Bow Legs

“You would like me to do WHAT!” I asked, not sure I heard correctly.

“Stand up in your saddle,” she patiently repeated.

I heard this time and immediately felt cortisol coursing through my body.  Is this lady mad?!  I’ll fall off the horse!  Sure, I am wearing a helmet, but no, not doing this.

“Hold on to the horse’s mane, it will help you stabilize while you push down with your heels in the stirrups” she encouraged.

“The horses MANE!” I repeated, “wont that make him angry?” as I was thinking about someone grabbing onto MY hair holding on for dear life. No way!!

“He wont mind, just stand straight up and once you’ve tried I’ll have you do it while he is walking,” she added, cool as a cucumber.

I couldn’t think straight, my head was spinning and I was starting to regret all the gear and the big idea of wanting to learn how to ride a horse.  In the end, my desire not to be defeated won out and I tentatively grabbed a handful of Olaf’s mane and clumsily pushed myself upwards.  I was standing!  I couldn’t believe it!  Standing in the stirrups, just like that.  Wow I’m a pro, I thought to myself as I unceremoniously settled back into the saddle.

“Good job,” Laura encouraged, “Now ask Olaf to move forward by pushing your reins forward and moving your hips gently in the saddle.  Remember, ask, tell, demand.  You should be able to have him respond to the change in your breathing.”

With that, I relaxed in the saddle, gently pushed my hands forward, relieved the pressure on Olaf’s mouth, pushed my hips forward and quietly sighed.

He moved forward with ease and I immediately wanted to jump up and down and declare myself the winner, but I didn’t. Instead, I gave Olaf a congratulatory “Good boy!” as we moved down the track.

Not to be distracted by my subtle, yet effective ask to move forward, Laura reminded me of my next task, “Now that he is moving, stand straight up until you get to “L”.”

This lady is relentless!

I grabbed onto Olaf’s mane pushed my heels down and stood up straight.  I could not believe myself, we were doing it, we were riding around the track, Olaf and I.  Me standing up! 

“Ok, now I want you to squeeze while wrapping your calves around his belly. Zip up your abs. You will feel this in your ankles.” Laura explained.

And she was right. By the fourth try, my ankles were screaming at me “What are you doing to us?” and I wondered if at the end of the lesson when I was asked to dismount, if from my feet to my hips, would my legs be permanently contorted into the shape of two bows pointing away from each other?

Jen at the Barn

Walking in the front door, I realized why horseback riders choose, where possible, to have two sets of Washers and Dryers in the house.  It’d been an hour since grooming and putting Scarlet back into her stall, but there she was, still with me after driving 30 miles.  She was there, stuck to my riding boots and pants.  Tuffs of reddish-brown hair.

When I had arrived at the farm for my first lesson, I was overcome with self-doubt.  I’d been on a horse once.  It had been thrilling as a teen, even though the ride had amounted to me being led around and around in circles for a full 10 minutes.  Getting onto the back of a horse and riding it around a track with me holding the reins was going to be new.

“Did I over equip myself?”, “Should I have tried to find gear more reasonably priced?”, “Did I do enough research?”, “What are they going to think when they see my, more than entry level, Helmet?”, “What if they figure out my boots are brand new Petrie and judge me for that? They are literally overkill and I know it.”, ” They’ll judge me harshly because maybe they’ll expect that I should ‘KNOW’ what I am doing, or better yet, know that I shouldn’t bother trying!”, “Maybe I am too old, too tall and too heavy to ride a horse and they’ll tell me so when they see me!”, “Don’t men ride horses? Sure, but they’d expect a man to weigh over 140 lbs and would have chosen a horse accordingly.”

There I was, at the barn, mentally spinning out of control as I paced around the entrance way.  Is this where I was supposed to be?

At a quarter past 6, the lesson prior to mine was over and Laura the Instructor, Jen the Student and Scarlet the horse traipsed into the barn. 

Jen, no more than 13, was jubilant!  She was so excited she could hardly contain herself.  If I were to describe her emotions, it was as though she were doing acrobatic flips off the barn walls, over the horse and running circles all around us.  But no, she wasn’t doing any flipping, she was holding the reins, steady, guiding the horse.

“You can leave her here Jen, the next rider will take her out as she is.” Laura instructed

Jen looked in my direction, “Awesome, you are going to LOVE Scarlet, she is the absolute BEST!  She’s the GREATEST!” she exclaimed as she struggled to find the best adjective to describe her adoration and excitement. 

She handed the reins to Laura and did a little dance, a dance only a 13-year-old can do when they can no longer contain a feeling that just needs to be seen.  She tapped her feet around, did a little pirouette, tried to hand her riding crop to Laura but the hand-off failed as she continued to spin.  Eventually she pulled herself together and placed the riding crop on a stack of hay bails as Laura had instructed.

The moment she put down the riding crop, she dashed between Scarlet and myself, bee-lining for the door as she yelled back at Laura, “SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!!!!!”

And she was gone as quickly as she arrived.

Everything I had been thinking and feeling was gone, sucked out of me, I was focused and ready.  I was right where I needed to be. Thank you Jen!

Names have been changed.

The World of Riding

One thing is for sure, my feet were feeling itchy for some change. A year cooped up, working from home, masked in-person meet-ups, plenty of time for self-reflection, booking reading and mental gymnastics had me thinking “Hmmm”.

Before our premier announced today “Do not make any plans for Easter…, this is an announcement about an upcoming, unplanned announcement!”, before that, I decided to dip my toe into the world of Horseback riding.

After much googling and reading reviews, I decided upon a Stable / Barn / Ranch that would be adequate for safe, in-person, private lessons and a Store from which to buy suitable gear. I researched boots, helmets, pants and armed with all the information I could find, marched into an equestrian outfitters.

Before I go further, I want to point out that from the very beginning of this notion that this would be a good idea, I felt out of place. An interloper ready to give away my money to a sport that will most likely eat me up and spit me out. This really isn’t my game but I want to play.

So, in I marched, ready to talk gear and immediately I felt out of my depth. The lady was very helpful, asking me questions for which I should have and answer, such as “how much are you planning to spend?” and “What size of pant are you.” Easy questions and I just had a huge brain block.

“I am willing to spend as much as it means that I will be as safe as possible if I am thrown from the horse and / or if the horse decides to kick me in the head.” Why am I doing this? I can back out; I hadn’t bought the ticket and the train was still in the station. I stuck to my plan, buy gear no matter the cost!

I picked a helmet, boots and breeches. Now the breeches are really just fancy workout tights with rubbery designs across the buttocks and down the inner thighs – $170 please! The boots, a return from a lady who paid $$$$$ for custom footwear and for whatever reason decided against the purchase? On sale, but still steep. The helmet, for an extra $30 you can replace the front, decorative bezel. Decorative! $30! I bought the helmet, not because of the $30 interchangeable bezel, but IT’S ON SALE. Again, still steep but on sale.

I left the store a bit sheepish, still a bit unsure of the WHY I was doing this, and announced to the sales lady, “Well if all else fails, when I fall off the horse I will be doing so IN STYLE!”

She laughed and I dashed out to my car.

The Tale of the Combo Washing Machine

Sometime May 2012:

After tonight’s episode, I can rule out “Washing Machine Repair” as a suitable career change.

The other evening my washing machine started making an unsightly noise (I am not sure how a noise can be unsightly but I like the word). I spent the evening fretting about what the noise could be, what it meant and how I would overcome the problem.

This isn’t just any washing machine, no it’s a combination machine with a nifty dryer on top. Now you might think “No big deal”, but it turns out it is a big deal and a big hassle.

After getting the “combo” machine mostly out of it’s closet, I carefully squeezed through the door frame and the machine and unplugged the electrical and shut off the water. I felt a little bit like Mighty Mouse, squeezing into a space that I had no business squeezing into.

It was all fine and dandy to unplug the electrical and shut off the water, but what about disconnecting the hoses?

For whatever reason, I have accumulated a fair sized tool box of things. Screw drivers, hammer, a few tape measures (you can never have enough, this runs in the family having multiple’s of multiple’s for no other reason than to have multiple’s) a ratchet and socket set (this was a gift from a friend, seriously, I guess it looked like I needed a set) but unfortunately no set of vise-grips.

I don’t know about you, but many times I’ve needed vise grips and it is a wonder that I do not yet own one, let alone multiples. Maybe a friend will see my need and gift me one, two, three..ten!

Being on a bit of a budget that I am, I used another “call a friend” for use of vise-grips.

With vise-grips in hand, I removed not 4 but 15, yes 15 screws that were holding one metal plate onto the back of the machine.  I sat there wondering what type of quality assurance this “combo” washing machine was subjected to in order to warrant 15 screws.

With the back plate off, I had imagined I would spot the problem immediately.  Why all the snickering!!

When it wasn’t glaringly obvious, I You Tubed “How To Fix Washing Machine” videos.  After much sweating and stressing about all the possible causes, I determined it was beyond my scope of expertise.  I screwed the plate back on the machine, reconnected the hoses, plugged the machine back in and pushed it back into the closet.

The weird noises persisted but I decided until it stopped working completely, I’d continue using the machine.

NOTE: The machine continued to work 6 more years (it may well still be working).  After waiting 8 years to be gifted with vise-grips 🤣, I bought my first pair this past winter.

Off-Off-Broadway

Work travel is exciting the first few times but when it becomes a habit, to the point you are spending more nights in hotels than your own bed, it changes. It stops becoming exciting and instead you are faced with the prospect of finding ways to create habits that would mimic being a resident of the cities to which you travel.

The city where I have been spending an unusual amount of time is New York City.

Sexy, Exciting, Cool, right?

More like sweltering, interesting and packed. Those aren’t negative’s, simply reality.

So what to do to escape the heat and the tourist crowds?

Off-Broadway/Off-Off-Broadway Theatre, baby! New Yorkers take their Off-Broadway seriously.

I arrived in plenty of time to collect my will-call ticket at the 59E59 Theatres for my Off-Off-Broadway show. I made my way up to the second level and settled myself on one of the hard wooden benches while I waited for the theatre to open. The closer to the shows start the more the small lobby filled with people. Women, chatting in groups of two’s, cleverly studying their fellow theatre goers; Men, mostly on their own, fidgeting with their paper stubs.

7:00pm sharp the doors opened and I made my way in. The usher greeted me and pointed to the first row of seats in the theatre.

I looked down at my stub “AA6”, easy enough and counted 5 seats on the left and 5 seats on the right of the aisle. Perplexed. Which direction to start counting?

“Sir, can you help me with which seat is AA6,” I asked quietly.

“Hmm,” he replied and then started counting in what seemed a random pattern followed by, “this one, this is yours.”

I turned to thank the usher but was interrupted by a gentleman briskly brushing between us.

As he stormed by he said to the usher, “I don’t need your help, I know exactly where my seat is.”

And with that I settled in for the performance to begin.

The First Lesson

The piano lessons have started.

I found my teacher from Google search and turns out we are a good match. She has a gleeming, black grand piano that takes up her entire living room; with weighted, effortless keys, the sound is literally music to the ears.

I am a cautious, approaching “mid-life crisis“, student – yikes! And after years of teaching myself to read music, playing by ear and generally using the piano as a stress outlet, there’s a load of habits I need to lose in order to be able to play confidently and beautifully.

I am committed.

This is my first lesson, first week of practice. It is so basic that it almost seems irrelevant – until I practice with intention.

That is when I can pick out how weak my left hand really is and how quickly my right hand wants to take off on its own volition.

It is a struggle but I suspect beyond learning to play well, I will also learn something deeper about myself to adjust. ❤️

Hello Piano

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Recently I inherited a piano from a good friend of a good friend.  It sits snuggly in the corner of my living room.

Yesterday I had the piano tuned for the first time in 20 years.

The gentleman arrives, proud to be tuning piano’s for 52 years – 52 YEARS!  He is slightly stooped and tells me how thankful he is that at 72 he is still able to get out and do the thing he loves – tune piano’s.

He follows me into the living room and I point to the piano.  He puts down the case he has brought along. It looks similar to a traveling farm animal vet case.  It is a gently worn, hard, black leather covered case.

He sets out on his business of tuning my piano.

He plays a little ditty and promptly clicks his tongue and makes a disapproving noise.

He takes the top cover off and promptly clicks his tongue and makes a disapproving noise.

“Lots of dust,” he briskly comments.

I grab the vacuum, plug it in, turn it on and hand it to him.

He puts his hand over the end of the vacuum to check the suction and promptly clicks his tongue and makes a disapproving noise.

“You may also need a cloth,” he stoically states.

I grab a cloth and help him wipe down the inside of the piano and then I slither off like an unworthy child to my kitchen.  I sit silently and peer around the corner to watch him work.

He progresses with the tuning.

“This is a good little piano and it will be alright with some care,” he announces after an hour and a half of tuning.

Before he leaves he gives me a few additional tips and suggestions.

1. Play my piano
2. Have my piano tuned regularly
3. Buy a humidifier for the winter time and if I am really serious like he is, install one on my furnace!
4. Buy a new vacuum

 

2016 In Review

I stopped dying  my hair. My roots are grey. I look old. I feel young.

The fun Mini has been replaced by a mature SUV.  I feel responsible.

I attended an outdoor electronica festival and I saw Tommy Hilfiger clad couples in amongst the crowd. There isn’t an age when music stops  inspiring.

Visited Europe a few times this year, thankful for the experiences, grateful for Canada.

There is an abundance of love still  out there in our world waiting to be requited. It comes in shapes and sizes we might not have imagined.  When we honour it, we are rewarded.

Under our cloaks, we just want to be accepted.

2017 seems like a scary prospect, but it’s coming for us.

Off The Wall, the VANS

It all started in Milano. The obsession.

We were sock sisters. Sharing the same, mostly free adidas sport socks. They were peaking out over the tops of our shoes.

All the cool kids were wearing hideaway socks and adidas Stan Smiths. Were we even allowed on the street?

Sitting on the curb of Piazza deal Duomo we discussed our sneakers, our unfashionable socks and what we’d buy if we were to replace our well-loved, well-worn kicks. She, Originals, Green trimmed Stan Smiths. Me, VANS all the way baby! It’s all about the 80’s and Penn putting them on the map, forget about the 70’s 😉

That is when it started. The obsession of finding the perfect VANS.
————–
Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a store, close to home, full of VANS!

I tried on this pair, that pair, the other pair, the sales girl obliged. We talked about Italy, about my age-inappropriateness of shopping for skater shoes and then I bought two pairs, I was feeling lucky.

Back home, I took the garbage down wearing one pair of my new VANS.

Maiden voyage in my new kicks – garbage room. Nice.

That is when I realized perhaps I should have tried on the 1/2 size larger.
————–
Shoes packed back in their boxes and the next day back to the store I went hoping that a new day meant new staff.

How embarrassing would it be, “Hello I’d like to return one pair of shoes and exchange the other pair for a 1/2 size larger even though you asked me yesterday and I said no.”

Nothing from that dialogue screams, intelligent, well thought through purchase decision!

Turned out, new day, new staff!
—————
Exciting – one return, one exchanged pair 1/2 size larger.

But the excitement was short lived replaced by disappointment, my ankles were falling out of my shoes.

Back in their box and the next day back to the store for an exchange.

Turns out different day, not always new staff!
—————-
“Hey,” I greet the sales guy, “I am back again!” There is only one way to treat this situation with dignity and that is to play the bouncy, absent-minded, 30-something who has no business buying skater shoes to begin with.

He’s busy behind the cash, uncomfortable with his attempt to dress a male mannequin in board shorts. He makes a comment about it and to distract himself he’s given the mannequin a name. He may be more embarrassed about his work related predicament than I am about returning a 3rd time to the store 3 days in a row.

I crack a joke to get him focused off his awkward mannequin dressing and onto my much more important embarrassment.

“I’m the girl who simply buys things and finds an excuse to come in to the store each and every day.”

He laughs and adds on to the joke, “And instead of actually returning anything, you’ll just keep exchanging between the 8’s and the 8 1/2’s, back to the 8’s…always in the same style!”

His mannequin is no longer a point of embarrassment, he is 100% engrossed in mine!

My Nieces and I

Spending time with my nieces and nephews is always an adventure, from hearing about my car being too small, letting me in on their “family secrets” (dad farts…) and explaining their “big” complaint about life not being fair (…not always getting their way…).

Today was spent ferrying around two of my nieces, 11 and 9.

We were discussing something super important, I don’t remember the topic! The littlest, in the back seat being obtuse and making broad snappy sweeping statements directed at her older sister.

And then my eldest niece said something so unexpected.

Growing up she loved listening to adults share stories. I’ve told my fair share of stories. One story in particular has evidently made its mark. The story involved an old boss of mine and the go-to-question he’d ask us when challenging the statements we’d make when we wanted his support.

So as we were travelling along the highway at break-neck speed (faster than walking), the littlest niece was goading her older sister into an argument.

That is when my eldest niece quietly pulled out my old bosses favourite challenging question and asked her little sister, “Would you bet your future house on that statement?”

BOOM!!

(Artwork from when they were “kids”, before they started saying adult-like statements, can we stop them from growing up!!)