The next chapter

My story, like yours, is still being written.

I have always had a deep love for, and affinity with animals, especially horses. After high school, I went away to England, earned my British Horse Society Assistant Instructor’s Certificate and met the wonderful man who has been my husband for nearly 28 years now. For about 14 of those years, we owned and operated an equestrian center, for the first 3 years on leased property and the last 11 on a farm we poured our heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into owning.

It was a financial struggle, we were undercapitalized to take on the huge renovation project our farm required. We did almost all the work ourselves, relying on part time assistance from boarders and friends to keep things running. Our daughter worked after school and we worked all the time. Despite the tough financial aspect, I truly felt this was what I was put on earth to do. I loved caring for rescued horses, giving riding lessons to a young girl with cerebral palsy and hearing glowing reports from her mother about how much her walking had progressed due to the theraputic nature of the riding. I blossomed helping countless “women of a certain age” realize the power and capabilities they had in all areas of their lives which they discovered on the back of a horse. I developed programs for children, adults and families. I worked with serious, competitive students with horses whose price tags were in the tens of thousands of dollars. I also worked with our wonderful partners, our lesson horses, many of whom came to us as ‘waifs and strays” after outliving their usefulness in their first career.

When we sold our farm a few years ago, I feared I would not be employable. What did I know, other than teaching, training, riding, caring for animals, mucking stalls, setting appointments with the vet, blacksmith, chiropractor, dentist, acupuncturist and massage therapist? Well, turns out, if you can run a barn and deal with horses and their owners, you can translate that into a lot of other jobs. I’m currently supervising a team in a customer service position, but desire for my new life (in fact something of a return to my old one) is making itself more and more strongly felt. I can feel it in my bones, in my fingers as I type, in the excitement and anticipation I feel as I consider my options. I want to connect with and teach people. My main focus is that wonderful group of women who have done everything for everyone elso for so long, and want to find a way in their lives to take care of themselves a bit. Women who begin riding from this place take away so much more than learning how to stop, start and steer; or jump a course; or ride a dressage test. They learn that the skills they have developed in taking care of spouses, children, employers and co-workers have amazing value in developing a relationship with a horse. And developing a relationship with a horse will teach them things about themselves they never would have realized on their own, or admitted to themselves.

So, wish me well as I continue to write my story. If the plot unfolds as I hope, I will be helping women realize their worth through teaching, books and seminars. Ideally I will be able to involve rescue horses in the process. We shall see. In the meantime, enjoy your own plot as it unfolds, and remember to be grateful every day for every page and every chapter that you have lived so far.

The new Brit in my life…

The new Brit in my life…

There’s a new love in my life, and his name is Nigel. Not exactly tall, dark and handsome, this 37 year old Brit has, nevertheless, secured a place in my heart.
I have always been an Anglophile. I went to the UK after high school some 31 years ago and earned my British Horse Society’s Assistant Instructors’ Certificate. I married an Englishman (we’re still happily married, nearly 30 years later). I’ve lived in England, we have a right hand drive Land Rover which I bought James (my husband) for his birthday a few years ago. We were in England doing some renovation work on his parents house. Renting a car large enough to trundle building and garden debris to the local recycling center was prohibitively expensive. An add in the local classified paper brought us to a great buy on the long wheel base Land Rover, and when we rented out the house in England, we shipped the Land Rover home to the States. It’s a great vehicle, and a well-loved member of our family.
Loving cars, as I do, I have begun to think about how I’d really love a car that was “me”. I drive a 1991 S10 Blazer which we purchased on eBay for about $300. It is an extremely practical car. I can load bags of grain, bales of hay, plants, groceries, dog food, baskets of laundry, a handful of dogs, a few saddles, pretty much whatever my day requires. It is reasonable on fuel consumption. It runs like a top and has been very reliable. Somehow, (not meaning to sound ungrateful, because I really do appreciate all the strengths of this car), but, somehow it makes me feel boring. I feel like a practical person. I feel like a dependable person. One who can sling 50 lb. sacks of grain in and out without a problem, and I am that person, however, that’s not all I am.
I am a person who discovered roller coasters at 40. I love new shoes, and para-sailing and flying in small planes. I love helicopters and beer and Creed. The “other” me, this wild-child person doesn’t thrive in a practical vehicle. I long for a spin in a Bugatti Veyron (top speed something like 235 mph). I want to drive the road race course in Monaco in a Lambo. I want to open up a Porsche on the Autobahn. I want the top down, the radio blasting and good road ahead.
To resolve this Jekyll and Hyde existence (at least automotively), my husband just bought me Nigel. Nigel is an MGB. We had had an MG Midget when we lived in England in the early 80’s, and another when we returned to the States a few years later. When I was expecting our daughter, however, it became clear that a Midget wasn’t the most practical choice (especially since I was the size of a beached whale!) We moved on to other vehicles, but the love for the MG always remained for both James and me.

Nigel fulfills the desires of both sides of my personality. For the practical side, he cost very little. He will be more economical on gas than the Blazer. He requires restoration, so my sweat equity ethic is placated. For the more hedonistic side of me – he’s beautiful (even in gray undercoat and lacking seats), I will drive with the top down, he has wire wheels, I’m even planning on a vanity plate. James and I will work together restoring Nigel, so it gives us a(nother) project together (in addition to the house and the gardens….).
Nigel is also somewhat of a compromise between my wild child self and my family. Nigel could have happily (for me, anyway) been a motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle was another joy I discovered post-40, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t thrill my family. They say they’re not too worried about me handling a bike responsibly, it’s all the other people (I was going to say idiots, but I’m trying to be nice…) on the road they worry about. I worry about them, too. I lost my best friend to a motorcycle accident. He was the person who got me riding, and it has made me do a lot of thinking over the past few years. I am, for now, reconciled with the idea that I will possibly never own a bike. Although there is nothing in the world that can replace the feeling of freedom and movement and magic that I find on a bike, there’s nothing that can replace me either. I’m grateful that my family loves me enough to worry.
So, over the hot summer months, Nigel will be my project. He will be rubbed down, filled in and painted. He will have seats, dashboard and floor pans replaced. He will receive a new roof, a few new levers and dials and a new pair of headlights. Over the course of the coming years, Nigel will give me much more in return: soft spring breezes, blissful drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a fun drive back and forth to work. Most of all, Nigel will give me a chance to be me. How could I not love someone like that?

Lessons from George

Despite scientific proof to the contrary, I believe cats are really gasses, not solids. Have you ever noticed how a cat will expand to fill all the space available to it?
One of my cats, George, a rather large fellow with incredibly long legs, loves my down pillows. So do I, but he goes to bed before I do. Actually, now that I think about it, George doesn’t actually “go to bed” in the commonly accepted sense of the word. He went to bed in early November, right after he came to live with us, and ever since then, he gets up for brief periods and then returns to bed. A subtle, but distinct difference. Anyway, I have several pillows that I can pile up for reading or smoosh down for sleeping. By the time I get home from work (usually sometime after 11:00 pm) and head for bed, George already has all the pillows in smoosh mode and has draped himself artistically over the whole lot of them. He hears me drive in. He hears me make my cup of tea. He hears all the little (and not so little) noises one makes when coming up the stairs, brushing teeth and getting ready for bed. When I approach the bed, he squeezes his eyes a little more tightly closed and stretches out, just a tiny bit, to make sure he is in possession of all the pillows. I sit on the edge of the bed: no response. I stage whisper “George, honey, I’m home, you have to let me have some of the pillows”. This wakes up my husband James, who may or may not have heard me drive in etc. While we have a brief chat, George sinks his claws into the pillows a little more in a barely perceptible movement. I attempt to give the pillows a bit of a shove. George squeezes his eyes more tightly shut and growls. I can’t admonish him, because he’s asleep, right? I think that’s his reasoning, anyway. “George, I’m tired, you really need to let me have some of the pillows.” One eyelid lifts enough to reveal a slit of green. It doesn’t look happy. Another growl. This one must be forgiven because, technically, he’s probably still asleep, right? “George, enough already!” I move the pillows, perhaps a little more firmly than strictly necessary. One of two things happens, (usually accompanied by growling, because, at this point, he figures I’m going to let him get away with it anyway). First option, George wriggles himself (with great dignity, of course) to the pillow closest to the wall and finds himself a comfortable spot (well, the least uncomfortable one, anyway). I give him a pet while I get my book and glasses and he snuggles happily, wraps himself around my head like a Russian fur hat, and sets to purring. (His moods are somewhat mercurial). Over the intervening twenty minutes or so that it takes me to get ready to go to sleep, George begins to spread. Gradually, but inexorably, like melting iceburgs and rising sea levels, George re-takes possession of the pillows. My neck begins to be a little uncomfortable,what with all that weight resting on my head, so I shift. George makes his move, and that millimeter I occupied only moments ago now belongs to George. Like a great tactical strategist on the battlefield, inch by inch, George regains control of the pillows.
The other option is that George becomes indignant, even disgusted, by the fact that I expect him to share the pillows, when, after all, he was there first. He stalks off the bed, stomps into the bathroom for a drink, possibly thumps down the stairs to grab a snack and then waits. I read, relax, think how comfortable I am, get drowsy, shut off the light, begin to drift off and….. BAM!! George has crept into the room and leapt up onto my stomach, then onto my chest and over my head onto the pillow closest to the wall. For any of you who have taken Pilates classes and had a hard time grasping the action of “pulling your navel toward your spine”, I can let you borrow George for an evening or two, the concept becomes startlingly clear. Now that he knows he has taught me a lesson, he reaches over, gives my face a few licks and, purring, begins the whole tactical maneuvering thing outlined above.

As I reach up to click off the light, the final push is made and I lie back down to a corner of my pillow, ready for a good night’s sleep, or what passes for one in my life!