Bravery is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately, and this blogger has hit the nail on the head. Kudos, YoungandTwenty! If only I were still young and twenty but with the perspective I have today. 🙂
When I was about eleven or twelve I took a horse named Applejack in 4H. He was a beautiful sorrel American Quarter Horse gelding who was all of five years old. For those of you who may know anything about horses, a five year old horse is probably not the best choice for a very green rider, and that is what I was… green with a capital G.
I cleaned up in Showmanship classes, but when it came to time ride him, it was a completely different story. The worst fall happened at The Madison County Fairgrounds. He bolted (who knows why) and I lost control, falling to the ground just before he ran under a guy-wire that sliced the saddle horn in two. I don’t remember the fall, but I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t landed head first on a strip of pavement. Would the wire have sliced through me, too? I was hospitalized with a concussion.
The next fall I remember also happened at the fairgrounds, although this time I was in the arena with a bunch of other kids, just trying to have a good time. Again, Applejack spooked and took off, bouncing me off toward the fence rail. All I remember from that one is hooves pounding the sand next to my head as my horse galloped on by.
That was the tumble that did it, the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Although I’m sure I rode Applejack after that, I don’t remember it, and it seems like it was a pretty quick transition from being a star-struck horse owner, to…well… not.
I should note that all this happened back in “the good ole’ days” when kids who rode Western didn’t wear helmets. I’m definitely glad things are changing in that regard.
But back to the point of my story… when my daughter Jillian expressed an interest in learning to ride, I was all for it. My days with Applejack weren’t my last foray into horse ownership. (Once bitten by the horse bug, I don’t think it ever entirely goes away.) My parents bought me a wonderful 20+ year old mare named Babe when I was in high school, and although I didn’t show her, every moment I spent with her was pleasurable. If I’d had her before Applejack, I’m sure my horse showing path would have been significantly altered.
When Jillian was very little I bought the first horse I ever purchased on my own, a black Arabian named Prince. He was just two when I got him and after some training at a barn in Marysville I had high hopes for him. Unfortunately, my fear got in the way. I’d hit the ground too many times. Trust was a big deal. If I couldn’t trust him, there was no way he was going to be able to trust me. You see where this is going. He now has a wonderful home as a trail mount for a lovely Parelli enthusiast. I know he got the best end of that deal.
So, fast-forward to today. We have two horses in our pasture, a sweet Arab-Quarter cross named Molly, and a miniature horse named Voodoo, plus an American Quarter Horse at a barn outside of South Charleston, where Jillian takes lessons. Jillian’s had horse riding lessons off and on since she was four years old. She loves horses. Which is why we took the plunge and bought her the horse that resides at the barn away from our home. The horse we thought would be the perfect mount for her to start out with in local shows and 4H.
But… it hasn’t worked out as we’d hoped. The easy-going, been-there-done-that horse that we thought we were getting has proven to be a touch unpredictable, even when lunged before riding. I thought I was doing everything right, but it comes down to this… a horse is still an animal, unpredictable due to its very nature as a prey animal. I can’t eliminate all risk, but when risk leads to fear, what is a parent to do?
She’s already taken several tumbles. The last one being the most traumatic, as her foot was caught in the stirrup when she hit the ground. It has shaken her confidence like I’ve never seen. And as a parent, I’m having a hard time trying to force her over that hump. Don’t we have the reaction of fear for a reason? Without it, would humans have made it as far as we have? But what’s the cost? Don’t we need a touch of fear in order to foster success? To spur us on to become our best selves?
Sadly, I don’t have the answers, but I was given the glimpse of a possibility this past weekend, when my husband’s uncle and cousin came by to help teach us how to drive our miniature horse, Voodoo. I watched as Jillian took the lines and looked confident as we line drove Voodoo around our yard. Could this be the stepping stone? Could this tiny little mare be the stepping stone to propel Jillian over her fear of the saddle? Maybe I jumped the gun on buying the “show” horse. I may never know, but what I do know is that Jillian is happy and confident with Voodoo.
Last night when I was tucking her into bed she said, “Maybe I could take Voodoo in 4H instead of Jett. Would that be okay?” Of course, my answer was a resounding, “Whatever you want to do, Sweetheart.” But a nugget of regret taps at me from the inner recesses of my brain… Make her face her fears, Alicia. She’ll never experience success if you don’t make her face her fears now.”
If only we all had a crystal ball. But I’m open to advice…
What would YOU do – make her ride, or give her a chance to regain her confidence?
If you know any writers or have spent time listening to their conversations, I’m sure you’ve heard reference to the term “muse.” In my mind, the muse is that little voice, the imagination if you will, behind the plot lines and characters that come through on the pages of the writer’s creation. Lately, my muse has exhibited the signs of a very serious problem. My muse has ADD.
Short of providing an imaginary dosage of Ritalin, I’m at a loss for what to do. The project I’m working on is the second book in a series and I’ve got TONS of ideas. Too many, perhaps. I’ve been working on this particular novel for the past few months and have written well over 200 pages in total. Unfortunately, those 200 pages are spread across seven different Word documents and take my characters in seven different directions.
I’ll be tapping along on my laptop for days on end following one storyline, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, my muse jumps up on my shoulder and screams, “Yeah, just kidding, I think that character should do __________ instead!”
Like a mother with an ornery child, the first few times didn’t bother me so much, I thought it was cute. A mark of my great imaginative prowess, even. Look at all these great ideas I have. Now, I’m done with that. My ornery child of a muse is not so cute anymore.
So, what should I do?
I’ve tried writing through it. Going on in the direction I started, but I realized pretty quickly that when you shun your muse, your muse sticks her tongue out at you from behind a tree and hides.
Hmm… So here I sit, writing a blog post instead of working on my novel because my muse is having a field day with my creative process.
Where’s that bottle of Ritalin??
Cristian Mihai sums up The Perks of Being a Writer…
One morning, many years ago, a little red-haired girl stood at the top of a flight of stairs, rubbing her eyes and yawning the remnants of sleep away. Her stuffed turtle was clutched in her little fist as she descended the stairs toward the scent of freshly fried bacon and homemade pancakes. That little girl was me, of course, and this morning I was transported back to those days thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Growing up, I spent a good deal of time at my grandparents’ farm. The century old structure somehow soaked up all those memories, holding them tight within her walls through the years, and today they came spilling out. Ten years ago, Doug and I sold our home in Columbus after agreeing to purchase “the farm” (as we lovingly called it) from my aunt. Unfortunately, the best laid plans do not always work out, and such was the case with the farm. Instead, we were left to quickly find a replacement home and ended up where we live today. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the transaction had worked out. Those walls that saw so many Christmas gatherings, the floors that withstood the frolicking of rambunctious cousins, and the yard that provided endless hours of sun-drenched entertainment would stay in the family. I often regret that we couldn’t make that happen.
This morning I drove down a familiar long gravel driveway. Under the guise of a garage sale, I was prying into the lives of the couple who now lived within those memory-filled walls. The closer I got to the house, the more solid the lump in my throat became. What would I find? Would this couple have any interest in sharing a walk down memory lane for people they’d never met? Thankfully, they did.
These amazing people have lovingly returned my grandparents’ old farmhouse back into a well-loved home. As I ventured inside, I was struck by the care they’d taken. Flowers bloomed across the yard and along the walk. The kitchen, where I’d eaten more silver-dollar pancakes than a child ever should, was in its glory. An apron front sink spoke of an era gone by, and each furnishing seemed specially chosen to accent the age of the home. I was enthralled, and frankly, leaving was hard.
But as I drove away, I realized something. These wonderful people are perfect caretakers for the farm. I’d been afraid the new residents would somehow strip those memories away, but instead, they’ve managed to magnify them. I can still see that little red-haired girl at the top of the stairs, with turtle in hand, waiting to join her Grandmother and Grandaddy around a worn kitchen table.
Deep down I will always bear a seed of regret, and perhaps, when the time is right, I’ll have the opportunity to make it right. But in the meantime, I can rest easy, knowing that through the kindness of strangers, I got one more walk down memory lane.
On Monday, we came home from school to find kittens tucked away in the feed room of our barn.
Those of you who live on a farm know that unexpected baby animals don’t always make it. Over spring break, Jillian’s rabbits had a litter of four kits, all of whom perished on that frigidly cold night after three days of 70 degree weather. Mother Nature at it’s best, some might say. However, I know a little eleven year old who was mighty bummed about it.
So, when she came to the house after feeding on Monday, with a grin as wide as the Grand Canyon, I knew something was up. In her hands she carried a cute little ball of kitten fluff. Of course, nothing can completely erase the disappointment felt at the bunnies’ demise, but if anything can ease the pain it’s a nose full of kitten fur!
Here’s to warm spring days and bright eyed new kittens!
Recent events have given me reason to contemplate the importance of trust. Whether it’s the trust between friends,
the trust among colleagues,
or perhaps the trust between a girl and her horse…
without trust the relationship is damaged, often broken beyond repair.
Why is it that we all too often fail to take care of that one element on which all healthy interactions are based?
We are so quick to throw others under the bus in order to save our own skin. In this world of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and SLO’s, trust is apparently dead. Whatever happened to good old fashioned camaraderie? I wish I had an answer, but sadly, I don’t. Every day I see more and more of the disease that is eating away at the core of my workplace and I’m certain that mine is not the only district afflicted. What can we, the minions on the front lines, due to curb the damage done by those who seek to impose ridiculous standards on the youngest and most vulnerable citizens?
This photo is of my daughter Jillian and her horse, Jett. Between them exists an amazing amount of mutual trust. She trusts him to take care of her while she’s in the saddle, and he trusts her to do the same for him. Through this trust they learn from each other and together build a solid foundation on which to move forward.
Is there a reason the government can’t trust me to teach the students with whom I’m entrusted? As a reading teacher, my job is to help fill some of the gaps that weaken the foundation my students have built. More high-stakes testing and bullying by state mandates will only serve to create foundations that resemble Swiss cheese. I suppose I should be grateful. In essence the state is creating better job security for intervention teachers like me, since the students will be forced to suffer through unproven, unreliable, and unachievable standards. There has to be something we can do to bail ourselves out of this mess. The relatively meager State and Federal funding available is not worth selling out the establishment of public education.
We need to re-infuse our education system with the trust that is necessary to create lifelong learners, not life long test takers.
Yes, that’s right. I do have the best daughter in the world. (Argue all you want, to me she’ll always be number one.) 🙂
I often find myself bemoaning the fact that Jillian struggles with so many aspects of life. Be it academia or the world of sports, it constantly seems to be a struggle. But, as I realized today (and not for the first time), WHO CARES?!? She is, without a doubt, one of the most caring, agreeable 10-year-olds you’ll ever meet.
Today I listened as she had a phone conversation with one of her friends. (Who shall remain nameless in the interest of protecting the innocent… or, not so innocent. Whichever the case may be.) Jillian has a generally rather annoying habit of having full phone conversations on speakerphone. I’m not sure if the other party realizes this, but regardless, today it worked in my favor.
I listened as this “friend” griped on and on about how unfair it was that she couldn’t come to swim with Jillian. On and on went the friend, accusing us of denying her the privilege simply because we didn’t want them around, instead of acknowledging the actual fact that the large un-heated, in-ground pool was, quite frankly, too cold to make for an enjoyable day at the pool. We had, after all, just emerged from a snap of Fall-like weather.
As I listened I became more and more aware of the fact that Jillian was saying nothing. She didn’t agree with her friend. We had talked about the temperature of the water, and Jillian was well aware of the chilliness that comes with too cool pool water. Blue lips and shivers are fun for no one, unless maybe you’re a member of your local polar bear club. We, however, are not.
I digress… I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked over to the phone and said simply that the pool was too cold. Jillian’s friend retorted petulantly, “But my pool isn’t too cold. You just don’t want us there!”
This is where I must note, that this friend’s pool is the above ground 4-foot deep variety, which tends to warm very quickly in the late summer sunshine, unlike the large 8 foot deep pool in question. I did my best to explain this, but again was met with nothing short of nastiness and disrespect. I then was promptly hung up on by Jillian’s 10-year-old friend.
It was after this exchange that I realized how truly lucky I am to be blessed with such a special little girl. Instead of being angry with me (which I must admit, probably would have been my choice at that age) she said she understood and that it wasn’t very nice of her to act that way at all.
Wow… that was a moment.
I think our children often teach us more than we ever teach them. This was one of those moments. My daughter showed me that she’s more mature than I give her credit for most of the time. Even though this friend may not be the best influence, I can trust that Jillian will hold her own and not get dragged down into the spiral of disrespect.
I always suspected, but now I know, she’s truly the best daughter ever!
Well, I think we’ve established that I’ve got some work to do when it comes to frequent blogging. But, the past it the past, so let’s move on!
Several weeks ago I bought a Groupon that gave me a good deal on one of Ancestry.com’s new DNA tests. I spit into the tube and sent it in figuring I’d get a report back filled with a mish-mash of various cultures. That’s what we Americans are, right? We’re the 15 bean soup of the cultural world, filled with a little bit of every kind of bean. I was pleasantly astonished when the results came back: 87% British Isles, 13% Scandinavian
So that makes my long lost relatives Vikings that emigrated to Ireland and/or Scotland, right?
It’s funny. I’ve always had a rather obsessive fascination with all things Irish. In college I took Irish-Gaelic language classes and Irish dancing lessons. I have an enormous collection of Irish music CD’s and take unbelievable pride in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps our roots do influence the person we become. It’s an interesting idea anyway.
I had the opportunity in 2010 to travel to Ireland with my mother and will forever be grateful for that chance. We had a lovely time and I left hoping I’d be able to return someday. This summer will mark my “someday” as I travel back across the Atlantic for my writing residency. This time, however, I’ve talked Doug and Jillian into joining me and I can’t wait to show them around the place I can’t seem to get enough of.
A couple nights ago I found myself searching the internet. That, like most people today, is not all that unusual for me. But the subject of my search was a bit off. I was searching homes for sale. After a steady diet of home renovation and house hunting episodes, I suppose it wasn’t too far fetched, except that I was searching for homes in Ireland. Yes, you read right… Ireland. Now, let me just clarify something here. There is no way in the world that I would be able to financially afford a new house right now, either in the US or across the pond. I figure we are so far upside down in our current home that I’ll be living here when I’m 93 still paying a ridiculous mortgage on a home not worth what we paid for it. But I digress. We can dream, can’t we?
I have visions of living in a little cottage just on the outskirts of a small Irish town like Kenmare. The southwest part of Ireland just feels like home. I wonder if they need any reading specialist/writers and tool and die project engineers in that part of the world? Alas, I will probably never know. Although I have told Doug in no uncertain terms that if we ever win the lottery (which we rarely play) then I am buying a home in Ireland. He thinks I’m a bit crazy, but perhaps our adventure across the pond this summer will give him just the perspective he needs to lend my dream a bit of credence.