Friday, May 30, 2008

Tagged: The Fours

20 Meter Circle of Life tagged me with the challenge to address a series of intriguing questions. After mulling over my responses, here they are.


*Pharmacy clerk
*Controlled Hunt Coordinator
*Environmental Writer
*Non-disability Appeals Coordinator


* Thirty years employment in the public sector working to make Oregon a great place to live
*Try to treat other people the way I would like to be treated. I especially try to show my appreciation for the efforts of people in "service" jobs
*I had some part in Kiyara becoming an excellent schoolmaster who introduced several women (young and not so young) to the world of horses. She also took several Pony Clubbers through their D levels.
*I try to listen to young people and show them respect


*I take multivitamins, calcium, and Omega 3 capsules -- and try to eat whole grains
*I've cut back on saturated fats and tried to eliminate trans fats
*I floss 5-6 times a week
*I exercise by riding 3-4 times a week and walk & play with the dog


*Growing up in a multi-cultural/multi-racial neighborhood that evolved into a high-crime area
*Death of my grandparents in a car accident caused by a drunk driver
*The assassinations: President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy
*Buying my first horse, Kiyara


*The animals in my life require care and exercise. I groom and ride my horse, and I take the dog on daily walks & play with him at home and the barn. Animals are much more fun that a machine in a gym, and when the dog has to go out, you go out!

*Fashion designer
*Attorney specializing in environmental law


*Parents and grandparents
*Third grade teacher who gave us nightly writing assignments for homework
*Instructors of adult education courses in fiction writing who encouraged me
*Former co-worker who told me I could do anything I had a mind to accomplish (it had never occurred to me before)


*Refined sugars are reserved for weekend treats (Get real! Stay away?!)

*Fried insects


*Incentive to keep at my YA fiction because I have to report on my progress
*Share the joys and frustrations of horse ownership
*Record my observations on "stuff"
*Maintain my perspective on life

Now I want to tag Shared Glory Photography (see her great Flickr site!) and her mother. My young friend may not be able to answer all the questions, but I'm sure she has thoughts on how she intends to live her life forward.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Approach


My progress with "Water Tribute" has been blocked of late. Seems like the closer I got to the end, the harder it was to sit down and write.

Today I realized that what I thought was a plot point scene should actually be the climactic scene. Which of course will mean rearranging what I've written thus far. However, since I have scenes drafted I can build on what I already have. Not like I have to start all over again. With some of the scenes already blocked out I can concentrate on the setting, mood, characters, etc.

I'm going to use Lynn Schmidt's "Book in a Month" to help me reorganize my current draft. A crutch to help me organize my thoughts and the 300 pages of existing story.

So I am again excited about the story...which is a good thing.


Not so much.

I made a quick trip to the barn on Monday to check on Phantom. It was raining and none of the horses had their turnout sheets on. Which is a difficult decision to make this time of year. It's wet, but it's warmer. Let the horse get wet from the rain? Or let the horse get wet from sweating under the turnout sheet? Argh!

Anyway, Phantom had rolled, turned crusty, and the crust was melting in the rain and turning back to mud. Yuk! My main concern, however, was the hairless patch on his back. The swelling had gone down and it didn't seem to be as touchy, but it wasn't scabbed over. I cleaned it with warm water and sprayed it with Blue Kote followed by Schreiner's. Both stung a little, a good sign that they're working but also an indication that the site is still a little raw. I put his sheet back on mainly to cover the "boo boo" from the rain and mud.

I can wait a few more days to ride. Phantom is content to hang with his buddies and my schedule of late has been unsettled. Give him time to heal a little more and maybe I won't feel so harried by the time I get back in the saddle.

Actually, the timing of everything has been one of those spooky synchronous situations. Phantom gets a minor injury just when scheduled and unscheduled events keep me from getting to the barn. So everything eventually works out.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Catching Up


She's doing fine, gradually feeling better. The increased dosage of Lasix is keeping her close to the bathroom but reducing the fluid in her lungs. She had a follow-up visit at our doctor's office on Friday after our lovely tour of the ER, and will see Dr. Cindy next week.


Our refrigerator died a lingering death this past week. First the freezer went belly up, then the fridge. We'd had trouble with the freezer in the past, but thought it was because the door didn't close all the way. Apparently it was trying to tell us that the compressor was going out. We had a repair man come out from Walt's Applicances in Sherwood on Saturday morning and he did all he could to resuscitate the fridge, but it was too far gone. It would cost as much to repair the compressor as it would to buy a new, inexpensive fridge. So after a review of applicance reliability in "Consumer Reports" we were off to Sherwood to Walt's where we were treated well and given a good deal on a side-by-side rerigerator. We barely made it home before the delivery guys showed up. They hooked up the new fridge and took away the old and we are back in business. Even have a water and ice dispenser now!

That was an expenditure (spoiled food and new applicance) that we hadn't budgeted for. :-(


I experienced the second fraudulent transaction on my Visa account in the last two months. Both conducted online on days that I wasn't even on my computer and at sites I'd never heard of. I called Bank of America and they are cancelling my current account and issuing me a new account number, since my number is out there and being used.

I was reluctant to do online purchases for this very reason. So much for convenience. careful out there!


Unfortunately, our crazy schedule of late means Phantom has been placed on the back burner. Not that he doesn't enjoy the vacation. I just hope his patch of missing skin is healing.

Our barn owner and crew are going crazy with our bizarre weather, what with the 30-40 degree changes in temperature, thunderstorms, and buckets of rain. To blanket or not to blanket.

Spring and fall in the Willamette Valley are the periods of the Crusty Pony. They roll in the mud, it dries and gets crusty, it rains and the crust turns to mud again. All the horses become crusty chestnuts. Our gray horses become green and crust pintos. Lovely.


Our crazy schedule also means Indy is crated while we're out of the house for extended periods. He has water and a couple of fuzzy toys, but it's not the same as hanging out with his people. Plus, he missed a possible play day at the barn.

So much for a watch dog. The Fluffy Puppy was all over the refrigerator repair man. Not that we want the dog attacking family, friends and repair men...but a moment of suspicion might have been reassuring. Oh well, it's not like his debarked "arf" is intimidating, anyway.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Arrived at the barn today and discovered our wonderful barn owner and crew had placed turnout sheets on our horses. We had a heck of a steady rain yesterday morning and unpredictable showers since then. This voluntary action is much appreciated, since it adds time and trouble to turnouts.

When I removed Phantom's turnout today I discovered he has an "owee" on his back...just where the cantle would rest. It's still a little swollen and very tender. So my Goober Boy got out of a work session today and likely the rest of the week. Per usual, the Gelding Creed of Silence keeps him from telling me what happened and which pasture mate is the culprit. The "wound" was already scabbing at the edges, although still hairless skin at the center. I went through the motions of cleaning it with iodine scrub and sprayed it with Schreiner's. The Schreiner's stung...which indicated it was working.

Settled for a brief longe in the covered arena where it apprears Phantom is moving more freely following his massage session. Yea!

Actually, it's probably a good thing I didn't ride today. Spent six hours in the ER last night, so I was a "little tense" yet today. It's a long story involving my mother's health situation. Nothing serious -- obviously, since we were not a priority and left in the exam room for hours. Better than being a critical case in need of immediate care. However, when your bottom goes numb from sitting in the ER exam room for six hours....

Mother is feeling better today, my big Goober Boy gets a bit of a vacation from the saddle, and my little Goober Boy had a blast racing around outside with his canine playmates.


I started reading "Murphy's Law" by Rhys Bowen in the ER waiting room last night and darned near finished the 250-page book by the time we left the hospital. Set in turn-of-the-century New York (1900), it's the first in a mystery series featuring Molly Murphy as an Irish immigrant involved in a couple of murders. Obviously a lot of research was conducted in order to provide the interesting period details that enriched the story. Not a literary book, but a fun and easy read for the genre.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Miriah Stuart, horse masseuse extraordinaire, gave Phantom his first treatment ever.

Our barn hosted the local feed store's annual Horse Owner's Workshop in April for the third year in a row. This year Miriah gave a brief saddle fitting demonstration and again conducted a drawing for a free horse massage. Imagine my surprise and delight when she called to say I had won the drawing. We quickly set an appointment and today was the day.

Phantom is a pretty mellow guy (I don't call him "Goober Boy" for nothing). He sort of wondered what Miriah was up to. Afterall, no one has ever touched him like that before. He gave visual indications of his tender spots but was very well behaved. Miriah had worked on Phantom's jaw, neck and shoulders and was standing on her stepstool to work on his back when her cell phone rang. She stepped down to take the call and Phantom looked around to see where she went with an expression that said, "Where'd she go? She's not done, is she?" Apparently he had decided that Miriah's manipulations felt pretty good.

Earlier in the day, Miriah said she had worked on a mini horse only 33 inches tall. She was on her knees to perform the leg stretches. Too bad she didn't get a picture to put on her web site. :-)

I really appreciated Miriah's donated services, since massages and chiropractic work for the horse are a bit beyond my means.

Per Miriah's suggestion, I saddled up Phantom for a 30 minute walk. He had to give the "hairy eyeball" to the rays of sun peaking through the cracks in the near end of the arena, but halfway through our stroll he started giving me a truly swingy, stretchy walk. Ahhhhh.

You can learn more about Miriah and her services at:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"It's too darn hot..." Ann Miller sang in "Kiss Me Kate." The Portland Airport recorded a high of 92 degrees yesterday, but the regional airport close to us registered 97!! Cooler today (upper 80s predicted) but more humid. Not that we webfoot Oregonians dislike sunshine. It's just that our winter-pasty bodies need a gradual adjustment to the temperature increase. The webs dry out quickly with these sudden heat spells.

Too hot to ride yesterday. I arrived at the barn earlier than usual to avoid the hottest part of the day. I ensconced the dog at one of the picnic tables with his bucket of water where he could choose the sun or shade. It was the favorite barn location of my previous Sheltie. My plan for the day was to give Phantom his first bath of the season. The winter grime accumulated at the roots of his mane has been driving me nuts. Not to mention the layers of Cowboy Magic built up over the winter months. I think he appreciated the dousing (except when I got water in his ear).

When Phantom entered my life he had a loooong mane with the typical endless Arabian bridle path. I braided his mane so it wouldn't become dreadlocks, then one day I decided it was too much work and whacked off his mane with scissors and thinning shears. I left his forelock alone, since it's so much a part of the Arabian expression. And of course I left his tail untouched. Well, more recently I decided to let his mane grow out again. I've kept it braided and he has a neck cover for our wet winters. I also braid his tail during the winter to keep it from getting too tangled and muddy. I think I've created a monster. His mane must be close to 2-feet at the longest point, and his tail touches the ground when at rest.

His mane was sparkling white after yesterday's bath. Gorgeous. Instead of braids I'm gathering sections of mane with bands, almost like the beginning of a continental braid. Anyway, it keeps the mane somewhat orderly and lifts it off Phantom's neck a bit.

I was tossing stuff all over the tack room digging for fly spray and fly masks. Found both and best yet, the bottle of spray was almost full!!

I was practically as wet as Phantom by the time I was done with his bath. I stood on the mounting block to wash and rinse his mane in order to prevent the water-down-the-arm-to-the-pit syndrome. While he munched grass and dried off in the sun, I was working up a sweat running around the barn cleaning up my messes. My second shower of the day was after I got home.

I tell Phantom after a bath that he is not allowed to roll until I'm off the premises. I know he's going to roll...they always do. I just ask that I don't have to witness my hard work ground into the dust. Phantom is generally obliging.


I am registered and will have two one-on-one pitch sessions scheduled. Yippee!

Actually resumed work on "Water Tribute." It's a good thing first drafts are supposed to be lousy, because this one certainly is. It would be nice if I had a much-edited draft available for my "first readers" to review before the conference, but I don't know if I'll make it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Easy Writer"

...the theme for the August 1-3 Willamette Writers Conference.

The conference brochure arrived, I've poured over it, highlighted the workshops that look good, and identified two literary agents taking pitches for Middle Grade and Young Adult stories. I downloaded the registration form and will take it to the local UPS Store to fax it to the WW office.

Although I could register online, I recently discovered a couple of unauthorized transactions on my Visa I'm skittish about putting my account information out there.

Nothing like scheduling a pitch as incentive to finish "Water Tribute" and begin reworking it. I've got "Book in a Month" by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, PhD that I think it will help me focus as I edit and make ruthless deletions.

Generally, the agents and editors do not accept submittals at the conference. Their luggage would weigh a ton! If they like your idea they instruct you to submit their preferred material (first three chapters, synopsis, SASE, etc.) and reference the WW Conference so your envelope will get past the slush pile. The agents/editors expect things to dribble in over the next few months.

So...that provides additional time to rework the first draft. At least polish the first three chapters for mailing.

This weekend should be great for my writing. My story takes place in a desert setting, and we're expecting record high temperatures for May (>90 degrees).


Thursday, May 8, 2008


Indy and I took our morning walk a little earlier than usual today. On weekdays we usually trek through our neighborhood to a path that connects to an adjacent neighborhood and a small city park.

This morning something caught my eye and I looked overhead to see a great blue heron (gbh) flying over. Big birds, impressive to observe.

Some of my favorite wildlife moments have occurred while walking the dog.

When I acquired Lacey I was still living in an apartment. The complex had a koi pond that was later emptied and landscaped for reasons that will become obvious. I used to get up at 5:00 am to walk the dog, eat a quick breakfast, shower and dress before leaving for work at 7:00 am. We generally took a spin around the nearby high school football field, but when pressed for time we would make a loop through the apartment complex. On one of our quick early morning walks we came around a corner toward the koi pond and something BIG jumped up in front of us. We had startled a gbh grabbing breakfast from the pond! It flew off -- flapping its huge wings. Quite a sight to encounter such a large bird up close.

On another walk at the high school a handful of Canada geese buzzed the football field. They were so close I could see the glint in their eyes.

This past winter after a dusting of slushy snow I observed a raccoon footprint in the snow where the critter had emerged from the riparian area that borders our neighborhood to walk across the street.

On weekends Indy and I tour the high tech campus across the road from our neighborhood. The acreage has several buildings and large grassy areas. But a goodly amount of acreage has been left wooded and they have a native plant project as well as bluebird nest boxes.

Bushy-tailed squirrels are a common sight on the campus, but one day I saw a striped chipmunk. First and last time I've seen one there, but I'll keep looking. Another time I saw a pair of western bluebirds. First, I was pleased with myself that I noticed them in the tree. Secondly, I was proud that I knew what they were. Seems the bluebird nest boxes are working.

Black-tailed deer are not uncommon. We've seen them come up from the riparian area to emerge between houses before scurrying back. I've spotted a doe and fawn trot away from the small park in our neighborhood where they had bedded down for the night.

My funniest deer story was when Indy and I were on the tech campus a couple of days before Halloween. Indy was oblivious, but I saw a deer near the paved path that connects the buildings. I swear my first thought was someone had placed a life-size cutout of a deer near the path for Halloween. Then I realized the doe was real and had two more with her (current and past fawns?). They froze and stared at us. I stopped and waited, not wanting to scare them toward the road. The three deer finally strolled off into the wooded area where they completely disappeared. When we arrived at the area where the deer had been standing, Indy caught their scent. He's a herding breed not a hunting dog, so he didn't quite know what to do about it. I got a chuckle at him and a laugh at myself over the "deer cutout."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Today's Ride

I am sooo lucky. Phantom is infinitley patient with me. I have been ridiculously fortunate with the animals that have entered my life. Kiyara was one of a kind, Lacey the sweetest of dogs, Phantom is my lovable "Goober Boy," and Indy is a smaller, fluffier Goober Boy.

Phantom is and has always been the best "report card" of my riding. If I get it right, he immediately does what is wanted. Usually our struggles are my adjustments to release tension and put myself in the correct position. I haven't taken a lesson for several years now, so I continue to work on my "list" of reminders from the last lesson I took from Cathi. Mainly I try to get Phantom on the bit moving forward and round, and attempt leg yields and shoulders-in.

My current routine is to work at the walk until I get a proximity of a connection. It seems like it takes forever while Phantom goes through his Arabian-at-the-alert stage. When I get that feeling that the reins are "coming from the bottom of my fingers" then we've attained that connection from bit to elbow. From this point I can ask for a trot and usually get a pretty good depart. I generally begin with a posting trot and, depending on my position (again), we can continue with connection and Phantom's back round like a "beachball" -- or I can completely ruin it all and we're back to Arabian-at-the-alert at a faster gait. *sigh*

Phantom's canter has long been an issue. Cathi advised me that he bulges right with his midsection and tips his nose left. All this bulging and tipping blocks his straight, forward motion. So I work on getting me in a balanced position so I can straighten Phantom and when and if that's accomplished we get some nice work. My efforts have paid off, since Phantom's canter departs have improved and he manages to keep the canter instead of falling out. He used to do this Mixmaster thing and it was all I could do to get the canter. Even Cathi struggled when Phantom was in a mood. We've progressed to the point that I can canter a 10 meter circle.

We usually take a brief breather after our canter work before attempting a sitting trot. Now, Phantom usually begins with a lovely trot. However, it quickly disintegrates because of me. Once I get myself situated correctly, my equine report card returns to his lovely trot and we work on serpentines, leg yields and shoulders-in. On those days that rider's dream about we glide around the arena. Phantom is connected through a soft hand directly to my elbow and on occasion has a foamy mouth. A minor shift of weight and we change direction. He is a willing and alert partner and I am relaxed and kind.

Today wasn't one of those float-on-air days, but we eventually got to a good point where we had each worked out of our tension and moved as a team.

I generally finish our ride with a stretchy posting trot on a long rein, and then a bit of a walk. Phantom's reward for a job well done is a bit of grazing in the open area. The facility is encircled with fencing and the gate is kept closed. Not that our horses are inclined to go anywhere with their heads buried in the grass. The winter turnouts are grazed over and it will be a month or so before the summer turnouts have regrown enough. So the horses love it when we let them loose to assist with mowing the open area. Phantom's pasture mate Guinness was also loose, so the pair hung out around the round pen where our newest arrival is turned out for the time being.

So all in all, a good day for both of us.

Works for me. :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Barn Bunch

The Barn Bunch plotted a surprise birthday party for Trainer Tracey. We gathered last night at the appointed location and were escorted to a separate party room. We were all pretty pleased with ourselves until Tracey arrived -- she parked her car right outside the window of the party room where we were all seated!! Fortunately, the blinds apparently blocked her view (nor was she expecting a crowd) and we got her good! Although we feared the "mass of candles" on the cake would set off the sprinklers [ :-) ] a good time was had by all.

I've been very fortunate to make and keep good friends from several of the stables where I boarded.

A little background is needed here, I suppose. I acquired my first horse when I was 29. Unmarried, no significant other, friends and coworkers all married with or starting families and socializing with others at the same life stage, modest income, afraid I would be trapped home alone if I opted to save for and buy a home. Living on a single income, realistically I could afford ONE thing to spend discretionary money on: car payments, a fixer-upper house or small condo, travel, a horse.... In one of those convergent moments, a friend had a litttle red mare to find a home for and I still had a savings account. So I did something I had always wanted to to -- buy an Arabian horse.

Of course, it was all I could do to own a horse. Lessons were out of the question and stabling was self care. Over time, I moved my mare from stable to stable, working up from self-care, to partial-self care, to full-care as promotions and pay raises allowed. I had always wanted to give jumping a try and when we finally arrived at a hunter-jumper barn it took me a year before I could afford one lesson (flat) a week. Somewhere along the line I started jump lessons, and when the stable offered a package deal ($X amount each month for unlimited lessons) we were off and leaping!

I made some marvelous friends at the hunter-jumper barn that became my primary social group. Interestingly enough, we all kind of moved on at the same time, taking our horses to a couple of different barns. At the eventing barn where I eventually ended up, I met another group of great people. I also acquired my second horse (the gray purebred Arabian I had always threatened my 3/4 Arabian mare with if she didn't behave -- like she was concerned that I would replace her). The little red mare became a working woman supporting herself as a lesson horse and was the darling of the women and girls who learned to ride on her.

We moved again to our current location, established by a good friend who had evolved into a wonderful trainer. From the handful of believers who brought their horses to the barn we grew into yet another group of great folks who shared a love of horses. Regrettably our owner and trainer had to give up her dream, but the new owners of the facility turned out to be the lovely people she promised they were. Although the group of boarders changed over time, it still remains a bunch of good folks.

A lot of people outside the horse world assume horse ownership is only for the rich. For a period the red mare and I competed in hunter-jumper shows where we encountered the moneyed people who spent an amount equal to my entire net monthly income for their horse (board, training, lessons). Most of them were nice, but the spoiled and self-absorbed were plentiful, also. Traits I didn't seem to encounter as much at the more modest level of stabling and showing that I participated in.

The barn bunches that I have enjoyed owned horses because they loved the animals, not the competition. I don't click with the folks who put competition first and treat their horses like tennis rackets or golf clubs -- repeatedly changing horses/equipment to find a winner. The barn bunches I've belonged to cheered each other's victories, consoled losses, and understood that the passing of a companion animal was a big hurt. We watch out for each others' horses, share treats with their stablemates, and willingly loan and share equipment. We safely and courteously share the arena -- no prima donnas to dodge -- and display concern for the welfare of all the horses at the barn, not just our own.

Once again my horse and I are surrounded by good people. My little red mare has since moved on to greener pastures that I'm sure she shares with former stablemates that have also passed on. My little gray guy is very content at his current location and well cared for.

Unfortunately, our various work and personal schedules mean members of the current barn bunch don't often get together. But ask us to give of our free time to spiff up the barn for the annual Horse Owner's Workshop presented by the local feed store -- and everyone is there. Likewise a party to show our regard for one of our members.

The Barn Bunch -- they're the people who understand why a piece of metal that goes in a horse's mouth costs so much, and need no explanation as to why and how horses fill our souls.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Writing Conference

I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Willamette Writers Conference brochure. The website (see my list of favorites) now lists the workshops offered as well as agents and editors who will be present.

For anyone located in the Pacific Northwest who has writing aspirations I highly recommend this conference. Not only are the workshops fabulous, but it offers the opportunity to pitch your project to agents and editors. The screenwriting track gets stronger every year and Hollywood types attend in abundance. Agents and editors cover nonfiction and all genres of fiction.

I've pitched a couple of times -- not as scary as expected -- and was asked to submit. I didn't pitch anything last year. Not sure what I'll do this year. My Christmas story for Middle Grade (MG) readers is a hard sell because it's seasonal. My Young Adult (YA) story from the viewpoint of the reluctant horse on quest includes "talking animals" which, apparently, are not popular among the literary crowd. Although, the red mare in question isn't a cutesy animal but an equine with attitude who would rather be home eating well instread of encountering fantastic creatures on quest. And my current YA desert adventure project isn't yet completed and in horrible first draft shape. So....

The great thing about the WW Conference is that the agents and editors are encouraged to spread out during the lunches and you never know who you will be sitting next to. A couple of years ago I shared a lunch table with Andrea Brown, a well-known agent (I have since learned) who specializes in fiction for young readers. So attendees may have more opportunities to talk up their work than expected.

The workshops are offered in tracks (nonfiction, general fiction, genres, young readers, screenwriting, etc.), but attendees are free to sit in on any workshop that interests them. Some workshops are repeated over the 3-day conference. The presenters are patient with newbie writers and most are honest about the business end of publishing.

And the conference provides the opportunity to hang out with people who share your passion for writing. Very interesting to chat with fellow attendees about their projects. And no need to explain that you are still a writer even if not yet published.

So, I need to finish my current project and take a new look at my adventure about the red mare. As they say, place butt in chair and WRITE.