Friday, September 12, 2014

DESERVING part 2: learning to just enjoy and appreciate this.

My last post was basically a big old philosophical gut-spilling, and now that I've got that out, I can get on with the next topic:

My new saddle.

This is the first time I've ever had a NEW saddle.  I bought one a few years ago that was like-new and that was a thrill, but it had been somebody else's saddle first. This sucker is NEW.

When I brought saddles home this summer for trial that had never been sat in, I wrapped the stirrups with vet rap to keep them from getting scuffed and put my own straps on them so they wouldn't get marked, and barely breathed on the thing so it wouldn't be damaged.  I always keep my saddles covered but I was afraid my cats would jump on them and scratch them so I double covered them… basically having a couple thousand dollars worth of new saddles in my barn was nerve wracking.

Most of the stuff in my life is second hand, or just plain ancient, and for the most part, I'm okay with that.  I've owned four vehicles in my life and none of them came to me less than ten years old.  I don't care.  I've never had a car loan in my name.  My saddles have been of mysterious background and well worn in, and that's good too.  My clothes?  Well, we have a joke in our family that our clothes come from three sources: the thrift store, the feed mill, and the merch table at rock concerts.  In my case, there's another, which is hand-me-downs from my friend's teenagers.  My iGadget was new.  That was a big deal.  For once, I got something that wasn't damaged or full of the quirks of wear and tear.  I only got the new one because the one I had, which used to be Jethro's, just Up And Died one day.  Luckily there was some kind of warranty or something or I'd have been Gadgetless.  The young fella in the Apple store blue shirt grinned and said, "Guess what?  Mom's getting a new phone," and I was thrilled.  It was MINE and everything worked!!!

I like old stuff.  I like old furniture.  I love old tack.

I can honestly say that I never thought much about owning a NEW saddle.  It wouldn't have been necessary.  Well, this summer, it became desperately necessary.

With Copper recovering from an injured leg, Phoenix was doing all the lessons -- and he was doing it with a saddle that I suspected didn't fit quite right. He got more and more miserable and reluctant and stiff and sore and sad.  Long story short, after a couple saddle fittings and a heck of an education for me, none of my saddles fit his unique (and incredibly handsome) shape.

Alright, I figured.  Okay.  So my income is way down, both horses off, plus a vet bill, and a load of hay coming, and I have to buy another saddle.  Alright.  I'll sell the two that don't fit either horse.  Hopefully I can get enough to buy another one.  Geez, I might have to spend… gasp… $500 on this.  Maybe even $600.

Well, the prices just kept going up.  $750.  $695.  $900.  Panic sets in.  None of them are right.  One feels pretty okay to sit in, but Phoenix pins his ears and stumbles along like he wants to get this over with.  And they all slide back, which is a problem I've always had with this horse.


I like it, it's pretty, maybe prettier than I'd have chosen (because apparently I don't think I deserve anything that new and pretty and fancy, ahem, deserve!!!)  but there's no denying that after 20 minutes of riding, this saddle looks like I strapped it onto his rump. This isn't the right saddle.

I tell the nice man at the tack shop down the road that I'm accepting the fact that I will have to go into debt for this.  He's got one more in the shop that he didn't send home with me to try, because he knew it was out of my price range.

But what's another few hundred bucks after that?  I stood there looking at this gorgeous Circle Y barrel saddle, feeling like I got kicked in the gut and the butt at the same time.  I also kind of felt like I was about to jump off a cliff.

It is the eighth saddle I've taken home from the tack shop.  I still don't think it's perfect, but if it slides back, it's only a finger width.  My horse will move.  He's not recovered yet either, but I think now I'm working on his soured mind.  That could take longer than healing his sore back.  And it's silly that this horse, this solid, thick necked, mellow, laid back gentleman of a horse, is wearing a barrel saddle.  He's no speed demon.  But the thing is, he's got a very short back, and this was the shortest skirt I could find, where any other saddle wide enough for his shoulders was also long enough for a normal wide horse with a proportionately long back to match.  This one sits there politely and doesn't dig into him anywhere.  At first I didn't really like sitting in it, until I realized that NEW saddles are kind of a pain, literally.  The leather is really stiff and the fenders aren't shaped yet.  The fenders hang straight down and the stirrups are totally in the wrong position for your feet.  So my knees and ankles were aching after 15 minutes of riding. I'd heard of this but never experienced it.  The shop let me try it out for a couple weeks (because they're very kind, and also because I've been buying stuff there for 25 years.  Also, they know where I live!!)

And it took me that long to decide.  Yes, despite the budget problems, and my deeply bred Mennonite tendency to deny myself of anything too flashy, (not to mention be extremely tight with my money!) this is the best one I found.  

Seriously, the Mennonite jokes.  One day at the tack shop, a student of mine showed up while I was talking to the owner.  All of us happen to have Mennonite surnames.  I told my student I was gonna stop being so Mennonite about it and buy that fancy saddle.  I promised I wasn't gonna paint all the chrome flat black.  Snort haha!

So I put down my deposit last week.  

Now I've been setting it on the saddle rack with the fenders twisted around and a broomstick through the stirrups to get the fenders to stay turned the right way.  I've been using the latigo keeper and the cinch keeper, which I wasn't before it was mine.  Whoa.  It's mine.

I go out to the barn and pull the cover off this saddle and just stare at the thing.

I never.  I just never.

It's carved everywhere except for the rough out seat and fenders, and the rawhide covered stirrups.  Everything is carved and tooled and fancied.  It's carved behind the cantle, even.  It's got silver on it.  I've never, in three decades, had a saddle with silver on it.  I don't NEED silver or tooling.  It doesn't make the saddle fit better.

But it's pretty.

And I'm a girl and I like pretty things.

Is that enough to justify going into debt for it?

Well the truth is, if this thing was plain dark brown with nothing pretty on it but it fit my precious prince of a horse, I'd buy it.  Even at this price.  He needs to be comfortable and happy.  That is the bottom line.  I'm doing this for him.

And if I need further justification to make myself feel better, there are much more expensive saddles out there.  And fancier.

But this is the one available to me.  This is the one.

Twenty-one year old me would have kicked a puppy and stolen a Bible to get my hands on a saddle like this.  Back then, I had visions of some serious barrel racing with my hot little red horse.  Of course, I was impoverished back then (hmm, nothing's changed except we're all older…)  Then I had some babies and just kept on barrel racing in the same saddle I did my western pleasure classes in.  (And we weren't awesome at any of it, but we did okay and had a good time.) Then I quit showing.

Well folks, I got my barrel saddle.

I have wished this happened under happier circumstances rather than feeling like I didn't really have much of a choice in the matter and had to do it NOW.  (I felt like this two years ago when Jethro bought his gorgeous new VW.)

But whatever.  This is the way it is.  I'm allowed to saddle up my horse and take a second to look him over, get used to how he looks with it on him, and yes, notice the way the floodlights on the barn wall make the silver sparkle.  Do I deserve this?  Does Phoenix?  Does it matter?

A special thank you to Sprucewood Tack Shop for all their hours of help with this.  If you're in Southwestern Ontario, go take a drive and do some shopping!

And also if you end up at the New Hamburg Fall Fair this Saturday afternoon, go watch the western horse show.  Just do it.  I'll be there with a clipboard.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The concept of DESERVING is one I struggle with.

What do we deserve?  How do we measure that???

Do I deserve to be married to a man I love and who loves me right back?  I'd like to think I do.  But then does a woman who chose a crappy husband deserve what she got?  What if she's a good decent person who made a bad choice.  Did she get what she deserves?  Now how about people who marry for love, and it works, and it's good… but by some cruel twist of fate they can't be together anymore?  What if one of them is the victim of a horrible disease that robs the body and the mind, leaving him unable to communicate?  Who deserves that?  NOBODY.  I wouldn't wish that on a worst enemy let alone a loved one.  What if, god forbid, a spouse dies too soon?  Nobody deserves that.

Do I deserve to live on a beautiful property in the country?  Do I get to be there just because I want to be there?  Because I dreamed of it and wished for it?  Did I work hard enough to end up there?

What if it's not mine?  What if I'm there on borrowed time and have overstayed?  Is that the result of mistakes I made in my adult life, and therefore I don't deserve a permanent home?

How about my children?  What good could I have done, in this life or any other, to deserve two young people that amazing and awesome and wonderful?  And how, when other people have suffered because their children are in jail, or in full time institutionalized care, or missing or gone forever?  My god, I am so lucky, so appreciative and I don't care if I've done anything to deserve them.  I'm just thankful.

It's the same with the family I was born into.  Maybe I didn't deserve them, but I got them, and it's shaped me into who I am.  Blessed again.  All I had to do was enter the world.

Do I deserve the privilege of being Canadian, with good health care and public education, and democracy, and no tanks rolling down my road shooting everything in the way, no bombs going off overhead?

But then, do I deserve a crooked spine and a scattered mind and a fragile constitution?

Do I deserve to be chased for most of my life by a sneaky lurking depression?

Do I deserve horses?  It's not actually a god-given right.

Do I deserve a truck with squishy brakes, a car with rust spots and a broken ventilation fan?

Do I deserve that flashy fancy saddle in the barn, the one that 21 year old me would have gladly gone into debt for?  The one I'll be going into debt for because I ran out of choices and had to make a decision?

(That'll be part 2.)

Maybe we don't deserve anything.  Maybe we can try to work hard and make good choices, but ultimately, we get what we get, and we have to put all our effort into being thankful for whatever we can.  And then deal with it.

I just have to figure out how to deal with it...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Let's be honest: this has been a kind of crappy summer.

Any of you reading this from my general stomping grounds, southwestern Ontario, Canada (on the map it would be the big fish's tail) might assume that I'm about to talk about the weather.  Despite the fact that we Canadians loooove complaining about the weather, I'm not going to.  I know, it's shocking.  I have actually appreciated the abnormal cool this year.  It's been a nice break.  I'm not going through three complete changes of clothes in a day because I sweat so much.  (How do ya like me now, eh?)  We haven't gone through as much electricity for fans and that window A/C unit.  I can sleep at night without having heat induced nightmares.  The Pug can breathe.  And besides, the stupid inflatable pool ended up at the dump last summer and we couldn't afford to replace it, so I'm relieved to not be hanging around moping about not being able to immerse myself in cold water on a hot day.

So it's not the weather.

It's everything else.

I keep typing stuff and deleting it.

I don't know what I want to say here.

Deep breath.  Copper did her first lesson since June and her leg didn't swell up.  So that's good.  Phoenix looks a lot more comfortable in that $1400 dollar Circle Y saddle than he did in the other seven saddles I dragged home on trial from the tack shop.  Or really, anything I've strapped onto his back since he got here seven years ago, although it's hard to tell because he's developed such a crappy attitude after being uncomfortable for all this time.  And I now have a real education in saddle fit after this crappy summer.  So that's… good?

More deleted stuff.

It's just been a drag.

I can pep talk myself until my eyeballs rattle but it doesn't change the facts.

There's more but I can't even write it because blecchhhhh it just sucks.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Go order this book and read it.  

Here's the blurb:

In Chicago, Catholics divide the city according to parishes, not neighborhoods. Your parish is your world. So what do you do when that world violently collapses?

Sixteen year old Maureen Hayes is a typical Catholic high school girl. When she and Jimmy Ryan, star of the St. Patrick´s football team, sneak out of a dance to fool around a little, she is certain that her popularity rating is about to go from lame to fame. That is, until she and Jimmy, hidden in the shadows of the locker room, witness something they weren´t meant to see: the celebrated new parish priest committing an unspeakable act. This horrifying incident unleashes a series of events that will thrust Maureen, Jimmy, and four of their friends into a world where many people and things are not as they had seemed. In the end, Maureen must walk a thin line between keeping a tragic secret, remaining loyal to her love for Jimmy, and helping to expose a dangerous criminal and a high-ranking Church official, who will stop at nothing to avoid being caught.

Almost Me, Almost You, is a powerful coming of age story set in the 1980s against the backdrop of Chicago´s Catholic South Side. Propelled in equal parts by suspense and the haunting innocence of first love, it is a heroic story of friendship, loyalty and belonging. 

I can tell you right now, it's a good book worth reading. My friend Erin is bravely stepping into the world of publishing, and I fully support her in this.  Go get yourself some reading material!! 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A little game called "Bad Idea Pony Of The Week"

I scroll through ads for houses I'll never live in and horses I'll never own.  It satisfies my need for being judgemental.  I can harshly criticize how people think they should decorate their houses when they're trying to sell them, and of course, bitch about how advertising a horse tends to bring out the stupidity in people. 

It turns into a game when I bring my husband into it.  Poor fella.  He gets regular emails from me featuring perfectly adorable and pretty much useless little teensy ponies and minis, all this while he's got like, eight musicians on the floor and the clock's ticking and he hasn't eaten in a few hours and there's probably a microphone cable somewhere in the building that's cacking out… and how can he concentrate when there's a picture on his iGadget of those little ears oh my gosh poking out of that fluffy mane eeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

Recently I've been seriously considering scraping together a few hundred bucks and buying a pony.  I like ponies and I don't think they're evil.  I think many don't get trained well because they're little and adults don't want to bother with them.  I, however, am about the size of the average 11 year old.  I am pony sized.

Also people tend to treat ponies like kittens instead of what they are, which is basically shrunk down draft horses - full sized attitudes.  And strong.  Are you aware of how freaking strong a Shetland pony is?  The strength to size ratio is crazy.

I have a flaw that makes me kind of want to go plunk down the $150 and take home the saddest skinniest dirtiest little pony standing in the middle of the slop yard.  BAD IDEA.

JETHRO:  That's a vet bill.  That's not a pony.  That's a pile of dewormer and corrective hoof trimming right there is what that is.

HEIDI: But I really think just being taken care of would do him a world of good.

JETHRO: Damage.  Damage from the day he was born.  He's equine garbage.

HEIDI: Some clean hay and water, a few hours a day on grass… some good firm handling and lots of pats and snuggles… he'd be good.

JETHRO: Please don't.

Then there's the pony who basically just needs a different place to live.

HEIDI: Honey check out this ad!  Broke to ride, good with kids, done parades and shows, need gone ASAP BECAUSE SHE DISCOVERED THE STUD DOWN THE ROAD AND WON'T STAY HOME ANYMORE!  Bwahahahahaha!  Are they gonna use the $500 to put up a new fence?  hahahaha!

JETHRO: Oh dear lord.

Of course there's the "miniature pony" thing which is kind of… not the same thing.  I mean, I sometimes have a hard time telling a small Shetland from a mini, especially if they aren't exactly well built specimens, but I always wonder if people actually know what they've got.

My favourite?  The Percheron Pony.

Ummmmmmm….?????  NO.

HEIDI: Here's one.  Not sure if broke, was being ridden before we got her, haven't tried since, easily jumps 3 ft.  So….

JETHRO: And that's how she discovered the stud down the road?

HEIDI: That's a different pony.

JETHRO: Different pony, same story.  BAD IDEA.

Of course there's this scenario…

JETHRO: I don't think the two for one pony idea is good.

HEIDI: Oh come on, you'd love a little foal running around here.

JETHRO:  You wouldn't.  You already said you don't want to fuss around with foaling.

HEIDI: But wouldn't it be fun just to see what the offspring of the mystery stud would turn out like?  Hee hee hee hee!

Seriously, why are half the pony mares advertised already knocked up?  Please don't answer that.  We haven't got all day here.

My favourite one is the little pinto mare with the crazy headgear.  She's got a halter on and over top of that, a strange looking bridle with a big honking curb bit with curved shanks.  Why even make a bit like that pony sized?  Are we cutting cattle with Shetlands?  And what's with that bridle?  I enlarge the picture on my iGadget.  Oh my.  Wow.  That's not a noseband.  That's the brow band.  It's halfway between her eyes and nostrils.

HEIDI: Oh look honey.  This one's broke to ride and drive and Heidi please get me out of here.

Truth is, I don't want the nasty run down sick unbroke pony.  As much as my soft heart wants to pluck them out of there and give them a good life here at the old homestead, I can't afford it.  Not with time or money.  And honestly, whenever we play Bad Idea Pony, I know exactly why it's a bad idea.

I have a cart upstairs in the barn that I can't get rid of even though we haven't used it in about 30 years.

I have pony sized tack.

I don't think I want three horses.

But two and a half might be okay.

I need to start inventing rules for a game called Good Idea Pony Of The Week.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Leaves on trees.

Grass is green.

Plants are growing.

Horses are sleek and fat and muscular.

I am sleeping well.

I ride two or three times a week, usually only a half hour, but it's okay.

The thing I'm writing has been put into paper form and is mostly covered with orange marks.

The barn and the house are still a disastrous mess but Whatever, right?

So far, so good...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I need a break. (And a tractor to deal with all the problems…)


I know at least four of you are waiting for me to tell you all about our trip to the Juno awards, which happened, like, three weeks ago.  And every day I think of more stuff I'd like to share with the world, or at least the seven of you who are still reading!

But it just ain't happening, folks.

This winter insists on dragging along… we had a few decent days of above-freezing weather, the snow banks were kind enough to melt slowly and not cause catastrophic floods, which was nice and I was very grateful.  The layer of scum hung on for a little longer until we got a decent rain.  More gratitude for a decent rain as opposed to a battering.  The place just stunk the high heaven though.  I need to seriously deal with some s**t.  For real, and metaphorically.  Well, anyways, now there's an inch of snow on the ground again.  And it's cold.  All weekend I mentally added up the list of outdoor work needing to be done, then having a lie-down to recover from the exhaustion of just thinking about gravel on the lawn, garbage that blew around all winter, dog poop, everything that didn't get done last fall before the winter hit.  Now I'm secretly relieved to have the snow cover it up for another few days.

It's not totally about the weather though.  I'm wrestling with depression again this year.  Last year I was feeling exceptionally well this time of year, but not now.

You know what the big difference is?  I KNOW THIS ISN'T PERMANENT.

So I'm feeling wretched.  It is what it is.  It's what's happening right now.  I'll deal with it and I'll get over it.

I can get cleaned up and leave the house and put on a smile, and it's a real smile.  I can laugh and enjoy people.  It's exhausting though, and afterwards I need recovery time.  The worst part is when people ask those innocent questions:  How's it going?  How are you?  What's up these days?  

I don't lie.  I'll honestly say, the last few months have been a challenge.

I've figured something out though…

I need to be writing.

Not here.

Why wasn't I writing all winter, when I needed excuses to not be outside freezing my butt off?  My brain felt frozen.  I'd open this thing up and stare at it and feel kind of blank.  I've written something that's full of knots and I couldn't figure out how to untie them.  The harsh winter is over now, it's spring, the season most normal people associate with new life, and which I associate with scum and dirt and manure and unpredictable skies.  Difficulty.

You know what order I keep seeing? Things get worse before they get better.

I just need to take a few weeks off here… and untie some knots, rake up some dead grass, shuffle some words around, move some manure...