Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Signs of Fall Equine Style

Summer is definitely on the wane -- the horses are starting to get fuzzy. Phantom's fleabitten gray isn't so apparent unless you're up close, but his darker pasture mates are obviously fluffing up.

Genevieve is happy because Zorro's turning black again. :-)

With the longer hair, the crusty mud will be really fun to brush out!

It seems a little soon to whip out the turnout sheets. Spring and fall drive us crazy trying to second-guess the weather. It's primarily the rain that concerns us in this region. But what good does it do to put on a sheet to keep the horse dry when he sweats underneath it?! ARGH!

The moderating temperatures of early fall are much more inviting for riding. And on dry days we now have our rehabilitated outdoor arena! Just as long as the pheasants hiding in the neighbor's nearby blackberries don't take flight!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Stills: Signs of Fall

This challenge was more difficult than one would think, since we've been experiencing temperatures in the 80s and 90s the past week. But the nights are getting chilly and the sun is definitely at a different angle.

Our full-on fall colors won't arrive for another 2-3 weeks. Generally around the opening of waterfowl season.

So here's what I captured yesterday in the neighborhood. Can you guess the dumb luck shots?

I love to watch the trees on this street change color.

First blush of fall.

Walking beneath oak trees is dangerous this time of year. Duck!

Peekaboo deer.

When you gotta itch you gotta scratch.

The last roses of the year.

I grabbed my camera when I took Indy for a walk yesterday afternoon. I'd been scouting the neighborhood for possible shots and had a couple of things I wanted to capture. As we're hiking through the Xerox campus a fellow walker alerted me to a family of deer up ahead. So we slowed our pace and gradually approached the deer as I took pictures with my zoom lens. With no tripod, you can guess that most of the pictures were blurred. But a few turned out and I've shared a couple here. How lucky was that?!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

So You Want to Write a Novel

A friend recently expressed a desire to write a post-apocalyptic novel and has the seeds of an idea for the cause of the global catastrophe. I warned her that writing a novel could be hazardous to her sanity.

I'm one of those people who has always written stories, but rarely finished my projects. I have no shortage of ideas...it's the execution where I get bogged down. I'm an English Major and love to read, but none of the courses I took actually taught me how a novel was written. So later in life I took a couple of college-level creative writing classes and got an "A" in both of them. In fact, one of the instructors told me that my writing would get noticed. That made me feel good! Yet I still got bogged down on long story projects.

I joined Willamette Writers and started attending the organization's annual conference. (For anyone in the region who wants to do writing of any kind [fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, graphic novels, poetry, etc.] I highly recommend this group and the conference!) At last! Published authors presenting sessions on how to write novels, not just read and evaluate them.

Fast forward fourteen years -- I'm finally grasping the novel structure as well as the vital plot points that make a long work of fiction readable and publishable.

Am I that dense?! (No comments from the Peanut Gallery!) I don't think so. It's just that, writing a full length novel isn't all that easy. As the folks at the WW Conference say...if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Just like riding clinicians -- the presenters at the writing conferences can be contradictory. What works for one person may not work for another. And like the riding lessons I've taken, some times it just takes presenting the same old information in a new way to make it sink in. Whether it's riding or writing -- you're not ready to learn it, until you're ready to learn it. Suddenly one day the lightbulb goes off, you get it, and you're ready for the next step.

Memorable Moments from the WW Conference:

I believe it was Irene Radford who taught a session entitled "The Muddle in the Middle." It was my introduction to the Three-Act Structure.

The Three-Act Structure comes from Syd Field's iconic book, Screenplay, The Foundations of Screenwriting. But you're writing a novel, not a screenplay, you say!

Ah, but Grasshopper, you must learn the archetypal story arc developed eons ago when our ancestors gathered in caves around flickering fires.

Which brings me to Steven Barnes who gave an enthusiastic session on" The Hero's Journey." The Hero's (and Heroine's) Journey comes from Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. Campbell's research across cultures and eras revealed a common archetypal story arc. George Lucas openly applied this story structure to "Star Wars."

Most recently, I've acquired a better grasp of story structure from the conference sessions presented by Larry Brooks. He discussed what he calls "The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling." These are what he considers the foundation of a story that must be in place before writing begins. Larry also "demystifies" story architecture -- you remember, the Three-Act Structure discussed above. Some writers develop a detailed outline of the novel before writing, others jump in with blank pages and discover the novel as they write. Regardless of the process, Larry indicates the finished product must contain specific occurrences at specific points to be publishable.

Next comes Laura Whitcomb, whose Novel Shortcuts, Ten Techniques That Ensure A Great First Draft and her presentations on "Shortcut to the Scene" further clarified my understanding of how to organize the stuff of a story.

These are only a few of the folks who have helped me absorb the complexity of taking "What if...?" to a real live novel. The books and conference sessions I've referenced above have worked like the ingredients of a recipe. They have built upon one another, combined, congealed, and eventually created my much improved understanding of a complete story that will satisfy the reader.

And I'm still insane enough to give it a go!

Monday, September 21, 2009


Brooke Wilberger will finally rest in peace.
Brooke was staying with her sister and brother-in-law in Corvallis, Oregon, when she disappeared on May 24, 2004. The efforts of law enforcement agencies from two states determined that Joel Courtney was her murderer. Courtney was already wanted for a similar abduction and murder in New Mexico. He was eventually convicted of Brooke's murder even though her body was never found. Courtney had made two unsuccessful attempts to abduct young coeds in Corvallis before Brooke went missing, and his van had been seen in the vicinity of Brooke's disappearance.

For five long years, Courtney never revealed the whereabouts of Brooke's body. Finally, after facing the death penalty in Oregon and New Mexico, Courtney agreed to a plea agreement. He would reveal Brooke's location in exchange for life in prison without parole.

Brooke's remains were located this weekend.

This is the &#@%$* who bludgeoned Brooke to death but wasn't man enough to face the death penalty himself:
Isn't it amazing how these animals can rape and kill, but become a quivering lump of manure when sentenced to death?

As to the death sentence in general, I don't have much sympathy for guys like Courtney. But I do believe it's probably cheaper to toss them in jail and throw away the key than it is for taxpayers to cough up the cost of endless court appeals.

So the mystery of Brooke's location comes to a bittersweet end. Her family can finally claim her and give her the respectful funeral she is due. But this must be like losing her all over again. The Wilberger family offered their appreciation to all who brought about the conclusion of their prolonged pain -- even thanking Courtney for at last agreeing to tell them where to find Brooke.

I can't even imagine what that family has been going through the past five years.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Stills: Purple

Purple? Where in the world am I going to find purple? Then I took another look at the Fluffy Puppy. And purple started appearing everywhere!

Indy's purple harness:

The obvious...purple flowers:

Oh yeah, the purple windshield shade:

Purple book jacket:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Loss to Equestrian World

Polly Knoll's popular poster

The media will be remembering Patrick Swayze for his acting career, but we horse folks will mourn the loss of a fellow equestrian.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Stills: Mechanical Transportation

I took the following photos of a truck on my stroll to capture pictures for the "Open Road" challenge.

Cropped and edited to B&W:

Close-ups I thought were interesting:

Fun with mirrors:

This one is from my archives. I was struck by the lonely car in
the parking lot and the spot of red amid the greenery:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Miscellaneous Thoughts


I was getting ready for work that morning and turned on the TV, mainly for local weather and traffic updates. Instead, the coverage was live from New York. As I paused to watched the bizarre scenes, the second airplane crashed into the second tower. It was incomprehensible. Minutes later I watched in horror as the towers collapsed, knowing full well that there had to be people still inside and that fire fighters, police, and EMTs were massed at the site.

By September 2001 I was nearly numb due to family events that occurred earlier in the year. My mother and I made the difficult decision to place my father in an Alzheimer's care unit. At my prodding, my parents had already gone through the process of getting legal documents updated and in place, and worked with an elder attorney to prepare for Medicaid eligibility. My apartment lease expired so I moved in with my mother to combine our resources. My parent's new home of two years was already crowded with 50+ years of "stuff" (not to mention two rented storage units), so we moved sideways through the house most of the time. Then my father fell and broke his hip which required hospitalization and surgery. He passed away shortly thereafter. After many months of stress, I couldn't participate in the highly emotional national response to 9/11. I had little left to give.

So each September 11, as our country recalls the events of that day in 2001, I recall the year and summer prior -- and the loss of my father. He was Oregon born, a war veteran, professional musician, artist, and career public employee.

Garage Girls

On a much happier note, one of the Garage Girls found my blog. Yay! I'll save the story about the name for another time. Suffice it to say, we are horse women who seem to have scattered to the four winds but still love and cherish each other.

Horse Movies

Behind the Bit had a recent blog entry suggesting it was time for a made-for-TV movie about the eventing world. Her readers recalled International Velvet and Sylvester, two theatrical movies centered around eventing.

This in turn reminded me of an earlier post of my own regarding how movies get horses wrong. Genevieve and I were in hysterics one day chatting about the errors non-horse people make in movies. You know, the Black Stallion is an Arabian until he becomes a thoroughbred on the race track. Or, the horse that has four white stockings on the approach to a jump but only has three on landing. Or the preponderance of new boots among all the characters in the horse movies -- not one of the riders has boots broken down at the ankle and discolored at the calves. And why does everyone wear show clothes around the barn?!

I agree with Behind the Bit, I'd love to see a well-made movie about eventing. Or any sport horse venue. If you think the X Games are exciting, wait until you try to leap over an obstacle on an animate object -- a horse!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Stills: The Rule of Thirds

I wasn't really aware of the Rule of Thirds, although I think I've applied it subconsciously to some of my photos. I haven't yet perused the "how to" books, so this challenge was good for me.

So here goes.

Trailer Park [ :-) ]

High Point

Outside with Finn

A girl and her horse

Friday, September 4, 2009


Mary, Lydia and Debbie

There's a T-shirt I want to buy that says something on the order of: "Inside every older person is a surprised young person."

I've known Debbie since I was fifteen and she was thirteen. So who are these "mature" people in our photo?!

We were very pleased when Debbie and husband Graeme stopped by for a visit. They live a globetrotting life and it's been a long time since we'd been together with Debbie, and it was our opportunity to meet Graeme for the first time. We told tales on each other and caught up on news.

Debbie's parents have passed on, but they are still much missed and our memories of them much cherished. Our lives have taken many twists and turns over the decades, but it's interesting to consider how our relationships shape the people we become.

Along the same vein, I received an e-mail from Jackie, my former supervisor and cohort in "crime" at my last work place. With coworker Marilyn, we made one hell of a team. It was one of the better periods during my 30-years as a public employee. Imagine, a boss who appreciates your efforts and tells you as much.

For those of you with eagle eyes -- yes, Lydia's wearing a bandage on her hand. She took a spill while I was helping Emily move into her dorm. My dog -- my fault. My mother took Indy out while I was gone and when he saw some neighbor dogs he got excited (per usual). He pulled too hard on my mother and she went down. So it was another Saturday night in the ER for us followed by a week of doctor appointments. No broken bones (whew!). But lots of bruising and a nasty abrasion. Lydia is mending well and pissed that she fell down yet again. Hmmm. Wonder where I get my "independent little shit" personality?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to School

I've been out of school for a considerable period, but this time of year still has a certain undertone of excitement and anticipation. January 1 may begin a new year, but I think most of us are programmed to still think of the start of school as the initiation of a new year.

Back in the "olden days" when I marched down the street to Woodlawn Elementary School, we all wore stiff new shoes and the girls usually had new wool skirts and sweaters to show off. Needless to say, given our typical September weather wool was not in order. Back then it was dresses and skirts for the girls, and boys wore shirts tucked in. No shorts and flipflops.

What hasn't changed, I'm sure, is the smell of disinfectant and the gleam of freshly polished floors. Blackboards -- or more likely now, white write-on boards -- scrubbed clean of any scribbles from the previous school year. Immaculate lockers that don't yet have the forgotten banana moldering in dark recesses.

I doubt the expressions have changed much, either. Apprehension for first-time students or the "new kid" in class. Joy at reuniting with friends not seen over the summer. Curiosity about home room classmates and how the hierarchy will play out. And dread or delight regarding the teacher with whom the student will spend the year.

Interesting how those emotions follow us through life. Apprehension over a first or new job, curiosity about workplace politics, dread or delight over the specified supervisor.

Helping Em move into her dorm was a stroll down memory lane. Tromping up and down stairs with loads of gear. The confused pile to be sorted out before one could be truly settled into the room. Parents and siblings everywhere. The freshman turmoil --"Free at last!" versus "I'm alone with strangers!" The shrieks of joy or the cool "Dude" as returning students spy friends. Conflicting rumors about open or closed campus facilities. Comparing course schedules. And so forth.

And in a week or two, it will all be routine. Another "new year" underway and the countdown to summer begun.