretly I wanted it to be over I couldn't argue that the water felt lovely. I was finally cool on this hottest of all hot days.

 The end of the ride was signaled by the appearance of the gorgeous covered bridge in Cornwall, CT.  It's a storybook sight, that bridge. So historic, a sign of days gone by and also, a faster current.

"Go to the right," Nick called out over his shoulder. I made sure to paddle my tube over to the right side of the bridge just before we got to more fast moving water, which spilled us under the bridge, dodging more rocks and all of sudden I was in the lead. OH MY GOD, I WAS IN FRONT OF EVERYONE ELSE. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the others were laughing and relaxed, so I didn't panic. Ha ha. Fun, fun. I'm in the lead. We're in the river, hurtling along, passing big rocks, the current was strong. I looked back a final time and Emma called to me, " This is where we get off!"

"HOLY HELL," said a voice in my brain. "THIS IS WHERE YOU GET OFF!"  Without another thought, I threw myself from the tube, like I was on a sinking ship in the middle of the Atlantic and landed in the water. It gushed over me. I went under for a minute, trying to right myself, but only managed to vainly grasp at slippery rocks. My tube sailed by me, leaving me to die all by myself. I watched it as it headed downstream, like an uncaring bastard and barely heard Emma say, "Oh Michele, your sunglasses!"  Blast! As I stood up on shaking legs in the two feet of water, I realized that I'd lost my dang sunglasses. My expensive Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses that I'd had on my head were now victims of the river. Oh, the rocks, the slippery, mossy covered rocks. I could barely walk. The shore was in my sights, only four feet away. "Screw the sunglasses," I said. As I scrambled to the shore, scratching and bruising my legs, I watched Jonathan head downstream, like an agile fish, to fetch my wretched tube. Emma searched for my sunglasses, though it was in vain. I gasped for air and thanked the gods that I hadn't bashed out my front teeth on the rocks when I "fell" in the river.

"They're just sunglasses," I called out, my voice shaking. "How about we head back and get a cocktail?"

So, I did it. I tubed down the river. I survived (barely) and it was fun until the end, when I almost killed myself, through sheer panic. The dunk in the river actually cooled me off, and I feel badly that I lost my fancy sunglasses, but I'm glad that I didn't wimp out.  Cold comfort. In the end, I blew it. However, in the long run, I don't really care.  We ended the evening by having a spectacular meal by candlelight at Nick and Emma's house. Today I went to CVS and bought two pairs of cheapo sunglasses to replace my fancy pair. I'm pretty sure that if I were to tube again on the Housatonic (fat chance)  those cheap sunglasses would cling to my head, with tenacity and I'd emerge like a watery freaked out mermaid, ten dollar glasses, intact. Lesson learned. NEVER GO TUBING AGAIN.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Here comes the judge...

     A couple Sundays ago, I was the judge for a small horse show in Clinton Corners, NY.  I awoke early that morning so I could adequately provide myself with a bucket of coffee before I had to set sail for the show.  I wanted to be super sharp and on my game and since I'm not a natural morning person I needed mucho caffeine. I've been judging a bit more over the last few years. It's not a job for everyone, but if you like watching endless rounds of horses and ponies jumping courses and can sit on your ass for several hours at a time then it's be right up your alley. I've always been able to watch endless rounds at horse shows and sitting still for hours comes very naturally to me. Long story short, I enjoy judging.
  The morning air smelled clean and fresh, with a subtle hint of warmth that promised a bright summer day was coming up. Perfect weather for a June horse show. I smoothed my skirt and checked my make up in the mirror before I fired up the Audi. The drive was about thirty minutes through shady country roads that wound up and down hills through the Hudson Valley.  While driving, I found myself reflecting on June horse show mornings of my youth.  Before I got my own horse, one of my summer highlights was the Hampton Falls Volunteer Fire Department Horse Show.  When I was really young it was held in a large flat field just down the road from my house.  The night before the show the volunteer firemen would configure long sections of snow fencing to provide a ring. There were more rows of snow fence to mark off the parking areas. A small wooden booth was towed in on a flatbed to serve as the judge's stand.  I would spend the day of the show walking around the show grounds in a glorious daze as I watched horses and riders being put through their paces. It was thrilling to be around so many horses and riders at once. Something about it just felt "right" to me.  If I was lucky I was allowed to pat a horse, or hold my friend Kim's pony for a few minutes.  The night of the show I'd come home dusty and exhausted, but full of excited stories to tell my parent's about what a grand day I'd had. Poor things, they had no idea what I was setting them up for a year, or two later.
   Still lost in my reverie of those charming local shows of my youth, I came upon the farm where I was judging.  When I got to the end of the long bumpy driveway  I stopped a woman walking by and asked where I should park my car. She pointed to where the trailers were all going, but I smiled and said to her, "Well, (I could've inserted "you insipid peasant" here, but I chose not to) I'm the judge."  It's a heady feeling to say those words. Suddenly, I was the most important person on the show grounds. The earth nearly buckled under my power. Well, not really, but I did get a totally V.I.P. parking spot right next to the barn.  Hoisting my bag, which was loaded with seltzer water and snacks, I  went in search of the ring to get my instructions and a prize list. The staff for the show were exceedingly organized and had put me in a comfy chair by the side of the ring in the shade of a large tree, complete with a folder of judges cards. I settled in and prepared myself for the first task of the day, which was judging lead line.  Lead line is always a cute class. Little tots dressed as miniature equestrians in tiny jodphurs and hard hats that are bigger than their actual heads are ridiculously adorable.  I was treated to two little cuties being marched around the ring by smiling handlers.  Both received blue ribbons, despite the fact that my husband texted me during the class and told me it was never too early for a child to learn the agony of defeat. He grew up under the rule of a very tough trainer a.k.a. his mother.  She instilled a killer competitive instinct in her kids that drove them to run other children over in flat classes and ride like they owned the course.  Jonathan still goes into a scary "win or go home" mode when he's showing.  I usually don't make direct eye contact with him right before a class. It can be deadly.

  The next division was a group of very intense Walk-Trot riders.  One little girl was as white as a sheet, frozen in place on her chestnut pony.
 "It's her first show," said the woman who was in the ring with me to do the announcing.  I nodded, sagely and gave the little girl a big smile when she walked by me.  Again, I reflected on my early childhood and though I don't really remember my first show I'm sure I was as spooked as the little girl in my ring.

"Relax and have fun while you ride!" I said in a cheerful voice. Okay, maybe I'd had a little too much coffee, but I didn't want to have zombie children riding around the ring, too scared to steer, or stop. No one fell off, or died of fright during the class and I pinned it as I saw it. The scared little girl actually smiled when she got her yellow third placed ribbon. I even choked up a little. I'm sappy that way.  Hey, being a judge doesn't make you inhuman! Then we moved on to the jumping divisions. I spent the next few hours watching kid's jumping courses, some smooth rounds, some more bumpy, but all were well turned out and doing their very best.  The last classes were composed of a group of good riders and nice horses, which made my judging job earn the money. All were good, some missed some distances and lead changes, but it was a delight to watch these young girls learn how to navigate a course of 3 foot jumps with as much precision and accuracy as they could muster. And I learned a few judging tips from the owner of the farm, who is a rated judge. It was a lovely day in June. A beautiful day to judge a horse show, and I felt privileged to be chosen for the job. If I'd had an inkling 30+ years ago that I'd be asked to be the JUDGE of a horse show I probably wouldn't have slept for a week. Being involved with horses for as many years as I have is a total thrill. Sometimes I can't believe that I make my living as a professional rider. It's a weird job to explain at cocktail parties of non horse folks, but totally fulfilling to a diehard horse lover. I'm hoping to judge more shows as I get older. I may even strive to get my judges card from our head organization, the United States Equestrian Federation.

  As I drove back to our farm when the show was over, good sized check in my pocket, I couldn't wait to get there,  tack up my horse and go for a ride. I don't know why horses are in my blood, since I come from a very non-horsey family, but they are and I wouldn't change a thing. At the end of the day, I'm still that excited kid who loves everything about horses, the smell, the tack, the discipline, the thrill of a good course and the bond that we have with these beautiful four legged creatures who allow us to ride them. Okay, sap fest is over. Next blog will be full of crazy cat stories and four letter words.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cat Dynamics, illustrated by some guest blogging...

       Wow, I'm such a  lame ass. I haven't bothered to follow up on the last blog and we're in the latter weeks of June.  To be fair, we have been very busy with horse shows, lessons, barn chores, tennis, getting a kitten, etc. YEAH THAT'S RIGHT, WE GOT A KITTEN!!!!!  Any of my friends on Facebook know this since he's been featured on my page, daily, since he arrived at our house a week ago. We named him Miles, and he's tiny, fuzzy, insanely adorable, precocious and brave as can be. There's nothing more ridiculous looking than a tiny ball of fuzzy kitten-ness arching its back all Halloween cat style, advancing toward a target in a sideways fashion on its tiptoes.  I mean come on! It just makes you laugh.  Miles does this move on a regular basis at us, the other cats and occasionally the dogs. He is a bad ass mo'fo kitten. We love him so much that it's nausea inducing.  I love that when I pick him up to kiss his head he claps his fuzzy kitten arms around my neck and bites me.  I love that he attacks our feet while we're brushing our teeth.  I love that he runs in front of us while we're walking through the house and stops dead directly in front of us to rear up and grab us around the ankles. He has a sweet, cuddly side that he exhibits when he's asleep on a lap.  When he's asleep we can pet him all we like without any claws or teeth or ninja fight moves. For now his tiny teeth and nails don't hurt a bit. I fear as he gets older these fun little habits of his will have us hemorrhaging vast quantities of blood, requiring transfusions several times a week.  We'll have long, road maps of scars decorating our bodies. People will start rumors that the Edel couple must have a self cutting problem due to all of the deep scarlet ribbons of scratches making road maps across our arms and legs. I'll get anonymous self help pamphlets in the mail from "Cutter's Hotline". My guess is that we should address Miles' kitten obsession with killing and conquering anyone, or thing who crosses his 1 lb. path. It seems like a logical move since I predict lots of bloodshed in the future. But he's so damn cute! And irresistible! And soft! And fuzzy! Okay, I'll stop there. If you want to see pics of the devil's spawn just check my FB page.

Marbles, our calico girl cat has checked in for a guest blog feature:

   My caretakers have lost their ever loving minds. They brought home an animal that was plucked from the bowels of hell. I hate him with ever fiber of my tri colored being. I fantasize daily about killing him, plucking every piece of fuzzy kitten hair off his body until he's a bald, bleeding mass. The extent of my loathing of this beast is hard to put into words, but just know that I'm pissed off beyond belief. I watch him cavorting around the house, while I'm high atop a piece of furniture and I try to use my death glare to freeze him in his kitten tracks. It's no use. He's impervious to my death gaze. The other day he got on my bed (where my caretaker's sleep) and I couldn't believe his audacity. Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing. My life is over as I knew it.

Mia, our black and white cat decided she would weigh in, too:

  I've always been the youngest, smallest and cutest cat in the house. I still am in my mind, but my caretaker's have brought home a stupid, crappy kitten that they fawn over for hours while he terrorizes the rest of us. I've never hissed so much in my life. My hisser is actually sore. This kitten thinks he's going to be my friend. WRONG! He chased me tonight. Twice. My hatred for him is deepening, which I didn't think possible.  I refuse to be in the house for more than an hour while IT is here.  I may go on another water strike, but I know the woman caretaker will just force a syringe of water in my mouth if I do. She's cruel, in so many ways. I am the cutest cat, dammit. I eat ITS food every chance I get in hopes of starving it. Then I watch the woman caretaker refill his dish and tell ME to stop it. I tried suffocating IT the other day while IT was sleeping in the woman's lap. The caretaker's just laughed and thought it was adorable that I was sleeping on her lap alongside the thing.  They're too dumb to catch onto my ploy. I've thought of enlisting Marbles in my plan to off IT, but she's such a bitch and claims to be above me. My boyfriend, Zeke is pissing me off, too. He actually seems amused by the stupid kitten. What a dumbass. My wrath will be recognized. They'll all be sorry.

Zeke, our big 17 year old Tiger, had this to add:

   I'm still mourning the loss of my beautiful mother, Miss Girl. She was a great mom, always loving, nurturing me, giving me great advice. No cat could ask for a more caring momma. But, alas the passage of time strikes us all down at some point and my mom is gone now. The caretaker's brought home a small, fuzzy baby cat last week. I am now an uncle to this creature.  I've never questioned their choice in new animals, but I'll admit that this one is a tad lively for our geriatric home. He thunders around the house like a miniature elephant. And he mock attacks me on a regular basis. I gave him a smack down on day two, albeit a gentle one, given the difference in our sizes, which established a modicum of respect that I wasn't sure was possible when I first met him. However, the baby cat isn't stupid and he now shows me respect, but I allow him to bat at my tail and engage in some gentle play time. Mia is ready to break up with me, but she's just being overly hostile. I think she'll get over it in time.  She's never been the sharpest tack in the box. Don't get me wrong, I love her, but she's a bit of an idiot. I think it will all be fine. Adjustments are always difficult.

Miles, the small bundle of baby fuzz has the last word:

  It's my house now, BITCHES!!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Lovely Trip...

  Jonathan and I were lucky enough to be invited to a very dear friend's wedding that happened to be taking place in the Dominican Republic in the beginning of May. We accepted, of course, especially since Jonathan was asked to be the Best Man and we couldn't say no to a vacation destination like the DR.  As the day of departure for this trip got closer, unfortunately my oldest, best kitty friend began to show signs of decline, due to old age. I was heartbroken, but this moment is inevitable when we're lucky enough to have pets in our lives. Miss Girl gave us the clear sign that she was on her way out of this world three days before we were set to leave. It was so sad, but she had a graceful exit (of course, she did, she was always graceful and very proper), and after having her live with us for 18 years I said my final goodbye to glorious 20 year old Miss Girl.  May she R.I.P.  I will always love this kitty the most, she was fuzzy, grey and white and very special. Demanding, gorgeous and a wonderful soul. She left behind her 16 yr. old big grey Tiger son, Zeke and we have two other kitties, Mia and Marbles, who didn't like Miss Girl much, but I'll overlook their taste in friends. Frankly, I think they were just jealous, because Miss G was very pretty and though I love Mia and Marbles, they aren't exactly oil paintings. Hey, we all can't be super models. I get it.

 So back to the trip. It didn't start off all that well. I was still pretty broken up about saying goodbye to Miss Girl, but we were going to a tropical island after a wretched winter and a bleak spring so I couldn't complain and tried to dry up my tears. The flight to the DR was uneventful, direct from JFK to Punta Cana, DR. On the flight, we had two girls sitting behind us who filled the flight with inane conversation. They proved impossible to ignore. IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE. Beyond dumb. Mind numbing dumb.  One of the girls had a panic attack before we landed. I heard her have this convo with a flight attendant:

Flight Attendant: What's going on? Are you okay?
Stupid Girl: I don't know. I feel dizzy.
F.A.: Did you take anything?
S.G.: Yes, I took a valium before we took off.
F.A.: Do you feel sick?

At this point, I want to reach back and slap the Stupid Girl and tell her to strap it on. She's made it this far and she needs to grow a pair. It's a plane flight, for God's sake. Flying is stressful and unnatural. Don't do it if you can't handle it!

S.G.: I feel sick and dizzy. Oh my God, I might be sick!

Now, I want to really slap the Stupid Girl, because I was afraid she was going to barf on me and I'd been listening to her stupid stories for THREE HOURS.

F.A.: You need to calm down. You'll be fine. Sip some water and relax.
Stupid Friend of Stupid Girl: I think you're having a panic attack. I had one once. It was terrible, but I was fine. The airport in the DR is so pretty. It's pink and has a thatched roof. ( really? this is what you tell  your friend who is freaking out? But it works, so fuck it. )
Stupid Girl, giggles.

Giggles. Now, I really want to hit her. The Flight Attendant seems to feel the situation has been diffused and moves on as the plane begins it's descent.  Well, long story short, we land, there isn't any barfing and we all get off the plane to sort out luggage, etc.

 After much ado, Jonathan and I find our luggage, make it through customs and head to find a van that will take us to our hotel. Guess who is sitting in our van? The Two Stupid Girls!! I can't wrap my mind around the fact that we have these two idiots in our van, but I put on a brave face and get into the front seat next to the driver. Off we go. Really? What did I do to deserve this??

  The Stupid Girls immediately begin to make conversation with two other idiot American's in the van. It's painful. Annoying. Horrible. I feel badly for Jonathan, who is sitting next to them, but I look out the window from the front seat, like I'm not even in the same car. LA LA LA LA. We drop off the other idiot passengers at their hotel after a 15 minute ride.  Bye! Then we drive on. The Stupid Girls attempt to talk to the driver, who says that he doesn't speak English.  For a moment, I think this is weird, but then I recall the conversation he's heard from them. It's insulting! These people are horrific. Hmmm. I begin to call upon my high school Spanish. I go through some conjugation, verbs, nouns, etc. So, we drop off the Stupid Girls 10 minutes later at another resort. Bam.  Bye, idiots! And head off to our resort. Ahh, it's just Jonathan and I in the van.  I get brave and ask the driver how far, in Spanish. The driver is awesome, he answers me very simply, 20 minutes! We chat, in simple Spanish for a few minutes, I feel very chuffed at my my bi-lingual prowess and we finally arrive at our resort, Excellence! To be continued...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reading Frenzy

      I'm one of those rabid reader people. I start to jones when I'm getting near the end of a book that I'm enjoying. I'll read the thing like a woman possessed, but as the last chapters come into view I'll slow waaaayyy down to prolong the agony of being...finished.  When I finally muster the courage to read the last chapter, I will savor each word in each sentence. After I read the last line,  I'll place the book down on the table and try to imagine how I'm going to carry on.  My body will feel like an empty husk, my wan expression will bear evidence of the sadness deep in my soul.  It's over. It's the same feeling that I used to have as I went to bed on Christmas night when I was a little kid. Remember that? The build up for Christmas is so psycho-amazing when you're little. Between the cookie decorating, tree decorating, candles with colored light bulbs in each window, and the presents? Christmas is like a little kid crack party.  And then it's all over. The next day is just another day. It's not special. It's Dec. 26. Big whoop. The decorations lose their sparkle, the tree looks limp. You get it.  That's how I feel after I finish a really good book. Sad, like I'll never find a book to read that is that good again. It's a wonder that I'm not in therapy.

  I have a Kindle, but after the first couple of months the novelty of reading a clinical paragraphs on a grey tablet the size of a large index card wore off.  Call me old fashioned, but I'm a library book person.  Our local library in Millbrook kinda sucks. The librarians are all prudish older women, with permanent parsimonious expressions stamped on their faces. They basically exude an air of disapproval. Of what? I don't know the answer, maybe it's just life in general, enjoyment, puppies and chocolate. There is one nerdy young dude who is now working at the library. He's just what you're picturing in your head. Tall, geeky, clunky dark framed glasses (of course!), wears tight sweaters and has a prominent adam's apple.  I can see him at the guidance counselor's office as a junior in high school, tapping a pencil on his Battlestar Galactica trapper keeper saying in an excited high nasal voice, "I'm really interested in becoming a librarian!", while the guidance counselor suppresses a yawn and replies, "Of course you are, Steven."
Selecting a book at the library is like playing the lottery. I try to limit myself to three books at a time, four at the most. My standard method for selection is to read the title, open the jacket, read a bit of the blurb on the inside cover and scan the first page.  For me it's either in, or out. I'm not into cheesy romances, or period pieces about war, or dragons, or women clad in corsets and bustles. I like real, fleshed out characters, good description and a story that will hook me in so deeply that while I'm reading it I'll forget that I have clothes that need folding in the dryer and nineteen other things that need doing while I'm sitting on my ass with my nose in a book.

 This morning I finished what I considered to be a very excellent novel. It's called, "Truth in Advertising" by John Kenney, a first time novelist. The writing is as smooth as glass. The story is sweet and sad, but not schmaltzy. The main character was wry, smart and quick witted and you love him, feel sorry for him, want to take him out for a drink. I want more of him. I miss him already. When I read John Updike's "Rabbit, run" series of four novels about an ordinary man from PA named Harry Angstrom, nicknamed Rabbit, there was security that Harry would have some longevity. This was to be a long term relationship and by the end of the last book, "Rabbit at Rest", you were wistful, but ready to let him go. He'd run his course. Harry wasn't the best guy in the world for a multitude of reasons, but in the end you still like him and even though he smoked for years, drank too much and ate pounds of greasy food, you're still sad that he dies of a heart attack at the end.

  I have one more book to read out of my current library stack of three. However, I need a few hours before I'm ready to start it. I'm not over the mourning period of finishing the last one. I need a little space. Some closure. Time for deep reflection.  I may light some candles and chant. Don't worry, I'll find the strength to carry on and read again. I always do.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A robot vacuum, who knew??!!!

  For his birthday this year, Jonathan's parents gave him a present that has revolutionized both of our lives.  It's a robotic vacuum cleaner aptly named the "Neato".  No bigger than the average bathroom scale, this clever little unit zooms around the house methodically clearing our floors of dog hair, cat hair, dirt, sticks and whatever other bits of detritus has accumulated over the course of the day.  It has a memory so it knows where its been and it even knows when the battery is getting low and it returns itself to its port, which is based in our living room.  This machine is amazing. First of all, it does a great job. Our rugs have never looked better. Second of all, it is very thorough and though it doesn't move the dining room chairs to get under the table perfectly, I'm not complaining. I haven't taken out the Dyson is two weeks, and the floors look like they could be eaten off of (though I wouldn't advise it in my house).  Third of all, its programmed to vacuum every day while we're out in the barn so when we come back to the house it's like the Vacuum Fairy has been there. The damn thing cleans under our bed AND under the living room sofa. How many times have you gone to look for a lost shoe, sock etc. and gotten on your knees to take a peek under these two pieces of furniture and risen in disgust at the amount of "stuff" under there.  Please tell me that its not just my house that has hosted giant dust bunny parties under the bed and sofa. I believe we've had entire dust bunny conventions in my house. Any time we've moved I've always shrieked in horror at the things that were hiding under the furniture, which hadn't been disturbed since it was last moved into position.  I can happily say, that will never happen in my home again. I'll even push the sofa aside next time my mom comes to visit just so I can show off how pristine the carpet is under there.

  Sometimes we happen to be inside the house on a break while the Neato is working its magic. The Neato has sensors on it so it doesn't ever bump into us, or the cats, or dogs if any of us are in the way of its path. I was a little concerned when I saw it hurtling across the carpet towards my very deaf cat, Miss Girl, but it politely veered away from her allowing her to continue on with her bath, undisturbed.  My boy cat, Zeke (who is very bored this time of year since he's been waiting for spring to come so he can get out of the house and eat moles again) has taken it upon himself to challenge the Neato. He likes to walk by it while it's working and give it cold stare and puff his body up, while he cruises by on his tippy toes, like Fred Flintsone at the bowling alley.  Jonathan noticed him doing this threatening drive by last week, and I've seen it a couple of times.  Cats are so ridiculous, especially Big Zekie. He's such a badass. The Neato gives him a respectable berth when it goes by and I think Zeke feels he's gotten the requisite respect he deserves from it. Win/win. The only member of our household who really doesn't enjoy the Neato, is our big merle Aussie, Remy.  He's a sensitive sort and has never been fond of the vacuum, or the blower we use to clean the aisle in the barn. He doesn't care for electronic beeps that come from the TV when we're picking a show from Netflix.  And now a motorized moving, humming robot that seems to go everywhere in the house, therefore making no where safe. Poor Remy.  He seeks solace, laying by my feet, eyes wary as the robot passes through the room. I tell him it's okay, but I know he doesn't trust this vacuuming robot freak. It's unnatural. And it is. Unnatural. I like to think it's supernatural! It means we always have clean floors. I will never again wince when I have to bring someone up to our house, thinking "Oh my heavens, the floors are SO dirty!", because they aren't dirty. They are fabulously clean!! Happy Birthday Jonathan!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Working it Out!!

     I just realized that I've skipped blogging for the entire month of March. Why? Because March was HORRIBLE! Cold, windy, grey and basically an extension of winter 2013, which is unfair to say the least. I'm going to stop my whining right here. March is over and done and despite the fact that April hasn't started out much better, the upcoming forecasted temperatures look acceptable for this time of year. I can live with any day over 50 degrees. My expectations have been lowered and a sunny day, with no wind, over 50 will do just fine. Okay, weather bitching is now officially done.

 Now onto the meat of this blog, which is that I've started going to a gym to workout. It's the first time in my life that I've been compelled to exercise beyond my daily mucking stalls, throwing hay bales, lifting grain bags, wrangling horses and riding.  That might sound like a fair amount of physical daily exercise to most folks, but considering I've done this job for the last 20+ years my body is a virtual robot and I can do these chores with one arm tied behind my back, albeit my very sore, aching, seized up back.  I realized around mid-February that I was getting up out of a chair bent over like a 80 year old grandma, and my middle resembled the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I have thin legs, so during the winter of wearing ten layers, no one ever thinks I look pudgy, but the mirror doesn't lie and my stomach was in sad shape. We're going to a wedding in the Dominican Republic in the beginning of May, and I was starting to panic at the thought of exposing my lilly white, whale belly in a bikini. It became time to DO something about my decrepit, chubby state. So, off to the gym I skipped, or rather limped like quasi-modo.  The gym I chose is a tad run down, but it has all the requisite machines and weight equipment. And it was cheap as hell to join. Perfect. The manager is kind of creepy, but I don't care. He spends most of his time on his cell phone, sitting around in a tacky, leather Yankees jacket, with a "lid" on his head and reeks of cigarettes. I always give him a cheerful "Good Morning" as I scan my card and leave it at that. I decided early on that I was going to abandon my gregarious nature when I was doing my workouts. No eye contact, no smiles, I would be The Terminator in the gym, a workout zombie. I'm sticking to it. I'm a workout beyotch. Every day I put in my earbuds attached to the iPod, set it on some groovy tunes and set forth to work up a sweat by torturing myself on the elliptical machine, treadmill, weights, etc. I mix it up and I'm learning as I go what works best for my body and how far I need to push myself without making myself horribly crippled. The scary thing is that I really f'ing like it!! My back has never felt better, no joke. For the first time in years I don't feel like the Tin Man in need of a good dose of oil. This was a welcome side effect that I wasn't anticipating. My core has a ways to go, but already after one month, my stomach muscles are visibly tighter and I'm getting in shape. I have a waist! And the muffin top is smaller! Hallelujah!! I just may be able to brave the beach in the D.R. without sucking it in so hard that I pass out taking my first sip of a rum punch.

  I go to the gym around 8-9 a.m. and though I don't engage in conversation with the other patrons, don't kid yourself, I watch EVERYTHING. It's all done on the sly, because staring at the gym is a total no-no. One of the rooms has a solid wall of mirrors and it's tempting to get stuck looking at other people (especially for a serial voyeur, like myself).  Getting busted staring is the kiss of death. I learned the hard way and now I've devised some quick glances that go unnoticed, just fast peeks then back to making it look like I'm training for a marathon, like a serious athlete (ha ha ha ha ha!). I'll never run a marathon, in fact if I run for 15 minutes on the treadmill, I look like a bleary eyed co-ed who just woke up from a two day bender. It helps that most of the other gym folks that I see are in the 60+ age group. I give these guys and gals a lot of credit. A few of them could potentially kick my ass. One guy does weights like no one I've ever seen. He's a total freak. Covered in sweat, he goes from machine to machine, huffing and puffing, lifting and groaning. He's an animal! Another older dude gets on the elliptical machine and pumps so hard that I fear the thing will take flight.  I swear this gym must have 911 on speed dial, but these folks are there almost every day and I haven't seen an ambulance, yet. I take a day off every fifth day, since I do have a business to run and I have to attend to certain duties beyond my own vanity. I know, boring, but it's true. So that's what I've been up to for the last month. Getting older doesn't have to suck, or mean that we have to surrender to letting ourselves go. Vain jackasses, like me, can pay to punish themselves on a daily basis. Whoo hoo! Off to mix myself a martini now...I don't want you to think I've TOTALLY lost my mind, or that this blog has been hijacked by some kind of health nut. No, it's still me, the martini floozy, just in a bit better shape, getting down with her bad self, while she secretly watches old folks swing their flab. Hey, don't judge, I could be spending the hour I work out stalking people on FB while eating pancakes!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Out to Lunch

       While I don't mind going out to dinner, if I'm given a choice I'd rather go out to lunch and stay home for a light supper.  Going out to dinner requires slightly fancier clothing and then there's the "how much should I drink" question. Having a cocktail out at a restaurant costs nearly as much as a trip to the Bahamas. If you have two cocktails, be prepared to leave your car as a down payment on the check. It's ridiculous. And then there's the whole designated driver issue and no one wants to get pulled over, breathalyzed, yadda, yadda, yadda. Solution? Go out to lunch. It's cheaper, just as much fun and no booze makes for safer travel.

  Today Jonathan and I went to the local French bistro in town for lunch. We found a gift certificate that we'd been given a long time ago, so it seemed like a good thing to do on a cold Monday afternoon.  When we got into the middle of the village I realized it was crowded because of President's Day. Scores of city folks clad in their country attire were parading up and down the sidewalks. Quilted parkas and rabbit fur lined caps for the men and long down coats and goggle sized sunglasses for the women.  Millbrook is a destination spot for New Yorker's who are desperate for fresh air, beautiful country views and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. What they don't realize is that they BRING their own form of hustle and bustle to our quiet little town. Oh well, we decided to persevere with our lunch plan and parked the car.

    When we opened the door to the restaurant we were greeted by a melange of tantalizing aromas. We were also greeted by the sound of conversations. Lots of conversations. This isn't a big space and the tables are nestled into two separate dining areas, both of which appeared to be bursting at the seams. No matter, we wanted to have a good lunch and this place always serves amazing, authentic French fare. The hostess escorted us to a table in the far corner, which was nearly on top of the neighboring table occupied by a couple. I slithered into my seat trying to avoid putting my ass in the face of the gentleman next to me. I'm not going to lie and tell you that I don't like to check out fellow diners. It's not a good habit and even worse is to be busted peering at their faces as they chewed, swallowed and sipped. The couple next to us proved to be an odd match, and I knew I had to be careful in how I checked them out. Once Jonathan and I placed our orders for iced teas, I set about my surreptitious glancing. The young woman, who was facing me appeared to be much younger than her male companion. She was Korean, quite pretty, with carefully applied makeup and long, flowing black locks, which she gathered up in both hands behind her head and then dramatically allowed to cascade back down in a suggestive manner. Good Lord, I think she'd watched too many cheap porno movies. The man was a thick set Italian type, probably in his mid to late 40's. He was hairy to the point of apeish, yet the hair on his head was beginning to bald in a most unattractive manner. Thick patch in the front and back and thinning swirls on the crown, giving it a mange like effect.  Jonathan and I smiled at each and chatted quietly, amidst my stolen glances. A table of raucous folks were behind me, laughing in sporadic, deafening, hyena-esque cackles. I lamented that I hadn't sat in Jonathan's seat so I could watch them, too, but it was probably for the best since I had my hands full with our neighbor's antics.

    As we tucked into our entree's, our neighbors conversation was stilted and awkward. "What's crepe suzette?" the ape man asked in a thick NY accent.  "What makes you think I know about French food?" little missy replied giggling. "You seem to know about French stuff," he said as he reached over and stroked her forearm, causing me to choke down an ill timed mouthful of tuna nicioise. Oh gross, I thought, they aren't just friends, but more likely...lovers. What is wrong with this young girl? Why is she with Guido the pimp? Is she a hooker? A thousand questions and images swirled through my mind, all of them inappropriate and nausea inducing.  I went back to focusing on Jonathan, who has long since given up on trying to keep me from my voyeuristic ways, and we finished up our meals and then ordered a post lunch coffee.  As luck would have it, we were ready to leave at the same time as the folks next to us. Standing up to put on my coat, I watched the young woman don a large, floppy felt hat. She had on a short, tartan red skirt and tall, high heeled black boots, just like a naughty school girl outfit.  The man, who was all of 5 ft tall, leered over at me as I was busted checking out his "girlfriend". Shamed, I ducked my head and fumbled in my pockets until they turned to leave.

"Well, that was different," I said to Jonathan as we walked through the cold wind to our car.
"Yup," he replied. "I'm pretty sure he was looking at naked pictures of her on his phone during their dessert."

We giggled about our "lunch dates" all the way home. Looks like I've turned Jonathan into just as much of a voyeur as I am.  Have I mentioned how much I love going out to lunch?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

One step at a time...

       The time has come in my life where I'm not as nimble as I once was in my youth.  My back is stiff, my shoulders are stiff, my neck is stiff, and I bruised my chest plate a year and half ago, which is still plaguing me to some extent. I feel like a fossil. A piece of ancient rock, with the flexibility of an iron rod. Yet, I soldier on, day by day, mucking stalls, throwing around hay bales and riding horses, like I always have, but I've decided that at my age I need to be in better shape. And working through pain is B.S.  Last week I set up an appointment with a personal trainer and today was the day that we met. I could feel her assessing me when I walked in. I decided a black workout outfit was a good choice. Black stretch pants, slight flare and a black t-shirt, not too tight. At first glance, I look like a strong, fit, 40+ yr. old, with Popeye arms and strong thighs from wrapping them around young warmbloods day in and day out (get your minds out of the gutter folks, I'm talking about horses here!).  She asked me a bunch of questions, I filled out some forms, which included an emergency number (good lord!) and then we got down to brass tacks. Exercise and stretching.

    The first few exercises were tolerable. I could feel my tiny abs (deeply ensconced in a layer of belly fat, to protect them from being cold, it's what I tell myself, Shut up!), straining, but it was a good strain. My legs did their duty. In my case that means they took some of the brunt of the exercise to keep the poor petite abs from working too hard. Twenty minutes into the exercises I could smell that my deodorant was beginning to fail me.
"Damn you, Old Spice!! C'mon," I said under my breath.
     I could hear that whistling from the vintage Old Spice commercials and see the brawny man, chopping wood with a smile on his manly, 70's mustachioed face. He didn't stink. But I was getting riper by the minute. Ugh. More exercises, more leg lifts. Help me, God.  Then we moved into a laying down position on a mat. Much more my style. Prone. However, my trainer asked me slowly bring my body up, with my arms reaching forward. I actually chuckled when she asked me to do this move.

"This could be interesting," I giggled. She didn't giggle. I struggled upwards, like a quivering mass of jello, swaying from side to side as if a stiff wind was blowing through the exercise studio, whipping my aching body to and fro.

"Okay," the lithe, young trainer said. "Let's make it easier by bending your legs."

 Well, that helped a little. Also, the two large cracks from my protesting spine made the exercise more plausible. Okay, 40 minutes into the workout. I was still alive. I must say, this trainer was so patient, very attentive and didn't push me to the point of near death. We did a full hour of stretching and exercises that paid special attention to my weak points, but kept clear of hurting my old injuries. At one point, my ab muscles were trembling while holding a pose intended to work on my lower back and abs. Try as I might, I couldn't make the trembling stop. I felt so pathetic. My lack of muscle tone in my core had reached the brink. I realized that I'd failed to impress the trainer with my preternatural ability to fight through muscle fatigue, so I just gave in to the quivering muscles and hoped she couldn't feel the studio floor moving as the earthquake in my gut reached Richter scale proportions. I grimaced, shut my eyes and kept going.

   Trying not to look at the clock on the wall, I refrained from asking for a "High Five" when the hour was up. Sarah was a total professional as we went over the next step in my new fitness routine. However, she showed her first sign of a sense of humor when a smile slipped over her lips and she said, "Well, you look a lot stronger than you really are. I was surprised those exercises were that hard for you." I refrained from saying, "I told you so, Bitch! That's why I'm here! I'm an aging, out of shape, on my way to battle axedom woman!" Instead I told her that I'd be in touch for a follow up session. I'm determined to get in better shape. Tonight, thanks to Advil I can still move. I did stalls, body clipped a horse and various other barn chores when I got home this afternoon. My core is sore, but my determination is intact. An acupuncture appointment on Fri. will help my creaky bod get back on track so I can go back for more punishment. This is going to be a slow process. One step at a time. One slow, small, painful step at a time...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Grody to the MAXIMUM!!!

      I think my animals are having a contest this week. It's called, "Who can gross out Michele the most".  Becks, the Aussie was in the lead after his beautifully executed rat assassination in the barn aisle the other night. I applauded the kill, but not the fact that I had to pick up the wretched dead thing in a pitchfork and escort it to the manure dumpster. Super gross. The thing was enormous. I think Becks killed the rat equivalent of a latter years Marlon Brando. The rat group in my barn just lost a major player. A head honcho. They must be in mourning, because I haven't seen one since that night. Becks seems disappointed, but I admit that I'm not. Those fuckers are creepy s.o.b.'s. And I thought that was bad...

   This morning I was sitting at my desk, sipping a cup of coffee and playing around on the computer (read:wasting time on Facebook). Zeke, our large teenage tiger cat who was born in our tack room16 years ago, moseyed into the room and went into the litter box that lives behind the door to take care of some business. I payed no attention as he scratched around in the box, but as he was exiting he paused, and then he began the inimitable "cat retching maneuver".  Anyone who has had cats knows what I'm talking about here. No cat can just quietly puke. They have to draw it out, just to make sure we know they're puking. After four, or five good retches, he managed to expel the majority of his morning feast of very expensive Wellness moist cat food, shook his head and politely left the scene.

"I know how you feel, Big Zekie," I called after him. "The litter box has that effect on me sometimes, too."

 Now since I was busy catching up on all my FB friends business I didn't jump right up to pick up the barf. Then a smell wafted over to my quadrant of the office, which I tried to ignore, but it was too powerful, too fresh, too disgusting. One might think that was the gross part. It wasn't. I grabbed a giant spool of paper towels from the kitchen and steeled myself for a moist, still warm, cat barf pick up. Never a good moment, but I've done it before. I love cats, but they do puke, shit, piss and kill small animals and birds in my house. Good Heavens. Most people would probably look away from the pile of barf they're about to pick up, but I'm a sick bitch and I chose to look right at it. Holy shit, the barf was moving!!! Amidst the expensive, recently expelled vomit was a VERY LARGE tapeworm!!!! EWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!  With a shudder, I carefully layed down the paper towels over the pile and backed away. I just couldn't pick it up. Not right away. It was f'ing MOVING! A GIANT TAPEWORM!!!  A huge, writhing, long white worm!!! Like your worst nightmare, or the grossest horror movie. I can see the title, "The Giant Tapeworm Who Reared Up and Ate Your Face".  Good Lord. I knew I couldn't ask Jonathan to help (he always says the cats are my animals, though he does love them-secretly, but whatever, I catch him patting them all the time and Marbles, the calico has a huge crush on him).

  After much teeth gnashing, pacing and another cup of coffee, I managed to pick up the disgusting pile of MOVING barf. I just went to my happy place. La la la la, I'm not picking up a giant disgusting worm, la la la la. Gahhhh!! Eww, into the trash it went and then out to the garbage dumpster. My life is ridiculous and macabre. Fortunately, I have a fabulous small animal vet who dispensed cat wormer pills with no trouble. She cackled when I told her what I had to deal with this morning. I love this woman. Honestly, she's the best small animal vet I've ever used. She gave me careful instructions about giving the pills to avoid being bitten, which I took seriously. She's good. I know this. I ended up coating Big Zekie's pills in butter and wouldn't you know the little devil gobbled them up like candy! Of course! He's had a tape worm that's a mile long living in his body! He's starving!!! So ironic and gross at the same time. It's Big Zekie's fault, because he likes to supplement his diet with small rodents, moles to be exact. They carry this disgusting parasite, so alls fair. Serves him right, but I'm scarred beyond belief. Thanks, oh mighty hunter.

So, phew let's hope this little contest is over. I cant take much more. Really, I can't. Did you hear that animals?? I can't!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hay Delivery: Otherwise known as you just paid the amount of a five star European getaway for dried grass

   Yesterday I had the good fortune to welcome a giant truckload of hay into our nearly empty hay loft.  If you were wondering why you didn't hear from me, it was because after I wrote the check to pay for said hay I was cast in a corner in a catatonic state, complete with epic string of drool dangling from my quivering lip. I know it isn't my hay guy's fault that hay is so bloody expensive nowadays (I love that word, but why don't we say thenadays?), but he brought me fifty bales more than I asked for, therefore boosting the cost by quite a few nickels. And as usual, after basically emptying my bank account to pay for a stupid amount of dried grass I got the classic tale of the woebegone hay man. I wish I had audio on here, because this guy has such a distinct voice, but I don't so just imagine what the vocal chords of a 50+ year old man who has inhaled enough hay chaff over the years to choke the entire cast of Gossip Girls (if only!!) look like and...cue hay man:

  "Well, you know it was kind of a tough year for hay last year."
     *Sorry to interrupt, but according to all hay guys anywhere in the universe there has NEVER been a good year for hay. EVER. PERIOD. This is the standard intro they use directly after you've sold some valuable family heirlooms to pay for dried grass that half the horses in your barn will trample and shit on. Okay, back to the hay guy:

  "We had a lot of rain back there in May, which made it hard to get a good first cutting. Then it got so dry, the second cutting didn't want to grow, but then it rained again for a good spell and that made it hard to get the second cutting cut. I got this truckload from a farmer up near the Canadian border and he said that he had to sell half his loads to the cow people this year, because the horse people didn't want to buy it. But don't worry, this is a good batch of second cutting. It might be a little stalky, but that's what happens when it rains before you get to cut second cutting.  I'll stand behind this load. Now I'd best get going because I have six more deliveries to make before sundown and then I have to go home and feed my horses, cows and pigs, which will take me till around 11:30, then I have to get up at 3:30 to go pick up another load of hay in Ohio. Take care, now."

  And just like that, he shimmies up into the seat of his semi-truck, artfully backs the mile long trailer out of my driveway, which is akin to threading a needle with a piece of baling twine, and heads off down the road with a toot of the air horn. A wave of loose hay flies off the truck bed in his wake, like congratulatory confetti, but I don't feel like being congratulated. Instead, I feel a little weak in the knees and I check my watch to see if it's too early in the day for a cocktail.

   Last night after a stiff drink helped me somewhat recover from writing that hefty check, I went down to the barn. Bless their big ole hearts, the horses were all munching away on the new hay with gusto, barely pausing to glance up at me as I walked down the aisle. Well, that's was a good sign at least. I climbed the ladder on the wall into the hayloft, which isn't terribly easy dead sober and quite a feat after a little drinkie and took a deep inhale as I walked between the towers of newly stacked hay. A few hours earlier the hayloft had been swept nearly clean, just a few cobwebs dangling from the rafters and couple of old bales covered with dust in the corner. I paused to reflect how funny it is that for a barn owner filling the hayloft offers some strange comfort, even though the cost to do so is staggering. It's ironic, really.  And then I realized what an ass I was to be up in the hayloft at night in January, standing amongst ginormous stacks of dried grass that I'd recently written a four figure check for and having the profound pontification's of a slightly tipsy and crazy person.  Sighing, I fumbled my way down the death trap ladder, checked on the ungrateful beasts that eat us out of house and home and expect continual servitude from yours truly and made myself repeat out loud, "You are so lucky to do what you love for a living".  At that moment, my dog Becks darted across the aisle and snagged the biggest, grossest, fattest rat I've ever seen in my life.  Good boy, I told him in a weak voice. Then I got the pitchfork, averting my eyes I scooped up the dead beast and walked it to the manure pile, whispering, "you are so f'ing lucky, so, so very lucky..."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Breaking Point

  " I have to confess that I'm getting cranky, Cold Snap. The first day and half that you were here was like a challenge, or endurance test, like Surviver.  I was all, YES and fist pumping every ten minutes, like I was stoked to see you. I'm not going to lie to you though. After you've been here for an entire week, I really think you're rude. I'll go so far as to call you an A-hole. That's right, I said it! You my friend, are a total A-hole! And your little buddy, Single Digit? He's a F'ing liar. He was only supposed to be here at night and that sneaky little shit has been lounging around until noon this past week. I keep checking to see if he's gone, but Noooooo, he's still here just lurking around like some kind of creep. WTF? And what's up with his smirk? I'd like to slap it right off his face! I haven't gotten any work done this week, because  I can't be outside for more than five minutes at a time, or that dickhead Frostbite shows up and gets all up in my grill."

"Okay, so maybe I have been drinking, and I'm being a little harsh, but the jig is up, Cold Snap. I want you to pack up your shit, gather up your idiot group of friends and shove off back to the f'ing arctic circle, or Greenland, or wherever else you freaks hang out all year. Five days is ENOUGH of you."

"Hey, truth hurts sometimes, C.S. I don't think I'm being insensitive to your needs! What about MY needs, huh?  I'm going broke buying vodka, eating like a hog, and I've lost my sense of humor! I already told you that having you around for a couple of days is fine, but you're pushing it, pal. I seriously can't take much more of you. If I had to live where you are year round, I'd be a full on, raging, foaming at the mouth alcoholic. I'm this close to the edge, C.S.! This close!!!"

"C'mon, man...you know I don't hate you! Well, alright I do hate you a little, but I can let that hate go if you would just take off! You made your point here! The ground is frozen as hard as a rock, the driveway has been a skating rink for days, taking a deep breath is akin to swallowing a thousand tiny pieces of glass into your lungs, my business has ground to a halt, what more do you want?"

"That's it. I have nothing else to give. I'm done. It's you, or me C.S. Too bad if you don't like ultimatums, because I'm done. I'm going to mix up a little morning cocktail and when I'm finished with it I expect you and your friends to be packed and ready to go. I want my life back and in order for that to happen, you must go. And tell that liar Single Digit if he smirks at me one more time, I'm not responsible for my actions. I will cut him."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Little Arctic Sarcasm

  "Hello Cold Snap! Welcome to Millbrook! We've been waiting for you for some time, so glad you could finally join us and spend some quality time hanging around the area!!"

"What's that you say?"

"OHHH! You invited your pal Gusty Wind to join you!! How fabulous! Love, love, love Gusty Wind! Now I get it when the weather channel says it's 15 degrees out, but feels like -6!! Gusty Wind totally takes my breath away. For realz!!"

"Why don't you just make yourself comfortable and stay for the week? I'm totally cool with wearing ten layers of clothing every time I walk out the door. It's awesome! Our horses just love you, Cold Snap! Your being here along with Gusty Wind makes walking them from the barn to the indoor ring like a total adventure! I'm all, wheeeeee as I hang onto the reins and watch them scrambling on the icy driveway! Ha ha ha! LOL"

"I'm so stoked that Single Digit is going to swing by the area at night, too. That's awesome, cuz he'll make sure that it never warms up too much during the day. Sweet!! Let's high five on that!"

"No, I totally don't mind not really being able to do anything for an entire week. I love it when my business has to come to a complete halt! You just settle in and don't worry about it! Honestly, you're so selfless. It's January, and this is your time to shine! I see that Bright Sunshine is up there in the sky, but she's not able to do much this time of year. She sure does cheer me up, though! See my ear to ear smile?! I'm so happy that I could really be called giddy! Of course I haven't been drinking! Yet!! Ha ha, just kidding!!"

"Okay, if you guys need anything I'll be inside for the next five to six days! Cheers!!"