Making Change

October 31, 2011


Change is a small word packed with heavy meaning.

I hate change.

I think most people do. Which is funny, because life is all about change—our bodies constantly change on a cellular level—so we should be used to it by now. And, really, what we mean is we mostly don’t like change when something good and comfortable is involved. We are less likely to complain when something unpleasant ends or changes for the better, though I know some people hate change so much they mourn even that.

I just experienced a big change that on the surface appears negative: my two close barn buddies moved their horses to a different barn. This is a positive change for them (except, I flatter myself, that they will miss me), but not one I am willing or able to make at this time. Since they broke the news, I’ve alternately walked around with a knot in my stomach, cried, felt lonely and bereft, and tried very, very hard to find a bright side. I’ve returned to sayings and mantras that have helped me through stressful times before: “Let it happen. Let it go,” “Don’t cry because it ended. Smile because it happened” and so forth. I teeter from sorrow to hope that this change will bring me something good. Truthfully, I really need to spend less time at the barn. I have some major writing goals that I’ve been neglecting for far too long. Having dear friends at the barn causes me to spend more time than “necessary” to care for my horse (though I wouldn’t trade one single second of that “unnecessary” time) and I’ve worked my barn schedule so that I could meet up with them there, when perhaps a different schedule would enable me to get more work done, at least hypothetically.

This is an ending to one phase of my riding life, and the beginning of a new one. This change, though sad and unwanted on the surface, may turn out to benefit other areas of my life. This may be the boot in the breeches I need to make some necessary…changes.


How has change affected you and how have you handled it, whether it was wanted or unwanted?


Good-bye, Ladies.

Everyday adventures

Who Needs a Gym?

October 28, 2011

This morning, I read this article about getting fit with your horse. The author detailed how many calories can be burned doing many common horsey activities, and it got me to thinking about some of the many other ways having a horse can improve your fitness level. For example, you can get your heart rate up (cardiovascular exercise) by chasing him around his paddock while trying to catch him (Tank doesn’t help me out here—he usually meets me at the gate); getting excited (or scared) by trying something new on horseback; or riding through a spook. If that doesn’t get your heart rate up, I don’t know what will!

You can also develop a great strength training program with horses. Aside from the obvious hauling of hay or bags of feed, or shoveling manure, there’s always carrying your saddle (especially if it’s a western saddle—those things are heavy!), or attempting to hold up your horse as he leans on you while you clean his feet. Posting a trot and riding without stirrups are excellent exercises for the thigh muscles as well.

Don’t forget the fitness benefits of relaxation. Being around a horse, at least for me, provides a way to lower my blood pressure. Just looking at horses, stroking their soft coats and smelling that warm barn smell makes me feel calmer.

By all rights, I should be a lot thinner than I am after burning all those calories at the barn. (Maybe it has something to do with the chocolate one of my barn buddies gave me…hmm…)

Have you found any unusual ways to get fit?

Pet, friend, therapist, and now personal trainer?



October 26, 2011

Lots of contemporary poems are anecdotal, a brief narration of some event, and what can make them rise above anecdote is when they manage to convey significance, often as the poem closes. Here is an example of one like that, by Marie Sheppard Williams, who lives in Minneapolis. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]


I stood at a bus corner
one afternoon, waiting
for the #2. An old
guy stood waiting too.
I stared at him. He
caught my stare, grinned,
gap-toothed. Will you
sign my coat? he said.
Held out a pen. He wore
a dirty canvas coat that
had signatures all over
it, hundreds, maybe
            I’m trying
to get everybody, he
            I signed. On a
little space on a pocket.
Sometimes I remember:
I am one of everybody.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2006 by Marie Sheppard Williams. Reprinted from “The California Review,” Volume 32, no. 4, by permission of Marie Sheppard Williams and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Everyday adventures

Wonderful Weekend

October 24, 2011

It all started Friday. I went for a ride on Tank, because we finally got a REAL cold front that dropped our temperatures into the—oh joy!—70s. (I’d skipped my normal Wednesday ride because the heat and humidity were so bad I was extremely cranky, and cranky rider often = cranky horse…something I don’t think any of us wants to see.) Tank and I had a lovely ride, and practiced longer stretches of trotting to build muscle (for both of us) without winding up in a puddle of sweat.

When I got home, I opened all the windows in the house and sat outside on the lanai to read for a bit before dinner.

Saturday, I started the day with three of the loveliest words in the English language: library book sale. So far as I know, this was the first one my local branch has hosted, and though I tried not to get my hopes too high, I was eager to see what they’d have. Danielle at A Work in Progress often has wonderful luck at her library book sales, and I hoped maybe it would rub off on me. The sale was fairly small, and I came home with only three books: Stephen King’s Duma Key (to replace our missing copy—a truly amazing, though creepy, story); Perfectly Imperfect, by Lee Woodruff, a collection of essays about being a wife, mother, daughter and friend; and Sarah’s Key (Tatiana de Rosnay), a book I've had on my TBR list for a while. The lady who checked me out exclaimed, “Oh, this is such a good book,” when she saw it, so I feel that’s a good omen.

Later that day, my husband and I joined another couple for a trip to a little town nearby to browse antiques stores. No one found any treasures to take home, but we enjoyed the beautiful day, and the poking around through others’ interesting and unusual possessions.

We also stopped here:

Friends of ours own this candy store, so we bought an assortment of chocolate to (ahem) support their fledgling business.

And Sunday? Well, Sunday was the best of all. My son and husband went mountain biking, leaving me home alone for most of the day. I filled the hours, which went by like minutes, with reading (the Sunday paper and The Winter Sea), puttering (cleaned off my kitchen desk and the drawers and cabinet surrounding it while watching Eat Pray Love on dvd) and simply chilling out and enjoying the solitude. I also watched one of Laure Ferlita’s class videos, and fooled around trying to figure out what to sketch for the assignment.

My weekend was the perfect blend of activity and relaxation, solitude and togetherness. I especially loved doing something fun with my husband, instead of doing errands or household projects. I hope future weekends will be just as wonderful.

How was your weekend?

All this fun is just exhausting...


Surf's Up!

October 21, 2011

I love the internet. Where else can you find recipes, photos, quotations, trivia, inspiration, news, funny animal videos and directions to the furniture store that sells the desk you want to buy for your office (thank you, Google maps)? I keep a list of Web sites to visit periodically, and I’ve run across some really fun and wonderful stuff. So for today’s post, I’m going to share with you a few of my discoveries, and hope you enjoy them, too.

Gretchen Rubin’s blog, The Happiness Project, is always worth a read. This post is a recent favorite.

I can’t remember how I found this particular post, but it’s stuck with me. Austin’s site it worth poking around on (in?).

I don’t exactly understand how to play on Pinterest yet, but a quick scroll down the home page always elicits a number of “awwwws” and out-loud laughs.

If you love to travel, visit Their newsletters are packed with practical travel tips for women. A visit here always inspires wanderlust in me.

Story Circle Network is an organization of women dedicated to the passion and craft of life-writing. The Web site contains instruction, inspiration and many lovely examples of women’s stories.

Where do you like to visit when you’re Web surfing?

Inner artist


October 19, 2011

“If your artist within is starving, then your spirit is starving. You cannot cut off a true part of yourself—and everyone has an artist in his or her heart—without doing damage to the rest of who you are. Spend a few moments remembering how you used to create, and commit yourself to carving out the time in your busy adult life for continued creation.”
—Gay Hendricks, A Year of Living Consciously

What will you do to feed your inner artist?

I take classes with Laure Ferlita...


The Power of Forgetting

October 17, 2011

“Happiness? That’s nothing more than health and a poor memory.”
—Albert Schweitzer

A poor memory? I would have thought the opposite: a good memory to keep in mind the positive things that happen. Isn’t that what gratitude lists and such are all about? But after a little thought, I realize there are plenty of things we’d be wise to forget, such as:

Mistakes we’ve made. I know I need to work on this, because when I make a mistake, I have a tendency to replay it in my mind over and over, often blowing it out of proportion. Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes, even though I really don’t want to admit that I do. If necessary, apologize, and/or make things right, then move on. Cling to the philosophy, as the heroine in Anne of Green Gables did, that “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet.”

Wrongs done to us. What good does it really do to dwell on them? Life isn’t fair. Some people are jerks. Other people make mistakes (see above) and hurt us, whether accidentally or on purpose. Let it go.

Past situations we wish were different. The ridiculous fight you had with your spouse. The time you didn’t make the varsity [insert sport here] team. The investment you made/didn’t make at the wrong/right time. The past is done…it’s passed. Time to move on.

As Barbara Ann Kipfer wrote in Field Guide to Happiness for Women (where I found the Albert Schweitzer quote), “The concept of forgetting the things that should be forgotten adds happiness to your life. But the flip side is knowing what not to forget.” Remember the good things: the love of your family and friends, the small details of today that give you joy, what you truly are grateful for. And, according to Kipfer, “Don’t forget that you are in charge of creating your own happiness.”

What do you want to forget? What do you want to remember?


Why I Read

October 15, 2011

I know a few people who simply don’t read. Well, that’s not quite accurate—they don’t read books. They read things on the internet, or they flip through magazines or the newspaper. Some simply aren’t interested in books, while others say they fall asleep as soon as they sit down with a book.

This is unthinkable.

My life would be immeasurably poorer without books. They’ve been my teachers and companions since I first deciphered letters on the page. If I were an Egyptian queen, I’d want to be buried with my library.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
—Jorge Luis Borges

I find connection with other people through reading—a sort of validation that my feelings and thoughts are not unique to the world. I find this particularly in the writings of women, especially those who have the experience of trying to balance family commitments with some type of artistic life.

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
 —Ursula K. Le Guin

I read to learn—not only about practicalities, like how to take better photos (The Digital Photography Book) or use my time more effectively (168 Hours), but to see what it would be like to live in a different time, or as a man, or even as a horse (Black Beauty). As a writer, I read to improve my writing by immersing myself in beautiful language. I observe how other writers structure their work, and play with words. I read to try to understand other people’s points of view, thus expanding my own. I read to escape to new worlds, to laugh, to enrich my life. I know reading books isn't the only way to do these things, but I feel that people who don't read books miss out on a lot.

“If you would understand your own age, read the works of fiction produced in it. People in disguise speak freely.”
—Sir Arthur Helps

Mostly, though, I read for the sheer pleasure of it.

Why do you read?

“In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to lead; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”
—S.I. Hayakawa



October 12, 2011

Here’s a poem of mixed feelings by Don Thompson to help us launch October. Thompson lives in Buttonwillow, California, which sounds like the name of a town in a children’s story, don’t you think? [Introduction by Ted Kooser]


I used to think the land
had something to say to us,
back when wildflowers
would come right up to your hand
as if they were tame.

Sooner or later, I thought,
the wind would begin to make sense
if I listened hard
and took notes religiously.
That was spring.

Now I’m not so sure:
the cloudless sky has a flat affect
and the fields plowed down after harvest
seem so expressionless,
keeping their own counsel.

This afternoon, nut tree leaves
blow across them
as if autumn had written us a long letter,
changed its mind,
and tore it into little scraps.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Don Thompson, whose most recent book of poetry is Where We Live, Parallel Press, 2009. Reprinted from Plainsongs, Vol. 30, no. 3, Spring 2010, by permission of Don Thompson and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


What Is This Feeling?

October 10, 2011

Something strange happened this morning. I was driving to pick up my mother-in-law after she dropped off the rental car she needed following an accident that totaled her vehicle but left her with only some sore muscles, when I suddenly felt…happy. I felt the dark mood of worry and anxiety that has so often hovered over me this year—this year that was supposed to be all about “light”—lift off my shoulders.

My word of the year—light—has been anything but. If I wished and hoped it would bring me a lessening of problems and concerns, I was wrong. This year my family has had broken bones and family explosions and sick animals and car accidents. I’ve watched and mourned for those afflicted by natural disasters, and worried over the state of the economy, the nation and the world. And you know what? We’re still here. We still have each other, enough to eat, a comfortable home. We’ve coped just fine with everything 2011 has thrown at us, not because of my worry and anxiety, but despite it. Worry and anxiety have done nothing for me except steal the joy from the present moment.

Perhaps I chose “light” (it chose me?) so that I could begin to learn the lesson of letting go—letting go of what I can’t change or affect, letting go of worry, letting go of the future and concentrating on the now. No, not just concentrating on—rejoicing in.

For just a few moments this morning, I realized If I were to stop worrying about the future, I would be happy. I would feel a lot more light. And for a few moments, I actually felt that way.

Life is good
What have been 2011’s lessons for you?


If Only

October 05, 2011

“Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.”
—Seen on a t-shirt


Got Quirks?

October 03, 2011

“Indulging our quirks is the secret of contentment.”
—Sarah Ban Breathnach, Romancing the Ordinary

I have a complaint. Where has the Table of Contents gone? Two of the books I’m reading have chapters with names instead of just numbers, but no Table of Contents. The publisher couldn’t spare the space or paper for a Table of Contents, yet they can have a page in the back with details about the book’s typeface?! I’m as interested in the typeface as the next person (not very), but I’d rather be able to read the chapter titles and speculate on their contents. I also like consulting the TOC to see how I’m progressing through the book. I don’t like flipping through the book to read the chapter titles, or trying to assess my progress through them this way. It’s just one of my quirks.

A quirk is a peculiarity of behavior, an idiosyncrasy. Our quirks are part of the reason we are who we are—and most of them are completely harmless, though they may seem strange to others. Some of them become habits, or even superstitions—like the hockey players who will not step on the team logo on the floor of their locker room (and won’t allow visitors to do so, either) or the Hollywood writer who backs out of a room in which something good happened.

Quirks can be as simple as whether you put on both socks, then both shoes, or a sock and a shoe and a sock and a shoe; how you take your shower; in what order you eat the foods that make up your dinner (“never end with a bite of something you don’t like”). Some of my additional quirks include:
  • I often get the hiccups when I take the first sip or two of a carbonated drink.
  • I don’t like mayonnaise on anything except steamed artichokes.
  • I keep lists of all the books I read each year.
  • I talk to my dog and my horse just like they are people. (They don’t talk back, however, at least in words…)
  • I prefer to slice fruit like apples, peaches or plums rather than eat them whole.
I could go on, but…I’d like to know: what are some of your quirks? Do you ever try to change them?

Morning quirk habit