Going Vegetarian

It’s so funny that I am doing this because up until now, I never thought I could. Never imagined I could eat 3 meatless meals in a week let alone all in the same day and then wake up and do it again… and again… and again. How could I do all the insane things I would absolutely be required to do if I made this choice? The changes I would have to make were too extensive, too inconvenient, too much work. When you are bombarding your body with toxins and depriving it of nutrients with every bite of food or sip of liquid you take, it’s pretty easy to to feel overwhelmed with real change of any magnitude. Thus, I was causing my own horrible health, obesity and all the crap that comes in that package.

ME. I did it to myself. No one else is to blame.

Well…. not anymore.

It’s been three weeks since I started gradually moving over to a vegetarian/raw food/unprocessed lifestyle. You notice I didn’t say DIET. What I was doing, that was a DIET and I’ve decided, I’m just not going to eat DEATH anymore. I don’t want to DIE. Not by cancer. Not by diabetes. Not by heart attack. Not by stroke. All of those fatalities being the prime results of my previous DIET.

This is the truth. It isn’t a trick and it certainly isn’t complicated. If you eat DEATH, you will DIE. You will die horribly, painfully, and long before your time. If you eat LIFE then you will LIVE. You will live longer, live healthy, and pass away when you are supposed to. Not horribly painfully. Not from prolonged exposure to chemo treatments for cancer due to the acidic state of your body caused by a horrible diet or from 17 different pharmaceutical medications for all your other diet-caused, totally preventable illnesses.

If you eat dead things, you will steal both quality of living and quantity of years from yourself.

If you eat life, you will have peace of mind and body/soul. It really is that simple.

THE STATE OF THINGS BEFORE THE SWITCH:

I am 29 years old. I’m 5’4, and my “healthy” weight has been determined to be between 120 and 145 lbs. When I made the switch I weighed in at 204 which is the heaviest I have ever been. I was eating McDonald’s Egg McMuffin meal with a medium coffee with 7 cream and 7 sugar for breakfast 3-4 times a week and pretty much skipping breakfast the other days. On weekends I would make canned biscuits and gravy (actually made from scratch) for my husband and share in that meal. Every day I woke up I craved the McMuffin meal. No joke. It called to me. Seriously. Every time I ate one it was like a taste explosion of happy awesomeness and warm feelings all over. (Note: I have discovered in only a few weeks that healthy food doesn’t cause that sort of intensity of feelings when you eat it. It’s not what I think of as “emotionally charged” eating. It doesn’t have all the addictive chemicals of processed fast food.)

For lunch I was eating whatever fast, processed, hot meal I wanted at whatever chain restaurant I happened to be passing by that day. Most of the time it was Hardees chicken tenders and fries with sweet tea or some kind of burger or pizza or turkey and bacon sandwich. Those were he staples. I ate fries and drank some form of sugary drink 1-3 times a day. I would get half sweet half unsweet tea and think I was making the healthy drink choice over soda.  While that may be true, that was the extent of my attempt to make my meal healthier. Half sweet tea.

For dinner I would normally make meat-centric meal accompanied by some sort of canned vegetable. Think a pie graph with 75% meat, 25% veggie/starch. That was my plate and I thought “This is the healthiest meal of my day. I am eating lots of protein, which doesn’t spike my blood sugar, and I am getting in a veggie!”

So let’s recap my day of eating:

Breakfast: White flour english muffin topped with margarine (chemical laden trans fats… yay!), a slice of processed aluminum-filled cheese “product” (Franken-Cheddar), a commercially produced whole egg, a processed ham slice, and a soggy fat-drenched uber-processed franken-potato hashbrown. Topped with a horribly addictive coffee and a ton of bleached processed sugar. Wow, my whole mouth actually just filled with saliva after typing that. Sometimes I would get a medium hot mocha instead of regular coffee. That adds about 100 calories on top of the other one.

700-800 CALORIES

Lunch: Hardees 3 piece Chicken Tender meal with fries, BBQ sauce, Ketchup and 2 X half sweet tea:

950 CALORIES

Dinner and Snacks: My dinner varied quite frequently but I will just go ahead and say that I probably ate another 1000 CALORIES worth of snacks, sugary drinks and food. That might even be a conservative estimate on some nights.

That’s roughly 2700 CALORIES! I’m not as irritated about the calorie amount as I am the fact that almost NONE of that was fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, or seeds. In a good day I might have had a salad or a piece of fruit somewhere in there but those days were very few and far between.

The only good thing I can say I really had going for me was that I am still fairly young and I’m not on any pharmaceutical medications.

Now that I have all that unfortunate back history filled in for you, let me tell you about…

THE SWITCH:

So, what happened that made me decide to start making dramatic changes? I got on Pinterest and started surfing the Fitness section and there was this very basic recipe for a green drink. When I made it I was surprised at 1.) How good it tasted considering the fact that it had weird non-cow’s milk and pureed spinach in it and 2.) How many variations I could make on the recipe without detracting too much from the taste. I started with the basic recipe and then as the first two weeks passed I added several things to up the nutrition factor of the smoothie. I basically tried a few different versions of it until it tasted almost like a frozen blended coffee drink. Now, I drink it every day for breakfast. Most days my mix makes about 36 ounces. I drink 24 ounces of it in the morning and then the other 12 ounces in the mid-afternoon around 3 PM.

 

The basic ingredients:

1-2 cups of coconut or almond milk (depending on preference and desired consistency)

1 large handful of spinach (about 1-2 cups, and NO, your drink will not taste like spinach)

1/2-1 frozen banana (depending on how sweet you like it)

1 scoop (about 2 Tbsp) of Milled Flax Seeds

1 scoop (about 2 Tbsp) of Vanilla Protein powder (Whey is shown but I have since tried a few other types of protein powder. Word to the wise: Gemma Pea protein does NOT go well with chocolate coffee flavor or a thicker consistency drink and is more ideally suited toward a fruit flavored smoothie with a green tea base rather than milk. Learned that one the hard way… bleh.)

To this basic recipe I have added the following:

1/4 cup of frozen blueberries

1 scoop of powdered greens (mine is alfalfa, barley and wheat grass)

1 Tsp of Spirulina powder

1 Tsp of Kelp powder

1 Tbsp of Chia seeds

1-2 Tbsp of Raw Cacao or Baker’s Cocoa (depending on taste preference)

1 packet (about a Tbsp) of instant Ganoderma coffee (or another instant that you like if you want the coffee flavor. I may be ending this as soon as I run out of these mushroom based coffee packets because most coffee makes you very acidic which is not in keeping with the purpose of this drink which is to make you more alkaline.)

1 Tbsp of Organic Coconut Oil (good fat, very filling, and I like chocolate and coconut together.)

1Tbsp of Agave Nectar (or other natural sweetener if it isn’t sweet enough. I rarely use this last one anymore because I don’t need the added sweetness as much since I have eliminated almost all processed food from my diet.)

Ice (optional)

Note: I found the majority of the powdered ingredients at my local health food store. You can also find them online but I like to sample something before I buy a whole pound of it to make sure I won’t just end up wasting it. My current protein powder and green powder I bought online at truenutrition.com. It’s inexpensive (compared to health food or grocery store prices) and very high quality.

OH, and here’s a time saving tip I have found VERY helpful: I make ziplock baggies of all the dry ingredients in my smoothie so I can just open the baggie and toss it in. It takes my smoothie making time down to about 2-3 minutes! I call them my Power Powder packs… he he he. I don’t make frozen packs or liquid packs, but I suppose you could if you really wanted to shave off the time. I reuse the baggies each week so as not to waste them. Yes, I’m proud, OK?!? I have never been so efficient in my life! Bwa ah ahhhh!! Oh, and here’s a picture of the finished product… I call it SWAMP THING! 🙂 Then, when people say “EWWWW!!! What on earth are you drinking!?!” I can say “Swamp Thing, that’s what, now mind ya bidness!!” LOL. OK, I don’t actually say that… but I have fantasized about that particular situation and role-played the conversation in my head several times. I feel prepared for when that day comes… and shuddup if you wanna make fun of me for roleplaying an awkward conversation in my head, you know you do it too!

The blender in the pictures is fairly old and has since been replaced. You will need a decent blender BUT I honestly do NOT believe you have to buy some insanely expensive blender to make this. I think there are some under $50 that will do just fine (such as my new one) and I KNOW there are some very good ones under $100 that will do wonderfully.

I read a few green smoothie books and looked at some online and one of the authors seems convinced that I just HAD to have a Vitamix ($400-$500) or a Blendtec, one of each if I could afford it. I’m not bloody rich, man, there’s just no way! Coincidentally, a very nice woman I know bought a Vitamix and gave her used Ninja Blender to me as an upgrade to my 10 year old Oster (which was doing just fine for now but kinda struggling with all the frozen ingredients on some mornings). I got a free blender that works way better than my old one did. Here’s the link where you can buy the one I was given on Amazon for less than $50. And may I just reiterate: IT WORKS VERY WELL!

OK, so that takes care of breakfast, but what about Lunch? Did I just say “Ok, super awesome green smoothie for breakfast? Check. And now I will just eat the same old crap for lunch.”? No! I go to a local super market (Dillons, if you must know) and they have a spectacular salad bar. I simply load up on veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds and then I go eat it with my husband and our work friends wherever they are eating. So far they haven’t kicked me out of Hardees, Imo’s Pizza, Taco Bell, Burger King or Korea House for bringing in my own salad but I wouldn’t suggest it if you’re not with someone who actually did buy their food there. That’s just rude. Here is a pic of my typical salad from the supermarket salad bar and also a veggie sandwich I had at one of our fancier lunch places one day. It was shockingly just as good (to me) without the meat. Their fresh cut basil fries are amazing.

If you don’t have a conveniently located supermarket or salad bar you can go to then buy one of the new insulated lunch bags and simply make yourself something wonderful at home and take it with you. I may eventually start doing this myself as I plan to gradually go all or mostly organic with my food. I have to start small and slow though or I will get burnt out and give up… because that is what I have done when I got overwhelmed in the past… but NOT THIS TIME. Like I said, this isn’t just another stupid temporary diet, this is a lifestyle change.

That leaves dinner time… I still make a lot of different things for dinner and I still eat chicken or fish twice a week on some dinners. I’ve only been doing this for 3 weeks and here are a few things I have found effective when handling the “What’s For Dinner?” dilemma:

I make a pot of very hearty vegetarian soup on the weekend which I then store in a large container and eat over the course of the week. If you’re gonna store leftovers, make sure to use BPA-FREE containers. Google BPA and the health hazards caused by it.

Stock up on fresh veggies, dried beans (most cans use BPA in the lining… UGH), raw nuts and seeds, quinoa, long grain rice (NOT instant as it has a very high glycemic index and is not as good for you) and buy yourself some loaves of gourmet bread, preferably low sugar whole grain if you can get it, that you can bake in the oven. If you can make your own bread, then do that. I just haven’t gotten that far yet in my dedication to this project. The fresh baked bread goes really well with the soup and makes me wonder why I ever cared about eating meat. The soup in the picture below is one I got from the Whole Foods store app on my phone, here’s a link to the recipe, it’s called Vegetarian Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup.

So far I have been in the switch for 3 weeks and have lost 8 lbs, I’m currently at 196 lbs and going strong. I really don’t crave anything sugary, salty or fatty like I used to. I actually had McDonalds breakfast again last Friday and I am excited to say that it was really GROSS! Bland, mushy, not as good as I remembered.

My clothes are fitting much better and my complexion and eye appearance have improved immensely. I also have so much energy it’s ridiculous! For example: for YEARS I have had trouble keeping my house clean and my laundry done. For the last three weeks my kitchen has been wonderfully clean (because I use it more and I have more energy to make it look the way I want it to!) and I actually saw the bottom of our laundry hampers for the first time in about 5 years. I even got done with the laundry and washed the laundry bags themselves! I completely refolded all the clothes in my drawers in a new way so I can see all of them, the organization is literally like a high for me now, it’s almost a sickness I think.

I have also rearranged my living room, cleaned out my kitchen cabinets AND refrigerator, rearranged our big living room (game room), consolidated my book and dvd collection AND starting working on my “junk” room and consolidated and donated about 10 boxes of old junk from the garage! That’s a lot, and all in the last 3 weeks. It’s not a coincidence, it’s the diet or “Live-it” as my friend Leo has started calling it, and I feel fantastic. I feel ALIVE. I will write an update in another couple weeks or a month and let you know how it’s going! 🙂

I’m hoping to continue at a loss of about 2 lbs per week and maybe be back at 170 by my 30th birthday on July 3rd! I don’t celebrate birthdays but this one is kind of a milestone for me. If I can get back to a decent weight and be healthy (maybe for the first time in my life, if I’m being honest) then maybe I won’t risk wasting the rest of my life in such poor health as I did the entire decade of my twenties. I really can do this. 🙂

Awesome List #2: SAAF House

     

First let me tell you about my recent dilemmas and then I will tell you what this is and why it is AWESOME.

I originally purchased my two dogs, both black pomeranians,  from breeders. Yes, I said BREEDERS, aka Puppy Mills. Boo hiss and I should have saved a humane society animal and so on and so forth… let’s just get past it. These were the only pets I intended on having.

Since that time we have added 3 cats and another Pom to our household. WHY? Because we have been feeding a feral mommy cat and she keeps having babies. My husband grew attached to George and Jade, the first two we were able to catch, and he ended up wanting to keep them. Several litters later, I grew attached to The General, so we ended up keeping him too.

We have been trying to tame this wild mommy cat for 5-6 years with no results. She still hisses when we come near her and she still runs off every time we open the door to put food out. All of this despite the fact that we feed her, shelter her, and take care of her mass of kittens she pops out every 4-6 months. Oh, and we kept 3 of them too.

In the last 5 years she has had 1-2 litters per year, totaling around 30 kittens. The majority of them I have been able to adopt out on Craigslist and via friends and residents, but this year she has had three litters already, which is getting stressful. Come to think of it, even though I love me some baby kitties, they were all stressful. Every single litter. Buying food, litter box supplies, and bathing the stink off of them, not to mention dealing with changing the litter, keeping them contained in a spare bedroom away from our other animals, hearing them mew and whine… it’s a LOT to take. BTW I still have 4 male kittens (pictured above) that are free to good homes, please take one!

I was complaining about this while buying more kitten food at All Pet  few weeks ago and the lady said “Sounds like it’s time to get her to SAAF house.” I asked for more info and she gave me their card. They only charge $25 to spay or neuter feral cats! For a $30 deposit they will even provide you with the trap to catch them in. There is no long waiting list, I called on Tuesday and picked up a trap that afternoon, brought my cat in to be spayed the next morning. Yes, it’s that quick. I picked her up the morning after and they refunded me $5 of my original $30 trap deposit and sent me on my merry little way. YES, It really was THAT easy.

Oh, and don’t let me forget this: I have also scheduled my sister’s doggie, Diamond, to be fixed and given all updates on shots and it is only costing me $75. THAT’S IT! Go price this at your local vet and then come back to me jumping for joy when you realize how affordable this is.

Here is the information on them so you too can rid the world of unwanted kittens and tame the cat whores in your neck of the woods; hopefully with that happening the folks at the inhumane society will be able to adopt out more animals and eventually save the world.

SAAF House: Springfield Animal Advocacy Foundation.

http://saaf2018.org/index.html

Here is a wishlist of items that they currently are in desperate need of, to which I am sure any number of people could donate. Please do so, they are amazing, non-greedy, and I am 10,000% grateful for the work they are doing.

http://saaf2018.org/wishlist.html

Dear SAAF house people,

You are wonderful. You have saved my life, my nerves and my finances. When we were having coffee at an independent coffee shop the other day, because he’s not a big Starbucks supporter, Jesus told me that he has very nice tracts of land set aside for all you people when the world becomes a paradise again. I told him I thought that was wise and he said “DUH!” then we both laughed and he took another drink of his hot spiced chai. He’s surprisingly zesty… and so are you. We SALUTE you SAAF house. That is why you are AWESOME.

Lan Mars

Riding a Horse Again: Fat, Nervous and Short!

The title of today’s post isn’t about the miniature horses in the photo but more accurately is meant to sum up how I felt after my adult beginner horse class on Saturday. It was 4 hours, only about an hour and a half of that was spent actually on the horse, but I still felt sore EVERYWHERE. I forgot how many little random muscles you use when riding horses… and now, I remember! OH YES! I remember. I would have written about this sooner but I had major soreness and cat drama issues (One of mine cost me a small fortune in emergency vet bills and a litter of kittens is taking over my game room; their mother, our feral mommy cat, is trapped in a cage outside in my back yard waiting for her SAAF spay appointment so she will stop getting knocked up!! Stupid TRAMP! Blarg!!!). SO, without further ado…

Here is the website and description for the class at Valley Water Mill Park Equestrian Center here in Springfield, MO:

http://parkboard.org/info/city_parks/vwmec/index.htm

Adult Horse S.H.O.E. Program: This class is designed specifically for the adult who always wanted a horse or just wants to get back into something they did in their youth.  This program will teach the basics of all-around horsemanship including safety, grooming, handling, tacking, and riding techniques.  Each student will have their own horse.  Come join the fun and learn how to care for, ride, and simply enjoy the world of horses!  Each class is limited to 6 students.
Valley Water Mill Park Equestrian Center  833-3291 or 833-9673
Age:     18 years and older
Date:    Saturday, , August 20
Time:    August class: 8:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.
Fee:      $40 per adult/per class

I arrived about 15 minutes early after taking in some medication for my high dollar cat at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic on Glenstone. I talked to Jen, our instructor, for a few minutes before the couple that was taking the class with me showed up. It was their 36th wedding anniversary and their daughter had given them the lessons as an anniversary gift. They seemed somewhat less than amused but please NOTE: I would ecstatic to have ANYTHING like this for an anniversary present. Seriously, Matt and I were jealous. This is a very cool gift. There were only 3 participants in this class. We walked down to the barn and the first hour and a half were spent touring the facilities and explaining all the different stations in the barn and their functions. Here are some things I learned during that time:

~You can store grain/feed for horses in broken down freezers. No, Really! You can find them for nothing (because why else would someone want to keep a broken deep freeze). Mice can’t get into them and they keep the feed sealed up air tight so it lasts longer. I thought this was very efficient. Jen, the life long horse woman, came from California and said she first learned about this here in MO. In CA they had used big plastic tubs, which are also good to use if you can’t score a broken deep freeze.

~I learned about the multiple types of bits, bridles, and saddles, and what the purposes are for each of the different kinds. This picture is of their tack room. There was a lot more to the room but this is the only picture I took of it. I was anxious to ride, please forgive me. There were closets and a room designated for a vet, cleaning supplies, etc… as well. Jen said she was very particular about the equipment and nothing could be dragging the floor.

~Something I found pretty impressive were incredibly specific notes and instructions written on a white board in the vet room. This room is not really used expressly for vets, the stable hands use it most of all. The notes were regarding two of the horses who had a sore here or there. There were diagrams as to where the sores were and what treatment they were to apply and directions that they weren’t to be ridden for X amount of time. I thought this attention to detail was pretty amazing. That’s the difference in quality you get from a well managed facility as opposed to a low cost, low maintenance operation. These horses are pretty lucky.

~Jen said they don’t keep the horses in the stalls much, even though the barn and stalls are fantastic there, because the horses need more diverse diets (from grass feeding) and long periods of exercise as well as sunlight. I think she said they graze for approximately 20 hours a day. A horse left in a stall would not be as healthy as these were, for obvious reasons. They grain them once (maybe twice, can’t remember) a day to fill in the nutritional gaps left over from the pasture feeding. Each horse gets one scoop of grain unless they have issues with easy weight gain, in which they get half a scoop. There again, her attention to detail impressed me. Speaking of feeding, all seven horses were brought in and fed by one of the paid hands, a 19 year old pre-med student who you will see in the videos later. She was pretty impressive, she helped me clean my horse’s hooves out!

 

Jen (pictured here) used my chosen horse, a black Quarter horse named Sully who was approximately 16 hands (maybe 15, again, can’t quite remember), to show us how to put on a halter. She showed us two ways: one for regular sized people (I’m assuming anything over 5’7 would work on this one) and then one for short people. I, of course, standing all of 5’4, had to use the second one. This was a piece of cake. Jen taught me the proper way to hold his lead rope, which frowned upon wrapping the rope around your fingers. I had the lead portion of the rope in my right hand and a sort of upside down U in my left hand… no coiling it around my fingers. She kept having to remind all of us of this rule. It is such a natural tendency to want to wrap it around your fingers, it is also a good way to lose some fingers. Live and learn I guess!

We had to do all the day’s lesson in the indoor riding arena because it was raining and thundering pretty crazy like. Here are all the horses that were used: The grey and white one is Levi and belongs to Sheriff Arnott, it looks like a silver dapple but is actually registered as a blue roan due to the darkness of its color when it was younger; Skipper is the red dunn on the end and the most good natured, get up and go, non-lazy of the three; Sully is the black one, and he was not feeling his oats this morning. He did not want to be ridden that day. I’m sure my awkwardness and the fact that I should be on a hobbitt sized horse instead of him wasn’t helping much. Just a NOTE: I have videos of a lot of this stuff but am having trouble posting them due to a learning curve with YouTube. I will get them on though and eventually link to them in this article. Patience, my precious, it must have patience with us!

Next we learned how to brush and groom the horses, each one of us being given a bucket with our horse’s name on it. We used the curry brush the most, a small, rubber knobby looking thing that strapped to my hand, to rub in circular motions which all the horses seemed to adore to the point of falling asleep. Then we used a bristle brush to get out the dust and to clean the curry comb between portions of brushing. After that there were the mane and tail, which we used normal hair combs on, and then cleaning out the hooves which required this giant scarey tooth brush looking thing with v shaped metal hook on the back of it for getting out huge clumps of dirt and rocks. Apparently horses can feel almost nothing inside the bottom of their hooves because I pulled a big rock out of one of Sully’s.

Doing the front legs wasn’t a big deal, I really enjoyed it actually, but doing the back legs frightened me. I have been kicked in the chest by a horse before (many years ago and YES, I was being an idiot when it happened). In this instance, I wasn’t looking forward to stumbling and being kicked in the head too. This is where the red-haired 19 year old helper came in and kept trying to get me not to be so nervous. I wasn’t really nervous about much of anything after the back hooves were done. To her I have an apology to make for not remembering her name.  Honey, if you see this, I assure you, I will find out your name and insert it at a later date because you deserve it! You helped me so much!

After that we bridled our horses and then put on the blanket and saddle. Then came time to actually get on. There was a step to help us get on. I was waiting for it patiently when Jen looks at me and says something to the effect of “What are you waiting for?” I said “Um… hello! I’m waiting for the step!” She looked at me and laughed. “You used to own a horse, I know you can get up there on your own. Did you even try?” I looked at her scornfully “No! Are you kidding me? I’m too short and too fat!” She laughed and goaded me into trying, so I did, and now, after the humiliation of not being able to pull my short fat butt up onto that horse, I have a nice horribly painful pulled muscle in the back of my left thigh as reward for my effort. Harumph! All jokes aside, Jen was a great teacher, I appreciated how down to earth she was. It made me feel like I was around my brother in law again, and that was one of the things I had hoped to gain from this experience. I can’t wait to hang out with her again when I go along to watch my sister to take the class in October.

Sully was very grumpy about being forced to saddle up and carry my big butt but in all fairness, I don’t think he would’ve wanted a skinny butt either. He tried to nibble on me and nip at me a couple times out of grumpiness for which he got swatted by the younger red haired trainer chick. I learned the difference between direct reigning and neck reigning. I tried to neck reign him only, because it is gentler, but he kept turning around and going where I didn’t want him to go, which was always back in the direction of the entry gate.

I felt like I was being too forceful at times, yanking him this way and that, forcing him to do a complete 180 to the other end of the aren when he pulled around to go back to the gate. When I asked Jen if I was being too mean to him she replied “NO, you need to be much meaner than that, Don’t let him lead you, You lead HIM. If he goes somewhere you didn’t tell him to go, you need to correct him. Show him who is in control.” So, I did as she said. Again, and again, and again. We did this test where we walked over weird things like plastic tarps and pool noodles and play mats, an exercise designed to show the horse that even though you are making him walk over things he would normally avoid, he can trust you to lead him safely. Compared to the other two, I thought Sully and I did pretty well.

Next we practiced weaving through cones in a serpentine pattern; He did well when facing the gate but when I asked him to turn around and go back toward the other end of the arena, he kept trying to turn around and go the other way on me, so again, I had to direct reign him and force him to turn back around away from the gate. Once I made him walk to the end and then turn around and asked him to speed up and he was so looking forward to getting back to the gate that he cantered a bit; it was nice to canter again, even if it was just for 3 seconds. I wanted to do that more after that. He did NOT.

After that we played with giant inflatable soccer balls. The goal was to make the horse push the ball in between these cones that were set up as the goal. It was fun, and I think we did well on that too. Jen accused me of trying to steal the show once, in a playful manner, and it made me laugh because I knew she was just trying to make me feel I was doing well. I wish we had gotten to ride outside. I hate that it rained. Playing soccer was pretty awesome though.

After about an hour and a half we walked them back to the barn, took off their saddles and bridles and brushed them again to check for anything that may have caused a saddle sore while we were riding. Getting out of the saddle was a shocking experience. I was immediately sore. I voiced that to Jen and she just kinda laughed and said “Really? That soon?” Yes, Jen, Really, that soon! That’s what happens when you sit in an office chair day in and day out for years. I need to start walking and doing my lunges and squats again. I feel Pathetic.

So all in all, I had a pretty great time. I wish I had taken the class with some friends or something though. I guess I am going to start taking riding lessons once or twice a month if I can afford it. I want to get better in the saddle and better at saddling and bridling so when I do eventually buy a horse, I will be more confident than I was last Saturday. Ultimately I am looking for someone who would let me ride their horses but I know that’s pretty difficult to find these days, especially since I know so few people with horses. Maybe one day, I guess. One day.

I would definitely suggest this class to anyone. The people at this facility are friendly and I look forward to talking with them again during heather’s lessons next month! If you have a horse, I hear this facility also has some pilates on horseback classes that will blow your mind! I am jealous that I don’t have my own horse to be able to take this class, but again, maybe some day. 🙂 Please comment and tell me about YOUR horseback riding experiences!!!

Getting Back in the Saddle

I haven’t ridden a horse since I was about 16. 13 long years have passed. I’m a desk jockey now, 50 lbs overweight from inactivity and excessive fast food, with saddlebags of my own and a depressing lack of matching outfits and blue ribbons. I live indoors all day every day. So why in the world would I want to venture into the world of horses again after such a long absence? Because this soul craves a new breadth. It aches to rediscover something that has been lost. It struggles to breath in these compartments inundated with the whirring of electrical objects and fabricated chemicals that are killing it slowly. Even now an unfamiliar noise fills my chest and mind. It’s the gnashing of teeth from a wild animal stuck in a cage far too long.

I have been researching horses and teachers and trainers and boarding facilities around Springfield for over a week now. I have looked at every picture of a horse on craigslist with an ooh and an ahh for each one. When I see them, it awakens this primal need inside me to be with them. To be running, to be outside, in the cold dew filled air and fields at sunrise without the aid of an alarm clock. All the while the robot city folk are still sleeping their ill-gained sleep, dreaming of gadgets and television programming and things without life in them. Things without lungs, legs and flesh. I can no longer dream of these man made things. They hold no excitement for me. They are dead. More importantly, they were never alive. I’m tired of feeling as lifeless as these objects that surround me day in and day out. I am still young in age, so why is it that I feel so old?

I want to be with horse people again. Animal people. Country people. People of the land. Gods people. My people. They don’t buy every scrap of food and clothing prepackaged, pregrown, and prechewed to suit their greedy infant appetites. They don’t just consume everything around them without putting something back. They grow things. They don’t grab at some money driven society’s commercially tainted tit with hands that have never known a callus. They have a richness that they purchase without any form of currency. It is earned with early mornings, bare hands and feet making contact with the earth on a daily basis, in a place where instincts are more valuable than contracts and the training is free to anyone who will come and lay claim to it. Tuition is an honest day’s work breaking a sweat before any of the 9-5 folk slap the snooze button on their alarm clock.

Today I am meeting with someone over lunch who may let me lease one of her horses for a while, so I can get the feel of it again before I consider diving further into the investment of actually owning one. Of course it’s all about money isn’t it? It has to be. I sell 8 hours of my life every day for money and I am darn sure going to get something for that time that I will never get back. This time I won’t take whatever I can get for fear of inconveniencing anyone else. This time I will research it and find something pure, something worth the cost of my lost hours. Something that will give me a little bit of life as I spend those 40 hours each week in my compartment waiting for death. This is something I can do to give me some of those breaths back. I want them. Yes, indeed. I WILL get them back.

Tonight after work I am quite literally going to see a man about some land and possibly a horse. Maybe I will put my hope in him and this animal, maybe I won’t. No matter what, this new found hope cannot be suffocated as so many others have been. This one must take root. It must live.

All I know is, if I don’t search it out, then I will continue dying when I should be living.

Call me television killer. Call me sister sunshine. Call me the early bird. Call me a hippie or a hillbilly. Even those titles seem foreign to me now and unassociated with my life.

Soon you will call me horse woman, lover of horses and wild spirited things, above all, a woman who truly lives her life. Soon I will break these restraints and run because running is all that sounds good after 10 years of being in a cage. Soon I will be free and once again, get back to being me.

Maybe it will take a while. I will have to learn to walk again. Then to trot, then canter, then gallop.All I know is this: I desperately need my skin to feel like skin again, and not just some suit I’m wearing. I want my body to feel alive with exertion, my muscles to ache from a long ride. To feel the refreshment of the early morning dew on my skin and the wind in my hair and face. These things seem insignificant, you take them for granted when you have them. At the moment, they are all I can think about.

An Old Love Remembered

A person that truly loves something, no matter how they try to avoid it or their life brings them out of contact with it, will feel an aching, an emptiness in their life without it. Existence becomes almost meaningless, empty, tasteless, numb. There were always three things that made me feel that way: writing, drawing and horses. I occasionally pick up a pencil to draw again, and I have recently begun writing again. These things refresh my soul and enrich my life.

Horses are harder though. You have to know someone with horses, or have the resources (land and money) to own and take care of your own horse. As of right now, I have none of those things. My house is in the suburbs, there’s not a pasture or barn in sight. And it’s not just that easy to move either, we own this house. Last week some time I got this mad hankering to watch Black Beauty, one of my all time favorite movies. I cried (of course) and all those feelings of love, fascination, joy, rapture… all those things I felt about horses came flooding back, overwhelming me.

Then Saturday, I was at the Ozarks Romance Authors meeting and the speaker was a “western” writer. His sister had recently written a book with a young girl riding a horse on the cover. On the back was a picture of her with her own horse, looking all majestic and gorgeous. I got to meet her and talk with her briefly. Then I wrote a blog about my favorite books, several of which…. that’s right…. had to do with horses in some way. I made the mistake of getting passionate about reading Robin McKinely again and I remembered why I loved her books so much: her characters always have a close bond with either a horse or a dog the size of a horse.

I have been listening to the Hero and the Crown on audio book, the main character in this one is a red head named Aerin who fights dragons and re-tames this old war horse of her father’s named Talat. The picture to the right always reminds me of this book… but she seems to be a lot nicer to dragons than she was in the book. The first time I read this I was in 8th grade. My adorable little English Teacher, Mrs. Bastian, recommended it to me. I read a book in 4th grade called Pounding Hooves, about a girl who draws and becomes obsessed with this wild arabian mare that moves into the field close to her house. I started reading Beauty a few weeks ago but it isn’t holding my attention. Last night I dove into The Blue Sword again, which was better than I remembered. It’s the sequel to The Hero and the Crown. The horses have names like Red Wind and Fire Heart. The main characters of all these books have these deep bonds with their horses and a love of riding. Of course, it also doesn’t help that I “liked” the Cowboy Magic page on facebook and now I am daily inundated with pictures of beautiful horses from them. It makes my heart sick with memories.

I had a horse from the time I was about 12 to the time I was 16 or so. My broke single mom convinced the old man that owned the field down the road from us to let me use it and she helped me get the most wonderful thing I have ever owned: a Palomino mare, 15 hands high, and her name was Ginger. I was in love with everything about her. Her eyes, her feet, her hair, her whinnie, her smell… everything. I remember when we went to get her, the old guy selling her was a good man. When I saw her I started crying, I couldn’t believe something so wonderful could be for me. My brother in law at the time, Hoss, was a horse man and taught me everything I needed to know to take care of her and be safe around her. I miss him, but more accurately, I miss those days.

I remember the first time we cantered, how exhilarating it was. The first time we galloped!! The time she decided to go down to the pond for a drink while I was riding her and then she decided she would just go for a nice little swim across the pond with me still on her back! It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I fed her sweet oats, apples and carrots. I brushed her and played games with her. No wonder I never got my school work done. I was in love. The picture to the left is of me when I was about 12 riding my horse, Ginger. My childhood friend, Kara, is peaking out from behind me! I miss those sweet simple days.

In the spirit of those days I started looking at ads for horses on craigslist and came across one for a herd of mustangs that a guys was training and selling for like $125 each! Lots of colors, lots of choices and it was right here in Springfield!!! I checked the address and it was close to my work, like 2 minutes away. I got off work early and went to see the people and as it turns out it was a place that gives classes on horsemanship. It’s a big beautiful place, they keep the Greene County Sheriff’s Posse horses. They are state owned and operated.I talked to one of the trainers/care takers of the horses and she said that if I wanted to I could even apply as a volunteer. I was so excited I could barely move… I feel like I’m twelve again! I’m gonna do it! BEST THING EVER!!!

So, as a treat and hopefully to start a relationship with the people of the ranch so we can volunteer, Heather and I will be taking an adult beginner class there next weekend. It’s 4 hours long and you get to learn all the basics of care, grooming, saddling, catching, feeding and so on. Oh, and I will be riding a horse for the first time in about 13 years. I am so excited. I can’t wait! Neither can Heather. 🙂

Now, here are a few other horsey pictures… just for fun. Enjoy!