2012 With a Bow on Top

December 31, 2012

Photo courtesy Klaus Post

2012’s parting gift to me was the Head Cold from Hell, which forced me to slow down, rest, and do nothing. I wanted to do that anyway, but without quite so much mucous production. It wasn’t all bad, though. While I sniffled and coughed in my bed, I also read books I want to finish by year’s end and pondered the year that was:

2012 started out with Contemplation Month and, as usual, some efforts to clear things out and become more organized, a tradition I think I will continue. I chose Passion as my word of the year, and proceeded to ignore it. 

After a rough 2011, 2012 seemed to be following suit after we had a minor car accident in March, but that car accident was a turning point. I changed my expectations and found that 2012 was actually mostly a good year, filled with interesting books, a couple of fun trips, and simple pleasures galore. My son turned 18, I got my office back and this blog turned 3. I finished up the year with a weekend spent having my mind blown at a Parelli Natural Horsemanship event, where—BIG ANNOUNCEMENT—I became a “Social Media Rock Star” and won a prize for my photographs. (They haven’t posted the winners from Tampa yet, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!)

On the more serious side, I noticed that I often felt overwhelmed and too busy in the last few months of the year, and my self-discipline when it came to writing was all but non-existent. These major issues must change and will be receiving plenty of attention in January. 

After watching what others have gone through in 2012, I realize that it’s a privilege to blather on about my emotions and goals, the small and big things that I find interesting and that make me happy. Living through 2012 was a gift, just as each day is a gift for those of us lucky enough to wake up to see it.

As the old year passes away, I face 2013 hopefully. Jan. 1 always feels like a fresh start and I look forward to a new year of simple pleasures and everyday adventures (I’ve been called for possible jury duty again!). I hope your 2012 was a year of happiness and growth, and that 2013 is even better. 

What did you take away from 2012? What are your hopes for the new year?


Be Courageous

December 19, 2012

“Optimism is true moral courage.”

—Ernest Shackleton

Sandy Hook shooting

In Remembrance of the Sandy Hook Victims

December 17, 2012

I’d planned a lighthearted post for today, but after the events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut Friday, I just can’t write about overflowing bookshelves or what I learned about my word of the year this year. Frankly, I don’t know what words would be appropriate at this time. All I can do is grieve for the families affected, and be thankful that my family is whole and healthy.

It doesn’t seem like enough. I want to do something, though what that might be I don’t know. Several suggestions are circulating on the internet, including sending cards to the school, wearing green and white (the school’s colors) in support and remembrance, or donating money in support of the victims’ families. This thoughtful blog post regarding mental health issues at Anarchist Soccer Mom is worth a read, also.

There are no words to adequately express the sorrow that we all feel. No matter what we do or don't do, we'll never be quite the same.


It Shines on Us All

December 12, 2012

Photo courtesy Mark Carter

I realized a while back that there have been over 850 moons that have gone through their phases since I arrived on the earth, and I haven’t taken the time to look at nearly enough of them. Here Molly Fisk, a California poet, gives us one of those many moons that you and I may have failed to observe. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Hunter's Moon

Early December, dusk, and the sky
slips down the rungs of its blue ladder
into indigo. A late-quarter moon hangs
in the air above the ridge like a broken plate
and shines on us all, on the new deputy
almost asleep in his four-by-four,
lulled by the crackling song of the dispatcher,
on the bartender, slowly wiping a glass
and racking it, one eye checking the game.
It shines down on the fox’s red and grey life,
as he stills, a shadow beside someone’s gate,
listening to winter. Its pale gaze caresses
the lovers, curled together under a quilt,
dreaming alone, and shines on the scattered
ashes of terrible fires, on the owl’s black flight,
on the whelks, on the murmuring kelp,
on the whale that washed up six weeks ago
at the base of the dunes, and it shines
on the backhoe that buried her.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2000 by Molly Fisk, whose most recent book of poetry is The More Difficult Beauty, Hip Pocket Press, 2010. Poem reprinted from The Place That Inhabits Us, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010, by permission of Molly Fisk and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 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.


10 Things That Make My Holidays Happy

December 10, 2012

Last year (I can admit it now) I was rather Scrooge-like in my participation in holiday events. I just did NOT enjoy the Christmas season, though I did try hard not to show that and spoil everyone else’s fun. I don’t want a repeat this year, so I’m putting some thought into what I really enjoy about the holidays, what I don’t enjoy (and am not going to do) and what makes me feel festive.

Here are 10 things, in no particular order, that I like to do that say “happy holiday season” to me:

Watch A Christmas Story. I can’t tell you why, but this is my all-time favorite Christmas movie, and I have to watch it at least once. I especially like to watch it while wrapping gifts.

Make molasses sugar cookies—for us and for special friends.

Put up a tree. I say this, because the year we went to New York for Christmas, we didn’t put the tree up and I missed having it all through the month of December.

Christmas in New York 
Decorate the house. We live in Florida, but I still decorate like we live in a log cabin somewhere in the forest. Palm trees and sea shells don’t say “Christmas” the way fir and holly do.

Listen to Christmas music and, usually, buy one new Christmas CD for the collection. This year, I’m leaning towards Straight No Chaser’s Holiday Spirits. (What’s your favorite holiday CD?)

Spend a night or two with the TV off, the fireplace burning (weather permitting—this is Florida, after all), the candles lighted, and Christmas music playing. I find this so relaxing—an antidote to any holiday craziness that creeps in.

Put antlers on the dog and a Santa hat on the horse. Because I just have to.

Give thoughtful gifts. I truly enjoy trying to find the most creative and perfect-for-them gifts for my family and friends. We also try to give something to a local charitable organization for families in need.

Have one big family get-together, usually on Christmas day, where all the relatives who live locally come to our house to feast and make merry.

Last year my husband made Beef Wellington!
Watch the Rose Parade on TV on New Year’s Day. I lived in Pasadena, and both attended and worked at the Rose Parade several times. It makes me a little homesick, even though I haven’t lived in California for more than 20 years. The floats and the horses and the marching bands thrill me every time.

Simple holiday pleasures look different for every person, and these are mine. I’m always on the lookout for new ones though, so what makes the holidays happy for you?

Everyday adventures

Mind: Blown

December 07, 2012

Pat Parelli and friends

I’m sorry I didn’t post on Monday. I wanted to, but I was suffering the aftereffects of a weekend spent having my mind blown.

My friend Marianne and I attended the Tampa stop of the Parelli Horse and Soul Tour Dec. 1-2. We spent two days perched on uncomfortable bleachers, trying to absorb all we could from each session. Sessions included information on the Parelli program’s Seven Games, “Horsenality” (personality types of horses) and rider biomechanics, as well as “spotlights” featuring Parelli-trained humans and their horses and a couple of “horse makeover” segments in which Pat or Linda Parelli worked with an individual and her horse to overcome problems they were having. We saw some remarkable examples of horsemanship, both on the ground and in the saddle. I won’t go into all the details of what we learned, but I will share with you three concepts/lessons I took away.

Para-Olympian Lauren Barwick 
Lauren is paralyzed from the waist down
“Where knowledge ends, violence begins”
Pat Parelli said this in one of our first sessions and it was easy to see how this is true of more than just horse/human relations. When we don’t understand someone or something, we can become afraid. And when we’re afraid, anger and violence too often follow close behind. The more I learn about horse behavior, particularly my horse’s behavior, the gentler I can be with him, and the more he will trust me. The more I understand other people, the gentler I can be with them as well.

Playing the Sideways Game at liberty (with no lead rope)
“Let the horse make the mistake”
Instead of micromanaging the horse, trying to prevent him from doing the wrong thing, allow him to make a mistake. Then correct him and teach him the right thing to do. (Parelli pointed out that micromanaging is really like nagging.) This really struck me because I know I sometimes micromanage Tank. Ask, wait, correct if necessary. That’s it. Don’t ask, ask, ask louder…

I easily see how this can be applied to how I deal with myself and with others. How do I feel when someone nags or micromanages me? I do this to myself all the time, because it seems like I have a pathological fear of making mistakes and doing things “wrong.” I have to remember that making mistakes is necessary for learning. I need to relax about them, allow them to happen, and then learn from them without browbeating myself in the process.

Linda Parelli with Hot Jazz
“Use lateral (not linear) thinking to problem-solve”
Linear thinking follows a step-by-step process, essential if you’re putting something together or cooking a complicated recipe, for example. Lateral thinking uses creativity and an indirect approach, like when you’re brainstorming ideas or actively problem-solving. Lateral thinking is essential when working with horses because every problem that comes up is different because every horse and human partnership is different. If you ask a horse to do something, and he either doesn’t do it or freaks out about it, you’ve got a problem that needs lateral thinking.

I’m not very good at lateral thinking. I’d rather know that if I do X then Y will happen. So often I do X and Q happens and I’m not sure what to do next. Maybe I should try B or Z or even 7? I want to develop creativity and flexibility in my thinking, both with my horse and in the rest of my life. (It’s easy to think of other situations that need lateral thinking—perhaps motivating a teenager to do something he doesn’t want to do?)

Last weekend reignited my passion for playing with my horse and building a stronger partnership with him. I always enjoy my time with Tank, but now I can’t wait to get to the barn. In fact, that’s where I’ll be this morning! Trying out my knowledge and lateral thinking, and letting him (and myself) make mistakes. 

Has anything blown your mind lately?


Was Mark Twain Talking About the Holidays?

December 05, 2012

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
—Mark Twain