Saturday, April 17, 2004

Time Flies
The date of my last post turned out to be a harrowing day. Not only was I still upset from the unfairness and betrayal experienced at the hands of FF, but I also returned home from a day visiting my parents to find the window in my front door punched out by a large rock (which was still sitting in the middle of my living room); the door leading out to my garage wide open; and two out of three terrified cats hiding. The third cat remained lost for three more hours, leading to three hours of growing grief and fear that he had been taken by the burglars (perhaps as a sacrifice?) or escaped when they did and had been hit. How does one lose a 25-pound cat? The answer: he wedges himself between the wall and the back of the refrigerator, two feet up off the ground and doesn't squeak for three hours. It was the only place I hadn't looked, that I couldn't imagine him fitting into. All cats were henceforth deemed purrresent and accounted fur, and have slowly gotten over the psychological damage caused by having their safe haven demoralized and trespassed against.

The robber or robbers were actually quite neat about it. They closed the drawers most of the way after rummaging through them and left most stuff where it was. They made off with all of my loose change (about $30), the cash my housemate had just given me for rent and expenses that hadn't yet made it into the bank or used for board ($500), and my housemate's old video camera (hah, joke's on the robbers, it's broken beyond repair anyway). The rock was used with such force that they caused irrepairable damage to the window frame in the door.

The cops came, of course, and I sent them down, guns drawn, to check the basement bc I wasn't sure if they were still in the house and so I'd locked the basement door immediately upon realizing we'd had a break-in to keep them down there. There's no real exit other than the door unless you are tiny, agile and weigh about 50 pounds and can squeeze through the windows past all the debris that's collected in the window wells outside. Thankfully, nobody was there; the cops, however, were quite freaked out—shocked into silence, in fact—when they encountered the five shelving units full of Mage Knight figures staring at them. They took the report, and that was that.

Naturally, this occurred on a Sunday evening, and I was scheduled to start back at my old job on a contract basis the next day. One and a half years of unemployment, my old employer hires me back temporarily, and I have to call in "sick" the very first day because I have to spend the day shoring up the damaged and no longer secure door, shop for a new door, arrange for emergency installation, interview various security companies about turning on the alarm system, and make a gazillion phone calls to insurance and all my credit card companies. Until I cleaned up the mess in the bedroom, I was under the impression that they'd taken the cards too. They didn't. They only took the cash and the camera. And my sense of security and safety, but insurance doesn't cover that. I wouldn't have been in any shape to work the next day anyway.

We cleaned up some of the glass (the entire double-paned 20x30 window had shattered and left a 13-foot-long trail from front door into the kitchen) and my housemate locked the door, put duct tape over the lock, taped cardboard over the window, and stuck a chair under the knob and a huge heavy box against the chair. Confident that that was enough to prevent further intrusion for the night, he went on up to bed and passed out. I, however, wasn't so complacent, and slept sitting up on the couch, fully clothed, with a baseball bat in one hand and my cell phone in the other, jolting awake and jumping out of my skin at every unfamiliar sound. My employer was forgiving, however; I only lost a day and a half of employable time and I managed to squeak about six week's worth of projects out of them before returning to the ranks of the woefully over-educated and unemployed.

It took two months of paperwork and phone calls to straighten out the insurance claims. My reimbursement was enough to cover the cost of the door replacement but that was about it (my housemate is still waiting for his claim to be settled. Nationwide truly was on my side—Allstate, however, is now referred to as Always Late). The good news is, I finally got the new front door I'd been whining about needing. The bad news is, I had to settle for a very unremarkable yet much safer door instead of the gorgeous $1,000 wood door with central skinny arched glass panel that I'd been dreaming of for months. Besides the fact that the insurance company snorted at the price because the original door that came with the house was 25 years old and looked like the $200 doors available today, I deemed that it would be very easy to smash through the central panel with another rock, reach in, and unlock the door. My dream door was no longer safe.

With that behind me, I tried to make the most of the remaining nice fall days, having spent the bulk of the year's best riding time stuck in that windowless office for 40+ hours per week. Then winter and the holidays came, and my horse days were on hold. We were blessed with a few nice days in January, so I got in a "New Year's" ride three days into 2004. That ride started out wonderfully but changed drastically on the way back home. We were due for a big storm, and the horses could sense it. Wildflower became very insistent that we get back to the barn RIGHTNOW and nearly tore my arms off fighting for control. If I'd let her, she would have galloped back home off the trails, over the river and through the woods without so much as a glance to see if that last branch had dismounted me or not.

The remainder of winter became Remodeling Month. As it is with all home improvement projects, two weeks turned into two months but it finally was finished. A cat vs. scanner incident that resulted in the scanner going out of focus and no longer scanning photos clearly lead me to gut and remodel my smallest bedroom so I could move office upstairs instead of leaving it in Grand Central Living Room. Primer, paint, baseboard, bi-fold closet doors, pergo, and all my hard work have produced a lovely lilac and white retreat that is now my bedroom. The master has become my office, complete with gargantuan corner workstation. The living room has been rearranged into a much more pleasing and sparse layout. It's so empty now it feels like a cavern. The temptation to fill it up with "stuff" is hard to overcome.

And here we are. April 2004. It has been eight months almost to the day since my last post. Taxes have come and gone. I find it perplexing that it is more complicated to figure taxes when you're not working than when you are. And why is it that when you are gainfully employed, the government happily gives you money back in the form of refund, but when you are unemployed and need it most, they demand that you pay? Part of the problem is that the former employer sent a 1099-MISC instead of a W-2. Way to send a subtle message: non-employee compensation. OK, I get it. You don't really want me back, you just wanted to use me for awhile in a pinch. I get it.

At least I had some work for awhile.

The coup d'├ętat was that I finally had the chance to reject them. They wanted to keep me on an unpaid retainer—meaning, when they called and said jump, I'd jump. Oh, please, yes, I'm so desperate, please more crumbs, thank you. I had things to do. I was preparing a submission for SXSW, the annual music/art/film festival in Austin. I needed time to finish recording, mix it, package it, get photos taken, write my bio, etc. The deadline was drawing near. I'd already paid the submission fee; backing out because they had a pithy job for me to do was out of the question. So I mustered up my tiny shiny set of balls, the ones I keep locked away in a drawer and out of use, and said thank you but no thanks, I have a project to complete for one of my private clients that has been on hold during my tenure here and I need to prioritize that because they have a deadline coming up.

Not a complete lie; OK, so I'm the client and the project is a demo CD, but nonetheless, it was important to ME, therefore it was due some priority. I finished the project and made the deadline, and the old workplace slowed down so I wasn't needed anyway (still aren't). SXSW didn't invite me to showcase after all, but at least I had the satisfaction of putting my own needs first for a change, prioritizing my musical endeavors, and having the balls to stand up for it all. And I made the deadline. I didn't blow it this time.

Horse-wise, not a lot went on these past months. My other horse, Cheerios, gave me a fright when he developed a sore under his chin. Because he came with a lump on his shoulder that three vets passed off as nothing to worry about, I was concerned and sought the opinion of a fourth vet. He had a needle biopsy that produced great globs of yellow fluid when the needle penetrated the lump (which surprised the vet who wasn't anticipating that, and grossed me out completely) but the results were inconclusive. He then had a tissue biopsy which resulted in three stitches, three staples, more fluid, a few particles, and very benign results: "connective tissue with some fat and mild lymphocytic steatitis". Not cancer, not an infection. End diagnosis: he'd suffered an injury to the area before I'd gotten him (prior to 2001) and the fluid had nowhere to go as it healed so it had just collected.

Nothing to worry about. Unrelated to the chin lump, which went away after 10 days of nightly trips to the barn in the middle of February to hold hot Epsom salt compresses on it.

On tax day, I spent the day at the barn. Hey, I did my taxes the night before—I was allowed. I played with Wildflower. Kind of a get-reacquainted, groom-the-winter-off-of-ya kind of thing to see where things stood after months of non-activity. It would appear that giving them time to "brew" is a good thing! She responded beautifully to the L1 refresher session, mounted and online, and At Liberty Online. Not that she's going 20 feet yet at liberty, but she took enough steps that I can see progress and a definite change from where we left off.

I had a huge triumph, too. Our Sideways Game mounted was acceptable but not gorgeous last year. I thought she might have forgotten, but she remembered fine this year. In fact, she surprised me with how easily she did it today. (Or maybe I surprised her with how easily I asked for it.)

So I said to myself, since we were having such a productive, happy day... what if I drop the lead rope reins (hook them around the horn—remember, now I do everything with a halter and lead rope, no bit or bridle)... and try to ask her for a sidepass using just my body language, mimicing the motions I do with the reins, my body, and legs?

She sidepassed perfectly, both sides. As easily as if I had the reins in my hand and was touching her.

I nearly fell out of the saddle laughing!

I just had to test it a little more (can't quit now) so I attempted to ride her around a little, guiding her only with my body (eyes, head, bellybutton, legs) and though it wasn't pretty or perfect, there was some delay between when I applied the question and when the light went on, there were hints of the future. She had a lot of "try" today; she made the connections a bit hesitantly, but she did figure out eventually that I was asking to turn left, turn right, indirect rein, baaaaaaack up (that was tough, took a lot of repeating and I only got one intentional step so far), trot, walk.

She hasn't figured out stop yet w/o reins (or I haven't). But I'm happy. A couple steps here and there, an attempt to decipher what I'm asking for, that's good enough for right now. I might actually be able to handle carrot stick riding, Cherokee Bridle and all (I wasn't so sure last year). I mean, doesn't it make sense that if you can get a response, however hesitant and sloppy, just using your body, you should be able to get a more refined response with the other tools? Or maybe it's the reverse, I don't know—we'll see!

That's what I'm guessin', anyway! All I know is, I can't wait for the day (far, far away) when I can chuck all the equipment and just hop on and ride like Carol and Pat and everyone does. Just look, and have the horse "be" there. What a free feeling! I got a tester spoonful today and I want more, more, more!!!!!

Of course, as we all know with horses being the way they are, I have to take today's experiences with a huge block of salt bc she probably won't do any of this again for a long, long time.;-) It's a tease. "yeah (says the horse)... I can do all this. when I want to... which is only when the moon and sun are aligned conjointly with venus in retrograde during the seventh quarter moon of the fourteenth year..."

At least I had my moment. It'll give me something to hold onto during the dark days to follow, when even a simple yo-yo game becomes a disappointing nightmare. One step backward.... two—er— C'mon. Just one. One step... no, not on my foot, backward, mare! Again. One step ba—ouch!!! Don't run me over! One step backward... good... two steps forw—dammit! sighhhhhhh

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