Sunday, December 26, 2010

Life is WAY stranger than fiction.....

When I was a little girl of about ten growing up in Beaverton, Oregon I rode horses at two different places. Each Saturday I would go with my friends up into the hills and we would rent horses at a place called Buckley's Riding Stable.

When you arrived at Buckleys you drove up a gravely dirt road until you came to the base of the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. There were some big pastures surrounded by barb wire fencing, a rickety barn filled with tie stalls and then out in front was a big U shaped hitching post that always had about 6-10 horses on each side saddled up standing tied waiting for someone to choose one to ride.

I usually chose an Appaloosa gelding named Cockleburr whom I would imagine looked a lot like his name now suggests (as I ended up showing Appaloosas on the very tough Pacific Northwest circuit of the 70's I suggest that he was very impactful on my life). The owner- Ralph Buckley would take rides out every couple of hours up onto the mountain trails while riding his little buckskin mare named Honey. Honey wore an actual bosal hackamore which I remember that I thought was really cool and sometimes Mr.Buckley would show us how he could make Honey turn as she trotted by just leaning his weight to one side or the other- which at the time I thought was just as cool. We would walk along the trails- one horse after another nose to tail until we got to a clearing at the top of the bluff. Then, upon turning back toward the trail back to the stable everybody would canter (or perhaps unfortunately just trot really fast if you were not careful about what horse you picked) together to the edge of the clearing. I cannot remember how many people got hurt during these rides- I do remember getting kicked really bad and having to go to the hospital when the hematoma on my shin would not stop getting bigger- but I am sure that there were many. I remember a few horses just kept going when they got to the end of the canter spot- but nobody ever seemed to worry too much about it and I never heard of anyone actually getting killed.

This was back in the (good old) days when nobody sued anyone. If you were stupid enough to pay your $5.00 an hour to ride a horse up in the mountains behind a very old man who allowed everyone to gallop as a group back towards the stable at the top of a bluff I guess it was just presumed that you knew what you were setting yourself up for.

At some point during these excursions it was decided by family friends that I probably did need to actually learn how to ride a horse since I seemed so determined to do so. I had spent a week at a horse camp each summer for a few years where it was just as amazing that nobody was ever airlifted out due to getting kicked in the head or bucked off and run over. My parents were finally convinced by these very smart people that the hospital bills were actually costing more than real riding lessons would run.

Near our house was a lovely stable called Wishing Well Farm. It was not as big and fancy as some- but to this day I remember it as being the barn to which I measure all other farms. Right out alongside the road was the outdoor ring with the white rail fence around it. (Someday I want my stable to have a ring just like it alongside the country lane). There were usually several jumps in this ring and I dreamed of the day when I would be able to jump a real course. Up until that point my jumping experience had consisted of when Cockleburr decided that a log on the ground was between him and any where he felt like going up on the hills behind Buckleys. This was usually accompanied by me hanging for dear life as he lurched over the 2 feet or so that it stuck up from the ground. Sometimes I stayed on- just as often I did not and ended up having to walk back down the long steep train to the the pastures below where Cockleburr could usually be found grazing with his friends. And for those who wonder- NO you did not get your $5 refunded if most of your hour was spent retrieving your wayward horse.

And at Wishing Well Farm there was a lovely two story white barn just beside the outdoor ring. Feeling quite disloyal to my broomtailed trail riding buddy Cockleburr I developed my very first (of many) true horse crushes on a big bay stallion that was in the first stall to the right. His name was Turf Career and I just knew that someday I would get to ride him (spoiler alert- I did NOT get to ride Turf Career). I used to bring a bag of carrots each week to the stable. Half was for my school horse of the week- but the first half went to Turf Career.

There were other barns, stalls and buildings on the property, but the only other one I remember well was the indoor arena where I spent many hours trotting around on a patient school horse learning to post on the correct diagonal. The only real clear thing that I remember about any of my lessons was that one particular day my regular instructor was busy (looking back I believe that it was Kentucky Derby Day and because I did not know anything about the importance of the Kentucky Derby at that point I showed up for a makeup Saturday lesson along with the other girls in my class) and so on this day there were a couple of older junior riders who were in charge of our lesson. (The name Mish-short for Michelle- sort of comes to mind perhaps?)The indoor was not huge and while several horses could all trot at the same time, none of the beginner lessons cantered at the same time. If you were allowed to canter you did so from the front of the line around the ring until you reached the back of the line where your horse automatically stopped when he reached the tail end of the last horse. (This was unlike Buckley's riding stable where your horse just plowed into the horse in front in order to stop).

On this particularly memorable day (since the regular instructor was not there) we were each asked if we had cantered before. I was pretty sure that (if asked) my instructor would have said 'NO- she does not canter yet' since she was still trying to get me to trot on the correct diagonal, but I guess I justifiably felt that those weeks and months of riding Cockleburr at a wild run along the top of the bluff -hanging on for dear life to the saddle horn- had probably equipped me for an easy canter around the indoor ring. I can still remember feeling so proud that I got my horse to canter and did not fall off. And I can still remember one of the girls teaching my class asking me 'are you SURE that you have cantered before?'.......

I am not sure when I stopped taking my riding lessons, or even when we stopped riding each week at Buckleys Riding Stable (whose phone number 357-6243 is still stuck in my head)....but at some point I had my own horse and I just went on like most kids to try and figure things out for myself.

So the title of this blog today is Life is WAY stranger than fiction....and so far I have not proved it. But read on...

Facebook has changed our lives. No doubt. It has allowed us to reconnect with old friends, make new friends and plan for events and reunions like no other medium.

The other day one of my 'facebook friends', Jim Anderson...-someone that I have never met but have racetrack friends in common with- chatted with me and asked me to give him a call. He wanted to talk to me about a mutual friend that we have that has had some extraordinary challenges the past several months. I knew that he was a trainer at Santa Anita and that today was opening day, and so about noon I gave him a call.

A few minutes into the conversation I mentioned that one very cold winter in Chicago at Sportsmens Park I threw my winter snow boots into a dumpster and heading back to the west coast. I said that after the blizzards and sub zero weather that I had been experiencing in Chicago that winter that even Portland Meadows seemed warm by comparison.

At this point Jim mentioned that he had grown up in Portland so was very used to the weather there.

Now I am trying in my life to get used to coincidences. I really am.

As this conversation continued it turned out that his Dad (Dennis Anderson) had been racing secretary at Portland Meadows when I was there in the mid seventies. Small world.... but this story gets better.

I asked him where in Portland he had grown up and he said that it was in a smaller town just west of Portland named Hillsboro. I told him that I had grown up in the very next town over (Beaverton) and had attended Aloha High School. Turns out that we were in the same district at rival high schools. He then mentioned the family farm where his Dad brought the racehorses that did not make it at the track and his Mom turned them into show horses. We continued to compare notes and it turned out that we were both showing horses all over the region at the same stables and against the same people.

We finished the conversation and it must have been about two hours later when I was telling someone else (that had grown up with me in the horse world) about the coincidences that the real impact really hit me. So- I called him back to ask the really important question.

And yes- the 'family farm' that he grew up on showing horses was Wishing Well Farm and his Mom- Vickie- had been my riding instructor 40 years ago.

So there you have it. Two strangers meet on facebook. One lives and trains racehorses in Southern California and one lives and trains dogs in Oklahoma. And they were both riding in the same little white railed arena 4 decades ago.

I do not even try to understand it any more.........

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I lost one of my best friends this week. My dear sweet dog Buddy- who came to be with us in 2000. He was at a shelter in Los Angeles when Aussie rescue stopped in to pick up another dog to take to a foster home. I got contacted and asked if I could foster him if they pulled him. I agreed and he was transported to me Thanksgiving week that year. From the moment that he entered my life he was MY dog and would never have to look for another place to live. He dabbled in agility and freestyle and was awarded his CGC from the AKC, but the most important job he had was to be my friend. I loved him and I miss him, but it was time to let him go. I know that someday I will once again be able to look into his beautiful face and feel his head under my hand but until then I will remember him with love.

I Remember
I stood by your bed last night, I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying. You found it hard to sleep.
I whined to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
"It's me, I haven't left you, I'm well, I'm fine, I'm here."
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea,
You were thinking of the many times your hands reached down to me.
I was with you at the shops today. Your arms were getting sore.
I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more.
I was with you at my grave today, You tend it with such care.
I want to re-assure you, that I'm not lying there.
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on you, I smiled and said "It's me."
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
It's possible for me to be so near you everyday.
To say to you with certainty, "I never went away."
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew...
in the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.
The day is over... I smile and watch you yawning
and say "Good-night, God bless, I'll see you in the morning."
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
I'll rush across to greet you and we'll stand, side by side.
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out... then come home to be with me.
Author unknown

What stops me?

I wish that I could figure out what stops me from taking care of myself. I take care of Kaity, the dogs, the horses, people around me and sometimes complete strangers. But something stops me from feeling as though I deserve to be cared for.
Several people have told me that I helped inspire them to get healthier and lose weight. I am thrilled for them- and still cannot figure out what stops me.
I wish I knew how to inspire myself.
I know that I felt better when I was writing. Then I got busy and stopped. And then I stopped eating healthy when I got busy. And then I decided that there was nothing to write about. What do I say when I am failing at the very thing that caused me to start writing this blog in the first place?
Hi- This is Laurie.....spent another day killing myself.......

Because I have to face that this is what I am slowly doing. Maybe not physically (but probably so) but certainly emotionally. Another day of not riding my horse. Another day of not wearing the clothes that I want to. Another day of not being able to run alongside my dogs. Another day of feeling sad.

So once again I write. It seems as though when I see the words on the screen that they have a bit more impact than when I am thinking them to myself.

Doesn't help that I seem to have come down with a bug yesterday. Nothing is staying down and I felt sorry for myself because I still had to go to work. Of course- this could be a good jump start to healthy eating since all of the junk food is sure out of my system by now.....;

And where is everyone who was supposed to keep me accountable for how I was doing? I started blogging and told people to be brutal to me. But everyone has been so kind. I know that they feel that I need to work through these things on my own and they are perhaps right. But since I have never felt terribly supported in my life maybe a bit of tough love is what I need.

Lots of things have happened since I posted last. Our local freestyle group has started to pick up. We have a big event planned for next spring/ We added a new puppy to the family (I know....... but I just could not resist- wait until you see the pictures and you will understand). Kaity and I had a great Halloween together at Remington Park. I had a WONDERFUL time in Oregon with my friends. And standing on the beach? Just standing on and Oregon beach gives me peace. I know that I need to do that once a year no matter what. My Mom and Dad and Grandparents all have their ashes scattered on that beach. And just standing there for an hour or so looking out at the water gives me a sense of being all filled up.

And next month I attend a seminar with my dogs and friends here in Oklahoma City. I get to get away for a weekend from everything and just be with friends and dogs. I will be learning from the best freestyler in the world. Looking forward to that. Then next March is our event, April we go up to Denver to compete and then to Tulsa in June. So I have a busy few months coming up. It would sure be nice to be healthier for these events.

Okay....time to go for now......not sure of anyone is listening anymore- but if I keep writing maybe at least I will start to listen to myself.

Laura

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can......

When I was in Junior High School (go Meadowpark Trojans)I had my very first crush on a boy. His name was Art Buck and he was an 'older man'. I was a freshman and he was a senior, and in those days that meant that we did not attend the same school.
But one of our horse 4-H members, Rocky Williams, attended the same high school as Art, and one day he decided to try out for the high school musical 'You're a Good Man Charlie Brown'. Now I am sure that I knew at the time why he decided to do this, but for the life of me I cannot remember why now. I do not remember Rocky as being someone who walked around singing and dancing and I certainly do not remember him as seemingly theatrical. But try out he did and he was cast in the starring role of Charlie Brown.
Rocky was dating the sister of one of my best friends at the time and we all showed horses together. So when opening night came along we all headed to the high school to watch Rocky's debut.
As I said, I was a freshman and I had never had a boyfriend or been out on a date. Never really had even a crush on someone (well...there was that brief-couple of weeks- crush on Dan Lauer, but he turned out to be such a good friend that I never really thought about it anymore).
If truth be told, boys were really scary to me. Horses and dogs were a lot easier and the thought of actually going out on a date was terrifying to me. Hmmmm....now that I think about it, junior high school was really not that much different than my life has been as an adult!

So anyway, off we all went to watch Rocky sing and dance. I had never seen a school play, or any other play for that matter at that point in my life. Ours was not exactly a culturally filled family life- I don't ever even remember going to the movies with my Mom and Dad- so any play, let alone a musical, was foreign to me.
About two minutes into the show I started watching the actor playing Snoopy. He was a cute looking, all American type of guy, blond hair, blue eyes (I imagined) and by the end of the first act I was smitten down to my toes. I thought he was the cutest boy I had ever seen and I just knew that he was the man that I would someday marry.
By the time he was singing Suppertime, I was naming the kids and choosing the family dog.
For about the next four years I had a deep crush on him, even though he never even knew that I was alive (sigh)......

Because you see, life does not always turn out the way that our childhood fantasies wish. Art never fell in love with me, we never got married and....well.... naming the family dog just does not have the same impact when you have a pack of them.

However what did happen was that (in no small way due to falling for him), I also fell in love with the musical theater that night. After attending that show I started seeing every musical I could get to. I went to all of the high school musicals that came along, along with several college productions and eventually was even lucky enough to attend some first run musicals down in Los Angeles when I lived there such as Chorus Line, Cats and Phantom.

Yes...I LOVE Musical Theater!

I have lots of homemade CDs that are filled with show tunes. Even back when I was a teenager, while my friends were listening to current groups and singers, I was listening to the soundtrack from Bye Bye Birdie and West Side Story.

I can listen to Broadway all day long.

What I cannot do is sing a note. Or for that matter, dance a step....
I am a bad singer and I am clumsy as an ox.

If I was granted the wish to be able to do anything career wise I would have been a singer and dancer on Broadway. I would love to be up on that stage performing. But the sad truth is that I have about as much chance of that as I do of competing in gymnastics. It just is NOT going to happen.

But then a few years ago a friend introduced me to Canine Freestyle. She said that it was a combination of obedience and tricks set to music. At the time I was competing with a couple of my dogs in agility and since that kept me pretty busy, I only paid about half attention to her while she was telling me about the sport. I think I even sort of dozed off when she invited me over to watch a video with her about training and competing in freestyle.
But she decided to give it one last shot. She showed me a video on the Internet of a woman dancing with her Golden Retriever to 'You're The One That I Want'. And while I was duly impressed by what the two of them were accomplishing, more than anything I was struck by the joy that was in both the handler and the dog's faces.

AND they were dancing to a musical number from Broadway!

I was hooked.

That was back in 2004 or so. Since then I have trained and retired my first dog Jakey (i.e. see: attacking Sheltie from earlier blog) and have multi-titled my current dog TillyBelle. I have been fortunate enough to become certified as a judge and to get travel around the country and across the ocean to be involved in this sport.

I have been able to dress as a Warrior, Aladdin, a Pirate, a Cat, a Broadway Star, a Pink Panther, a Cowboy, a 50's girl and many other characters along the way. And I get to dance out on stage to my favorite music in my own clumsy way.

People clap for me, they congratulate me when it goes well, they commiserate with me when it does not, but most of all they support me.

You see, that is what our sport is best at. Being supportive of each and every one of us who give it a try with our beloved dogs. And for at least a brief time, we all get to be a star.......

Tomorrow my daughter Kaity and I head down to Norman so that I can compete and judge an event. We are taking TillyBelle, Flag-puppy and Spur with us. Tilly will be competing for another two legs to add to her many titles that she now has earned. Flag and Spur will get to dance in the Show and Go each day to start to prepare for the day when they will be competing.

Two months ago Flag lived in a barrel in a back yard and last month Spur was on the verge of being put to sleep at a shelter.

And this weekend we will dance together.

Just like on Broadway....

My life is amazing.

Thank you for reading about this......

Laura and the dancing pack......

Monday, September 13, 2010

Busy Days

Fall always seems to get so busy! After spending the summer hiding from the heat and humidity it is as though the cooler autumn months want to both make up for the misery of July and August and to give us a gift before the icy days of winter.
I went to the races Friday night which was great. It is so nice to be able to sit and watch the races, have a decent inexpensive dinner and visit with friends.
Saturday was spent dog training and attending a cookout at work. I was called in a bit unexpectedly to stay overnight at the clinic to care for an emergency and then spent yesterday catching up on some cleaning and a bit of nap time. It was a rainy day and I love sleeping while I listen to the thunder and rain.
The next few weeks will get really hectic. I have a freestyle competition coming up this weekend where I am judging and also competing. I get to dress up and play a pirate in the morning with my dog TillyBelle and friends Kris and her dog Roxie. Lots of friends will be coming in to compete and to help so it should be a grand time for all! Spur and I will be dancing to Soul Man from the Blues Brothers with friends that also have big blue merle dogs and Flag-puppy will be making his debut also during the Show and Go....
The following weekend I am doing demonstrations out at A Dog Walk In The Park to benefit the Bella Foundation. This is a group that in addition helps to find homes for unwanted dogs and cats helps to pay for vet expenses for senior citizens who cannot afford to keep their animals healthy. It is a great cause and I am proud to be able to help them raise money. The three freestyle dogs will be attending with me.
The next day I will be taking TillyBelle up to Edmond to run her in a couple of agility games. That will be her reward for working so hard doing what I like to do over the next couple of weekends.
The healthy eating lifestyle is going pretty well. I take a couple of steps back on occasion but for the most part I am sticking to a much healthier way of eating than I have been doing in the past. It is funny how even a few days of proper eating makes you feel better. And how just one meal of not so healthy options can make you feel pretty crummy. It sure shows that our bodies are crying for us to care for them.
Another interesting development. I have been suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) since I was a teenager. When I complained as a child I was told that they were growing pains, but I think it is time to give that idea up for good. Anyway- these creepy crawly feelings in my knees and calves have kept me from sleeping many times over the years. I read the other day that taking a bar of soap and putting in under your fitted sheet down by the foot of the bed can help control or even cure them. Sounds crazy- but I went ahead and gave it a try. The jury is still out- but the feelings did seem diminished last night. So I will leave my two bars of soap under there and see how it goes for awhile.
I have a big draft cross gelding named Cali. It is short for Excalibur (from the Sword in the Stone). I got on a bit of a Camelot phase a few years ago. My Border Collie that I showed in the breed ring is Celestrials Lady Guenevere, another horse is Joyous Guarde (the name of Lancelot's castle where he held his trysts with the Lady Gwen) and another is Princess Elizabeth (LizzieBeth)...
Anyway it is time to get Cali trained. He is a big quiet boy and has worn a saddle and bridle, has done a bit of round pen work and is in general very quiet. I got him out of Canada when he was just about three months old. He was pretty sick when he arrived, but after a few months he rallied and became a big strong boy.
The night that he came down to Oregon from Canada the news station came out to do a story on the babies. There was a cattle truck filled with about 60 of them that various people in Oregon and California had saved. They wanted to do a story to raise public awareness about the problem. Even though Cali had never been handled by people before that night he stood quietly with wires and lights draped around, over and on top of him while they broadcast that night from my backyard. I knew then that he was probably going to be quiet enough even for me.
This was at the height of the Premarin problems. Premarin is an estrogen replacement that is made from pregnant mare's urine. A few years ago it was the most widely prescribed medication in the US. Any woman who was past menopause was offered the chance to relieve her symptoms by taking this. But then studies started showing a correlation between the medication and breast cancer and the stock in this Wyeth product plummeted. At the time there were hundreds of Premarin farmers scattered across Canada who all owned hundreds of pregnant mares each that stood for 9 months out of the year tied up with their urine being collected 24-7. At one time all of the resulting foals were slaughtered immediately at birth and 9 days later their moms were bred back to insure that they stayed in foal about 50 weeks out of the year. Pressure from animal groups caused regulations to be put into place that allowed the foals to be born outside and allowed to stay with their mamas for the first two months of their lives while the mares became pregnant naturally while running with a stallion within their respective herd. However after two months the foals were still allowed to be sold for slaughter purposes.
People started to step in and try to save these foals. And that is how I got Cali. I became the US rep for a rescue group in Canada and we saved over 800 mares and foals in the year that we did this job. After the first year the industry had whittled down to just a few farms and the need for heavy duty rescuing stopped.
But the personal result for me (other than the expenditure of literally tens of thousands of dollars that I spent) was that in my back yard stands Cali, Lizzie and Joy, just three of the dozens of PMU mares and babies that came through my backyard over a couple of years.
My driving mare Splash was also a PMU mare that I purchased after moving to Oklahoma. She is a wonderful driving horse, but when she is loose she still reverts back to the nature of most PMU mares....untrusting and fearful of people. I have had her for 5 years and she is still terrified when I go to catch her. Once she is caught she settles and works, but it is a very difficult process to get her caught in the first place.
But anyway....back to Cali..... he is a big buckskin guy with a couple of white body splotches. He is a pretty crude moving horse, but hopefully as he goes through training he will learn to be a bit more of an athletic boy. After this coming weekend when I know that the hot weather is probably pretty much gone for the year I will start him back in training and I have hopes that by next spring he will be a nice riding boy.
It is hard because at his size and age (he is 7 years old now and I think that he is done growing) I want him to be big and really fat, but I know that I need to keep him on the light side for his health and soundness sake.
So part of Cali's life will be in my blog.....my animals are such a big part of my life that it cannot be any other way.
And that is how these past few days and the next few days will be going. Busy, happy, stuffed with music and dance and dogs.....

Life is good.

Thank you for listening, I really appreciate it.

Laura....not even sure what her weight is today.......

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Racetracking These Days

It has now been longer since I have worked on the racetrack than the number of years that I was actually there. I worked at the racetrack for 17 years and I have been away for 18 years. And yet it seems like yesterday when I was last there.
When I left the track I really believed that it was only for a short time. I was pregnant with Kaity and the doctor had put me on full bed rest. My husband and I were separated and contemplating divorce. It was a time of struggle and I imagined that I would be back at the track and amongst my friends within days after Kaity was born.
But as we all know, life is not always as we plan for it.
Kaity was born with several birth defects with the most pressing being congenital heart disease. She was in the intensive care unit for months and by the time the two of us were back home I knew that my life had changed forever.
Rather than being back working in the racing office with Kaity sleeping in a snuggly she was in a crib with feeding tubes and machines hooked up to her around the clock. And instead of being able to go back to working seven days a week I was having to figure out how to work to pay the bills and still be able to watch her 24 hours a day.
The racetrack to me was more than a job. I loved the horses and I loved the racing. But first and foremost the racetrack had given me a sense of family that I had never felt before. Growing up had been a struggle for me. These days we look at children who do not fit in and we work to give them the tools that they can use to help adjust to life. But back then it was something that just was not even considered. Growing up I had heard over and over that I was a very expendable part of my family and that if I did not appreciate being in a family I was welcome to leave at any time. Looking back now I can see that my parents did the best that they knew how to do. They were married at an extremely young age and I was born a year later. Alcohol played a large part in our family and while it was an accepted part of life in those days I now see that it played a part in the way that my family interacted with each other.
As an adult I had come to realize and accept that my parents were alcoholics but I did not realize it back then. It just seemed that everyone's parents drank every single day and that it was a normal way of life. But as an adult it became clear (after my brother, sister in law and many childhood friends helped point it out to me) that there was much more than just social drinking that was a factor in my childhood days.
So as an adult I get it. I know that my parents did the best that they could and that for some reason their lives were not what they had hoped they would be. And that I and my brother were casualties of that mind set. My brother often pointed out to me that he had chosen to live across the country from then as an adult for a reason. But even as a young adult I was desperate for my parents love and approval. And while it was painful to me then, it was excruciating to me as a child. I just felt that it was obvious that there was something wrong with me when even your own parents tell you that they do not love you. Because if your own family does not love you then who ever will?
But when I started working at the racetrack I felt as though this must be what family feels like to most people. I was surrounded by people who cared about me and I felt a part of things for the first time in my life. And while there was the usual broken heart every now and then and some generally sad times, at least I felt as though I was with my 'family' to help me get through these growing pains.
So when I realized that I had to leave to care for Kaity it was beyond description. My friends continued to call and try to stay in touch, but their friendship was actually more painful and more of a reminder of what I was losing than it was comforting. They kept talking about the future and that they knew that at some point everything would be back to normal and that I would be able to come 'home' and bring Kaity with me. And yet I knew down inside that I would never be able to come home with Kaity because I would not be able to go back and still be the kind of mother that Kaity would need.
So I left for good. I moved to Oregon to get away from everyone and all of the memories. I went back in to the show horse world that I had known growing up and refused to stay in touch with anyone. Slowly people stopped calling until finally I had gotten what I wanted- complete solitude from anything involving the racetrack. I refused to watch racing on television and avoided conversations with any horse people that referred at all to the track. When the track was brought up by show people I never even shared that I had ever been a part of that life. It was horrible- but it was the only way that I knew to get through the transition.
Then about 6 years ago I started missing it again. Things had been fine. Kaity was growing up and still needed extra care but it was better than before. I had a good life with my new friends. I was involved in lots of dog sports and still had saddle horses in my back yard. But something was missing.
I knew that my life at the track was over. But for the first time I wasn't so sure that it could not still be a part in some small way. And then one day driving to work (I was working as a real estate investment officer) I decided that it was time to start getting my life back on track.
So I set up some major needs in my life.....

1) I needed to be able to live where I had my horses in the back yard and where my dogs had a yard to play in.
2) I needed to be near major hospitals for Kaity.
3) The property could not be expensive (less than $100k).
4) I needed to be near a mid to large size airport so that I could fly to my dog judging assignments.

All of the above had already been a part of my choices in where I lived. But now I added one more need to the list...

5) I needed to be within 30 miles of a solvent racetrack.

And that was the thing that changed my life.

I looked all across the country and only came up with a couple of options. All of the above were easy....but keeping it within my budget was the killer of most of my options. But I looked hard and came up with Oklahoma City. I was not sure how successful the racetrack in OKC was since I had not kept up with industry news, but I decided that a quick phone call was not too much to do and so I called Remington Park.

My timing was pretty amazing. Just days before, the state of Oklahoma had passed a ruling that a casino could be built within the grandstands of the racetrack. The person that I spoke to that day admitted that prior to this vote, racing prospects were looking pretty dim for the future of Oklahoma. But with this successful outcome of just days before, it was hoped that the viability of racing would now be more likely than at any other time in history.

That was all I needed to hear. I knew that the timing of my phone call was more than a coincidence. I also knew that it was time to head to the Sooner state.

Within days I had purchased a house sight unseen over the Internet. It was a foreclosure and I was warned that it was in terrible shape. But it was on 5 acres, it could be fixed and it was within 25 minutes of Remington Park. I was not sure why that was important- but I knew that this was meant to be.

So here I live....and while I accept that my life as it was at the track will never be the same, it is a comfort to know that it is there. I go to the races on occasion. I am back in touch with many of my racetrack friends (many of whom have retired and gone on to different lives themselves over the years) and I am able to blend my current life with my past....... and more importantly with my future.

It is not the way that I had envisioned it........but it is pretty darn good.

Thanks for listening,

Laura

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Still Struggling

It was so easy when I first started my diet and my blog......and then I just fell off track. Nothing really changed, nothing bad happened, nothing was the apparent cause of the detour, but off I fell.
So I have just been plugging along. I worked a couple of extra shifts for a friend at work, Kaity got sick and had to stay home from school and then I got bored and painted my bedroom with a can of mis-tinted paint that has been sitting on the sun porch for about a year now.
My bedroom used to be sage green and cream. It is a very small bedroom as we have a very small house. Living with a dozen dogs, a teenager who loves to wash her hair and put on makeup plus all of the art work and antique furniture pieces I have collected over the years makes it a pretty tight squeeze in 900 square feet, but we do it....and do it pretty well.
The main part of our house was built over 100 years ago. Then in the fifties, an addition was added to it that brought the grand total up to the 900 square. We have just one very small bathroom that is only 4x8.....the size of a sheet of plywood. Our closets in the bedrooms are only 18 inches wide- so in essence, no closets at all- so we converted one of the small bedrooms into a closet and storage room.
But I digress.......oh that is right....the painted bedroom saga........
So to reiterate, it used to be sage and cream. It is an L shaped room with lots of windows. I think that it probably used to be the drawing room when the house was first built. When I moved in the walls were covered with this sort of press board paneling that had been glued onto the walls. It took a couple of weeks of scraping with a chisel and hammer to get it all off and ready for painting. Under the paneling was a couple of layers of very old wallpaper that was equally as stubborn about giving up the cause.
I started out by painting the walls cornflower blue- which I really loved. But about a year later I saw a great bedroom that was a deep chocolate brown with cream accents. I decided to repaint and keep my blue and cream accents. And it was fine- but this is not a house that embraces that sort of look, so a year later I painted the inside walls of my 'L' shaped room sage and the other 4 walls a cream and then added red accents.
It has been fun- but I was ready for another change.
A year ago I purchased a $5 can of mis-tinted paint that was called cantaloupe. And the paint dot appeared to be a light melon color. I have been using it to prop open the door of the sun porch for the cats for this entire year. So I decided to put it to better use (do not worry about the cats, I have found another doorstop to allow them free access).
Now, as I watch some of the design shows I realize that the proper way to paint a room is to empty it of all furniture, artwork, curtains, etc,..... but when you have a 900 sq ft house there is not a lot of options for even moving something around temporarily. Plus, I am an immediate gratification person (see earlier blog i.e. weight loss problems) and want to get started painting RIGHT NOW!
So I pushed things to one side just far enough for me to get in on my step stool and paint. I decided to leave the two sage walls alone since my curtains are also sage and I really love them.
That left the outside 4 walls.
Now keep in mind I had just worked 7 out of the past 9 days of 13 hour shifts. That is 117 hours in a little over a week. And they had not been easy nights. An emergency almost every night. So perhaps I should be cut some slack for not thinking through the ramifications and eventual outcome of taking a can of essentially orange paint and combining it with sage green walls and curtains. Oh yeah....and I have black bookcases and a black iron headboard.

Yeah.......it is like living in a giant pumpkin in my room right now. Kaity said 'Oh Mom- it looks just like Halloween in here'! Not exactly what I had in mind....but I am actually going to live with it for awhile and see if I can just start to think of it as the color of my favorite season of Fall.

Trained dogs yesterday. I have a couple of amazing greyhounds and their equally amazing owners in Saturday class. These are rescued dogs and they are so gentle and loving. I can see why the people in greyhound rescue are so passionate about this breed. This dogs are truly the perfect therapy dogs for assisted living and hospital visits. They want nothing more than to be loved and touched. Hmmmmmm sounds like what most people want.....yes- the perfect combination.

Then I worked TillyB, Flag-puppy and Spur. Actually I worked Tilly and Flag and mostly played with Spur. Kris and her Beagle Brigade came to join us and we worked out the choreography needed for our pairs routine in two weeks. I have seen a lot of pairs routines during my years of judging, but I have to say I really love our routine. It is fun and exciting to do and I love the costumes and music (we are pirates). There are a couple of new behaviors that I have to teach Tilly in the next two weeks, but the weather is cooler now for training and I have faith in her to pick up the new moves.

Then I played/worked with Flag-puppy. He has started losing his baby teeth this week and is also starting to lose that puppy look. Kris asked me yesterday what breed do I really think that he is? I told her that I am not really sure. I know that he is supposed to be an Aussie (full) but he sure is not a very pretty one. But he has a lot of personality and drive and I am very excited about his future as a freestyle dog. He worked well yesterday and in two weeks he will make his debut (at the grand age of 4 1/2 months) during the Show and Go at the freestyle competition here in Oklahoma. I will do both days with him and I have selected the music 'I Can Show You The World' from Aladdin for one day and 'The Wizard And I ' from Wicked for the 2nd day. I also plan to let the girls (Kaity and Lucy) play with him in the ring while we all clap and cheer for him to get him used to lots of excitement in the ring. I want this puppy to thrive on applause!

Next up was Spur. He ha now lived with us for three weeks. He is recovered from surgery (although he has another smaller tumor on his throat that I will have taken off in a few weeks) and is an amazing dog. He just loves people so much. He is rather a clumsy boy, but he has also gained 17 pounds since we got him. He seems amazed that we have 'magic' food bowls here that always are filled with things to eat. Free feeding is not a great way to go when it comes to training performance dogs, but with the number of dogs we have here it makes for a lot easier life style.

Spur just had a ball playing yesterday. He now has learned that he loves to weave and while he has not grasped that the heelwork is a position, he knows that he just loves to trot next to me which is good enough for now. He has a really hard time going in a circle (spinning) and his hind end tends to go out from under him when he tries to follow a lure even really slowly so I doubt that this move will be in his future. But I will keep doing it slowly so as to help build up his hindquarters and hip muscles. I just love this dog more than I can say.......

So that is how my week has gone. Bought a rice steamer and a bunch of brown rice. Bought veggies and fruit and ready to step back on track. I will be at the gym and in the pool on Tuesday (they are closed until then). Today is a lazy day of catch up, tomorrow is a day at the races and watching the All American Futurity on the television.

And tonight is another night of sleeping in the great pumpkin bedroom.

But I am thinking that if a plain orange pumpkin can become a princess carriage and 4 white mice can become 4 white horses then maybe my life can become my own again.........

Thanks for listening, I appreciate all of your kind words and thoughts,

Laura....still heading back to the right track.....

Friday, August 27, 2010

Still Struggling.....

I am not sure what is going on with me right now. I have just felt 'off' since coming home from Austin. I am not sure if I got a bit of a bug while I was there or just got overly tired when I got back from a long work week, but I am just not finding my groove right now.
The weather has cooled off and that is really helping. I am putting in a few extra hours of work each week to get caught up on some bills and to buy bicycles for Kaity and I to ride with the dogs. I have several friends out of work right now and I am really grateful that I have a job.
Come to think of it....it has been a while since I have taken a good look at what I am grateful for. Maybe listing some things will help get me back on track.
So here goes (not in any particular order)....

I am grateful for Kaity, and that many of her health problems have improved over the years.
I am grateful for my friends- both old and new and all that they add to my life.
I am grateful to my dog Joey for giving me such wonderful memories from when he starred in Annie.
I am grateful to my dog Jakey and the fun I have had in freestyle and agility with him. He was my 'test' dog while I was learning these sports and I am glad that he still loves me.
I am grateful for my little house and property. It is very small and very old but I love it very much.
I am grateful that I have a job that gives me a paycheck and allows me to pay my bills.
I am grateful that I have my health.
I am grateful that I got back in touch with my Aunt Harriet and my cousin Jack. They are my family and I need them in my life.
I am grateful for the horses in my life- both in my backyard and where I work. They help keep me centered.
I am grateful for TillyBelle who has taught me patience and gives me back so much.
I am grateful for Flag-puppy who makes me smile with his puppy antics.
I am grateful for my church. I love attending Life Church and it helps to renew me each week.
I am grateful that I have never wavered in my love for God- nor He in his love for me. While I may not understand the lessons that I am learning I know that they are important ones.
I am grateful for my new dog Spur. He has become my shadow and I know that he will be important in the lives of others.
I am grateful that I love the written word.
I am grateful for Facebook- it is a tool that has allowed me to get back in touch with many friends that I thought were lost to me forever. I cherish these friendships and I am so thankful that I have been given a second chance with so many people.
I am grateful for the support that I have been given by so many people during this journey of discovery and weight loss that I have undertaken.
I am grateful that I have my health. And that I have never been a smoker. With my family history it is a good thing that I never thought about starting.
I am grateful that the YMCA has a pool and is on my way home from work (sort of)...
I am grateful that I have shelter for my horses.
I am grateful for my barn cats. They keep the varmints away and give me lots of love.
I am grateful that when my truck got hit last weekend it did not affect the doors or driveability.
I am grateful that my daughter is Kaity is so sweet and loving.
I am grateful for the sport of canine freestyle. It has given me deep and forever friendships, wonderful training opportunities and memories to last a lifetime.
I am grateful to the host freestyle clubs that ask me to judge shows. I love seeing all of the freestylers compete.
I am grateful that my horse Gussy gained weight and looks so good and is so happy.
I am grateful for my dogs and all of the love that they provide to me.
I am grateful that I have unlimited long distance on my home phone so that I can all my friends and it is free.
I am grateful that the sixth season of Lost is now available and should show up in my mailbox any day now.
I am grateful that when I bought my house sight unseen over the internet it was in a wonderful area with lots of trees.
I am grateful for trees.
I am grateful for Truvia sweetener- tastes great and better than other sweeteners.
I am grateful that there are so many animal lovers in the world that work so tirelessly to make the world a better place for these animals.
I am grateful for the Kentucky Derby. And the fact that the song still makes me cry.
I am grateful for horses.
I am grateful for dogs.
I am grateful for bing cherries, tomatoes, avocados and good salsa.
I am grateful that I have bought artwork over the years that I love. I am grateful for Tommy Goncharoff who advised me to buy my very first good print and started me off.
I am grateful that I got to be around Mr Doty Bars when he won the Champion of Champions after being a claiming horse.
I am grateful that John Cooper gave me a wonderful job ponying for him when I moved to Southern California many years ago.
I am grateful for my friend Lisa who has always been there for me and Kaity.
I am grateful that my window air conditioner keeps my living room cold in the summer.
I am grateful that my friend Sandy lets me train at her training center.
I am grateful that I splurged and bought a Wi a few years ago. I love playing the cart race.
I am grateful that I was able to buy my laptop and get wireless. It has allowed me to stay in touch in so many ways.
I am grateful that my friend Kris is putting on a local competition next month and that I will get to see my friends while there.

Whew.....guess I could go on and on.....

You know, I know that there are probably people who know that I have a rather low paying job and that I am raising Kaity alone and that we often have a bit of a struggle getting by. But when I see my list of what I have to be grateful for (and believe me when I say that I could have gone on a LOT longer with what I was listing) I know that my life is a good one. I wish that everyone had the opportunities to look at their life from a place of gratefulness.

So nothing to report in the weight loss column this week. I am still struggling to get back on track and back in the pool on a regular basis. But I am getting there. And all of you are helping me to get there. Thank you so much........

Laura

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good Days and Bad Days

Wow....I really got off track with my blog. It has been almost two weeks since I wrote anything. One of the problems with my writing is that I always feel the need to be inspired when I write so as to make sure that my musings appear to be at least somewhat interesting and witty. But I know that I really need to force myself to write even when i do not feel like it.
So I went to Austin for a long weekend. And it was wonderful. We played with dogs, visited friends, made incredible guacamole courtesy (avocados, limes and recipe) of my dear friend Barb from Malibu, went sailing, shopped at thrift stores and the Mexican Market for dog toys and props, taught a seminar to some really fabulous students and had an overall great time.
Came home and went right back to work and it has taken these past ten days to really get back on track. I was exhausted and just could not get caught up on sleep.
But I am back swimming, and heard a rumor that this oppressive heat may start to dissipate tomorrow and plan to start walking as soon as that happens.
Have not lost any more weight, but only gained back three pounds while i was in Austin, so I guess it sure could have been a lot worse. My camera got lost in Austin and then it was found, but the lens was broken so it is officially dead. Thank goodness we still have Kaity's little red camera. We also salvaged the memory card out of the broken camera, so the 200+ photos we took in Austin were not lost either. So all in all it could have been a lot worse.
Parked my truck in the dark Saturday morning at Wal Mart on the way home from work to grocery shop and someone sideswiped it and took out the entire passenger side. Poor Brownie is 15 years old and has 200,000 miles on her so i do not have collision insurance. But at least it is driveable, the passenger door was not affected and it is on the off side so I do not have to look at it. So all in all, could have been a lot worse.
The new Aussie boy has been renamed Spur. His biopsy came back negative and he is an amazing and sweet dog. All in all, could not be much better!
So I drone on. (Re above: hate to be boring and not witty when I write)..........
Next month is one freestyle event that I am judging and competing with Tilly in a Pairs routine, plus it will be Flag Puppy and Spurs debut in the Show and Go offered at the end of each day. The following weekend Tilly and I will be competing in agility.
Still droning.....I am even boring myself at this point.

So....I have begun editing again in my life. Editing my stuff that is. Over the past year we have taken several tubs of clothing, linens and other items to church to donate. Today it was two large tubs of books and kitchen appliances that I never use. It is brutal at times....but I just own too much stuff. I always feel really guilty because at $10 an hour I basically live pay check to paycheck as a single mom so I have never been able to give a tithe to the church. We always bring a small donation, but to give up ten percent would mean that we would not have electricity some months. So I decided to give my stuff to them so that it can be used to help others. I still have too much. There are days that I remember a bit longingly the days when everything fit into my car as I traveled from racetrack to racetrack......but truly, I would not trade my life today for the past in any way. It is hard being a single mom no doubt, but I have become a master at Top Ramon and gourmet Mac and Cheese.

Okay...I am at a loss for something inspiring to talk about....maybe I need to tell a story....hmmmmm let me think about something fun to tell.

I will talk about my dog Jakey. Jakey is a sheltie who is now 13 years old. I got him when he was three years old. He had spent the first couple years of his life tied up behind a mobile home and was finally removed by animal control for barking. From there he went to sheltie rescue and from there he was selected by Dogs For The Deaf as a potential hearing dog. At first Jakey was a wild man. DFD has apartments built above their kennels for training purposes. I was told that Jakey used to race around the apartments like crazy and they were not sure if they could settle him enough for training, but eventually he did start to learn. He was pretty far along in his training when one day out in town he became frightened of the automatic doors going in and out of the stores. They worked with him for awhile, but he did not get any better and it was decided to wash him out of the program and let him be adopted out as a career change dog. He went through a couple of foster homes, but Jakey was not exactly a cuddly sweet boy so nobody wanted to adopt him.
I was asked to foster him when his current foster left to go on vacation. I went and picked him up. At the time I was our regional trainer for Petsmart. I brought him back to work with me and started playing with him. Within a few minutes I called DFD and told them to go ahead and file the adoption papers- Jakey had found his forever home.
Now over the years Jakey earned numerous titles in both agility and freestyle. We called him Jakey the Rocket Dog.....and he was really really fast. He also had a drive in freestyle that was a joy to work with. Once a judge called him a 'once in a lifetime dog' and I do not think that was very far off. But that is not the story that I want to tell.

About three months after I adopted Jakey, DFD hosted our yearly Pet Expo at the fairgrounds. It was a two day event filled with seminars, vendors, exhibitions and games for Southern Oregon pet owners. I went and did demos with Jakey in both obedience and agility. By this time Jakey had become invaluable to me at work. I brought him almost everyday and he had become an amazing dog when it came to showing examples of what a well trained dog could be taught to do. He had simply not made a mistake in the months that I had owned him and I was grateful that I had been allowed to be a part of his life.

But I digress.....this weekend was filled with hundreds of pets and their owners. In the afternoon there were games that were played out in the big covered horse arena (about 200 feet long) and Kaity wanted to take Jakey out and play the games with him. I felt a bit guilty- after all- what dog would have a chance against my magical and perfect sheltie? But Kaity was insistent, so I agreed.

We went out to the ring and the first couple of games were fun. Kaity gave Jakey the cues while I held him and we ribboned in fastest sit and musical chairs. Then came the game we were all waiting for- the Fastest Recall! Who could ever beat Jakey the rocket dog?

The premise of the game was that all of the dogs (about 40 each heat) were held/stayed at one end of the arena while all of the owners went to the other. At a signal from the starter we were all to call our dogs to us and the fastest one to the other end was the winner. A simple, easy game....that had an amazing capacity for disaster when you think about it. 40 strange dogs all racing the length of the arena together? It still amazes me that I was even willing to participate. But my sheltie was having fun, my daughter was imploring and I had enough of an ego that I wanted to show off my brilliant Jakey.

So we lined up all of the dogs. Of the 40 dogs, 39 of them were held by people. I left Jakey on a sit stay and walked with Kaity to the opposite end of the ring. As the announcer started the countdown, someone in the crowd (and there was a BIG crowd) popped a balloon and several dogs were turned loose and began to run to the end of the ring. The announcer shouted that it was a false start and we needed to begin again. And then he said "and folks- just look at that wonderful little sheltie still sitting there'.

Because my beautiful Jakey had never moved even as the dogs around him broke rank. I had continued to hold my hand up in front of me to cue him for his stay, and he had never wavered in his perfect behavior. I remember feeling an actual tightness in my throat as I realized that I had the perfect partner in Jakey. A lovely, intelligent brave little dog who would do anything for me.

Then the announcer called 'go' and I lowered my hand and called Jakey to me along with 39 other handlers. And Jakey shot out of line like a rocket heading straight for me. He was probably 20 feet in front of the closest dogs and the tightness in my throat changed to teary eyes as I watched my loyal and amazing dog heading towards me.

About 50 feet from me I noticed an abrupt shift in Jakey's focus. Without wavering, he changed course like a heat seeking missile. I looked over, and about 20 people away from me a young girl, probably about 10 years old was jumping up and down and screaming for her dog to run faster. I realized that Jakey was heading straight for the screaming child about the same time said screaming child realized that a small and intent sheltie was bearing down on her.

Now to this day I truly believe that had that child just stood there, Jakey would have run to her and showered her with sheltie love. But unfortunately that is not what happened. Said screaming child began to scream louder and to run away from the line up. Jakey, being a herding dog both in breeding and at heart decided to take that moment to reach deep into his ancestry and help to return the errant child to the flock. The faster the child ran, the faster Jakey worked at circling her to bring her back to the line. People were chasing Jakey, the Dogs for the Deaf trainers were attempting to tackle him and the announcer was imploring everyone to stop running so that the situation could be brought under control. Jakey never actually touched the child, but he used every herding technique he could think of to school this child about leaving the safety and order of her flock. Finally one very fast and athletic trainer managed to jump on Jakey and pin him down for a moment so that the child could escape to her family members (who had not helped matter by laughing during the entire display......).

I immediately retrieved my happy and proud dog, trying to cover up the fact that I was wearing a Petsmart Training tee shirt and returned to the main exhibit hall to prepare for my next demonstration of a well trained dog.

To this day, at the grand age of 13, Jakey still keeps an eye out for errant children and always has hope that maybe, just maybe he will be given the chance once more to display his natural ability at controlling any child who might choose to wander from the flock.

Not sure why I decided to share that story........but Jakey is lying on the foot of my bed as I write and I just wanted to talk about him.

So tomorrow I will be back on track completely. Eating healthy, swimming and if it is a bit cooler as predicted starting to walk a few times a week. I am going to try and work some overtime this next month because I told Kaity that I would buy us matching bikes from WalMart and that we could start riding them in the evenings and on weekends. Great thing to do together, good exercise for me, and I can attach a couple of devices onto them to exercise and condition dogs at the same time.........'

So thank you for listening, thank you for not bugging me about not posting sooner, and thank you for your support........

Posting again soon.......

Laura....who is back up to 275 but is back on track again...........

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weekend Away

When I started this weight loss journey I set three future goals for myself each one month apart. It just worked out that I had three engagements coming up that fell right into that time frame and I knew that these short term goals would help keep me on track and accountable (that and posting weekly photos and weight REALLY helps too).
I do know that it has taken me 15 years to put on this weight and that it will take some time to get it off. I know that sure and steady is better than crash diets. I know that I need to view it as a healthy lifestyle choice instead of a diet or a weight loss journey. But the bottom line is that I spent 15 years trying to fill up every hole that I had in my heart with three things- my daughter (healthy) rescuing animals ( sometimes healthy) and eating (really really unhealthy).
I am a person who likes immediate gratification.
I like to paint rooms in my house because it is a quick way for a big change. I hate to tape off the trim.
I like to cook, but hate the prep work (well that and cleaning up afterwards isn't any picnic).
I like to shop for clothes but do not necessarily love them once I have them (hmmmm maybe because when you weigh what I weigh nothing every really looks good)?
I love to eat just about anything and everything- and ALWAYS feel horrible afterwards because I know that I just added another day to the time when I can feel healthy again.

So now my first 30 days has passed and I lost 12 pounds. I totally understand that a weight loss of an average 3 pounds per week is considered healthy and reasonable. But it just feels very slow to me. When I was younger I could whip that much weight (or at least close to it) off in a week's time. Now I have really worked at it- swimming three times a week and watching every mouthful that I have taken in ......and it feels as though I have the right to have more to show for my efforts.

I really wanted to actually look a little different going down to Austin this weekend. And at my weight, 12 pounds does not really make any difference looks-wise. In all reality, it may be at least a couple more months before anyone will even notice a change in me. And for someone who likes instant gratification that feels like a really long time.

But I know that this is a long journey, and it is one that I have brought on upon myself. I am the one who made the bad choices to eat what I have eaten over the past few years. Nobody forced me. I can use all kinds of excuses, but I am the one who needs to take responsibility for what i have done. And I need to really look at what made me do it. I went from a rather healthy, somewhat attractive woman to throwing away many opportunities over these years by eating and gaining weight.

I have said that I ride horses. I love to ride horses. More than that I love to train and compete with my horses. And I have always had a degree of success in doing so. Most of the times when I have shown I have fared pretty well at the end of the day. So.....is it the horses that caused me any of my issues? I don't think so....other than being pretty expensive pets and needing some of my time, they have given me some of my most peaceful moments. There is nothing quite so therapeutic as just sitting and listening to horses eat. There is a calmness that fills me when I am around them. And I do want to compete again with them. Besides the obvious ease of riding that comes from being fit and healthy there is also the fact that those white dressage breeches are about as unforgiving as anything in the world. Great incentive!

I compete with my dogs. And while I have never had even a moment of being made to feel out of place no matter what my weight is, I certainly know that by losing weight it will help me in all manners of both of my dogs sports. It will sure be a lot easier running an agility course a hundred pounds lighter. And my freestyle can only improve once I am better able to move in the ring (not to mention lots more costuming options)......so this is also a great motivation.

I need to be around for Kaity. I need to be there for a very long time for her because I am the only family that she knows. And so perhaps this is the best encouragement of all- to be there as a healthy strong person for many decades to come.

So what has caused me to let myself go and hide behind this much weight? I know all of the typical theories out there and while I hate to put myself in a stereotypical box, perhaps I truly am no different than many others who got to this point in my life.

I am not sure that I am ready to dig into this yet. It may be enough to know at this point that I have taken steps to get past some old wounds and become healthier emotionally. I used to think that we were a product of our past and that while we still needed to take responsibility for our lives, that we sometimes could have trouble taking the steps to really move on. I now believe that everyone has the right to take as much time as they need to move past the old hurts. And probably there are many people who are able to live full, satisfying and enriched lives even when there has been no resolution to this pain. But for me I needed to start to face them and look at what the truth was behind my previous inability to lead my life as a healthy strong woman. And I know that this will be as much of a journey as the weight loss. But it is also one that I will take one step, one day and one goal at a time.

Thank you again my friends....your support, encouragement and kind words are a blessing and an inspiration to me.

Laura....down a total of 12 pounds in a month ...now weighting 272

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stormy Days

It has been a hectic week. We have had a really sick horse at the clinic and while logistically he takes a lot of time for care he also is an mental drain because it is just too easy to become emotionally involved with the horses that we care for. On top of everything else, on Thursday night (actually Friday morning at about 4 am) I slammed a heavy steel stall door on my right index finger and broke it.
Now I am a pretty brave girl. I've broken a few things over the years and generally I take injury right in stride. When you grow up around horses it is just expected that you will go through life with more than your share of your bumps and bruises. And let me tell you, the horse world takes no prisoners when it comes to anything other than life threatening injuries. You are expected to put your big girl shoes on and just live with it.
But let me tell you....this really hurts! I tried wearing a splint, but I just caught it on everything and made it worse, so I am now just going with a really big wrap around the entire thing. but it is a great excuse to just lay around today and not do very much. I worked last night and it is surprising how much you use your index finger for in everyday tasks. But such is life, Couldn't swim for the past couple of days which I miss......but because of that (in part) we had a stormy day yesterday.
You see, I used to be heavily involved in dog rescue (horse rescue too....but that is a story for another day). When I lived in Oregon I fostered for several groups and it was soon pretty well known that if you sent me an unadoptable dog I would probably just keep it rather than send it back to an unfortunate end for the dog.
At one point we had well over 20 dogs at our house. And while this is not an extremely high number for many rescues, it was overwhelming for me. I just could not relegate a dog to living in a kennel, so all of our dogs lived with us like a regular family pet. Many of the dogs went with me to demos and performances at different events and some were rather successful in agility and freestyle. But it was just too much for me, and in the past several years I have backed way off of getting involved too much.
I have thought a lot about what drives some of us to rescue large numbers of animals. There are obviously many degrees of this need. A few weeks ago a television show was shown that focused on animal hoarding. I was interested in seeing what a professional therapists take was on the causes, but what was disappointing was that they focused on two very extreme cases. One was a person with about 80 cats and another had about 50 dogs. And neither party allowed the animals outside for any reason. So there was a lot more going on in both cases than just having the need to rescue.
So being a complete amateur when it comes to the psychiatric world, I have some theories of my own. In my own case, I never really felt accepted or comfortable out there in the people world. Both with my own family and with friends and/or colleagues I have always felt out of place and searching for a feeling of belonging. And yet when I am with animals I feel loved, accepted and needed. So is that why we do it? It seems a bit too pat for an answer. I think that for me it goes even deeper. I never really started until after Kaity was born. And I believe that I went a little crazy when I knew what I was in store for raising a child with disabilities. The doctors actually warned me about this being a side effect of the situation. They wanted me to start therapy immediately to help me through the challenging times. But I chose instead to do it my way. And that turned out to not necessarily be the most healthy of choices.
I responded to the feeling of lack of control over my life in three primary ways. First of all, I ate. And I ate a lot. You see, I could not do drugs, or turn to alcohol because I needed to be able to take care of Kaity. So I could not allow myself to be impaired. But when it came to food I could have that instant gratification that also gave myself a reward. It did not matter if anyone else gave me an attaboy for how I was raising her alone- I would give myself a reward. And it was immediate and i could control the level of reward by what and how much I ate.
The second way that I could instantly give myself a pat on the back was by shopping. Clothes, art work, garage sales, furniture, you name it, I bought it. Now mind you I never put myself in debt with credit cards, but I spent every penny that I earned as soon as I cashed my paycheck. It gave (gives) me a feeling of great satisfaction to purchase something that I want. And if I were to be completely honest, I probably only needed about ten percent of the things that I bought. But I continued to do it, and although I have become slightly better about my choices I still struggle with this issue to this very day.
And finally, I rescued animals. It did not take much to get me to agree to save an animal's life by bringing them to our home. A part of the problem- however I do not want to blame anyone but myself for this situation- was that I had a number of friends that were doing the same thing and in some cases on a much higher level than I. So rather than feeling like the crazy old cat lady out in the woods, I was actually encouraged to continue by these friends. And we had a lot of really good times. We showed our dogs together at breed shows and in the agility ring. We traveled together, and spent time together on a regular basis. I had a training area out in front of my house and they would all come over (along with other dog friends) on Saturday nights and we would work dogs and then build a bonfire, and sit around talking and enjoying each other's company until the middle of the night each Saturday. I felt as though I belonged in their circle and that I had found friends who felt like family.
But then over the years people started moving away. There were a couple of divorces. And finally I also chose to move away from that environment and try to get a better handle on my life.
I have been better these past few years. We still have a huge number of dogs (although only about half of what we had before) but I no longer say yes without a great deal of thought into the consequences of saying yes and bringing a specific dog into our household. many of my dogs are quite elderly now, and so in the next few years we will probably lose most of them, and they are certainly past the point of needing any training or extra exercise. They just live with us and get love from now on.
But yesterday I said yes again. My first love in the dog world are the herding dogs. With my passion for training and competing I like to stack the deck my way when at all possible. I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the people who compete with unusual breeds. I have a friend who does freestyle with Beagles and another with Greyhounds. There are gals using Newfoundlands and various terrier breeds. But I will admit that I probably do not have the temperament to choose any of these dogs as my competition dogs. So I stick to herding dogs. My first freestyle dog was a sheltie (still here and about to turn 14) and my TillyBelle is a little Aussie. Our puppy Flag is supposed to be an Aussie, and I believe that he probably has at least some of that breed in him...and whatever else might be there also leans towards herding characteristics.
The other night I got an email about an Aussie that was about to outstay his welcome at a shelter. he had been there awhile, he was estimated to be about 5-7 years old, thus getting himself the 'older dog' label that often turns people away and he had a tumor on his neck that would need to be surgically removed. So three strikes and he was about to be out.
A photo was sent to me along with his plea for help. And when I saw his face, I just knew that he was meant to be my dog. So the next morning found me sitting outside the shelter before they even opened for the day. When the doors were unlocked it took me about ten minutes to meet the dog (named Stormy by shelter workers) and fill out the adoption papers. By last night he had his surgery to remove the tumor and was trotting behind me at work as I went from stall to stall treating my cases.
He would have had his first training session today, but about halfway thru the morning I knew I had to take a pain pill for my (broken) finger and did not feel comfortable driving anywhere under the influence so I have spent the better part of today on the couch.
So three and a half weeks ago I made a great start at taking my life back under control. I went to a healthy eating lifestyle. I called my Auntie, and regained a family. I have not spent any money lately on unneeded purchases (I really DID need those silver conchos off of ebay to put on my sandals). And I saved Stormy's life.
Most people would say that I have been successful this past month at getting control over two out of three vices.
But I am looking at Stormy laying here on the living room floor. Every now and then he sighs with contentment. He went to sleep last night with a full tummy of food and a stitched incision where a large tumor used to be. And this week he will start training to be a freestyle dog.
And I am thinking that I am a winner on all counts.

Laura.....who will weigh in again on Wednesday....but knows that the healthy way I am eating is more important than the amount that shows on the scale this week.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mama said there'd be days like this.....

Just to get it over with right off the bat, I weighed in this morning and I have not lost any weight this week. Didn't gain any, but did not lose any. While intellectually I can process this in my head, it is still a bit of a disappointment. I know that while I am going through this journey I will have weeks where the scale does not move- better than going upwards certainly, but still not the outcome each week that I would hope for.
Oh well.....shaking it off.....

So no photo this week. I figure that you can just scroll down and look at last weeks since nothing has changed.

The easiest thing would be to just stop writing today. After all, I have been writing from a place where I knew each day that I weighed less than I had the day before. And even though it was never a lot less, it was still less. And while this weight felt pretty good last week based on the results of the week before that, all of a sudden this week's does not feel very good.

But if I stop writing every time I have a setback or a disappointment then what good is it to continue this blog? Nobody can expect to be on top every day and this is not going to be an exception to that rule.

I registered Kaity for school yesterday. This probably sounds like a routine event, but for the students in Kaity's class it is a really bid thing. You see this will be the first time any of the high school students in our little town will actually have a high school to go to. Four years ago during an ice storm a power line broke and landed on Jones High School. Before anything could be done it burned to the ground. It was so cold that the firemen could not get any water on the fire because it froze as soon as it left the hoses. Kids lost everything in their lockers, the teachers lost all of their teaching supplies, they books in the library were gone forever and the town of Jones was changed forever.

I suppose that most towns and cities would have just bussed the kids to another school and rebuilt the old one right away. But we live in a town of less than 2000 people and the high school only has about 200 students in grades 9-12. So it was not very high up on the priority list for any agencies.

But a couple of years ago the ground was broken for the new school. And this year the students will not have to walk between churches and trailers around town to be able to go to class. They have lockers for their coats and books instead of having to carry everything with them. And when it is pouring down rain or snowing they will be inside instead of getting soaked all day as they walk from class to class during the day.

And let me tell you- that school is beautiful. It is a credit to all who had a part in designing and building it. The students have a real stage to perform their concerts and plays on. Last year they sang at a very small local church. And their school play was done in a warehouse building on some plywood set up on blocks for a stage.

I know this because my daughter Kaity was given a part in the play and sang at the concerts. Now again, this probably does not seem like a very big accomplishment to many, but Kaity is mentally disabled. She cannot really remember any line in a play, so the teacher made up a part for her that allowed her to be on stage quite a bit without saying anything. She played a character who could not talk, and she carried a small white board with simple one or two word comments on it. When she was nudged she would hold the board up. She had a ball. The kids got together and helped her with her hair and makeup.

And she has sang in the last two concerts that the choir has performed in. She tapes the songs that she is supposed to sing and she practices them night and day to learn them. At the last concert she introduced me to some of the other students. They have been amazing to her.

Life is a series of trade offs. If we lived in a bigger town or city she probably would have had a school the past few years. But I do not think that if we lived in a larger town that she would have been given the special care that has surrounded her from her classmates and teachers. Except for one small incident back in the 6th grade she has never been teased or made to feel any less about herself because of her limitations. I never worry about what happens at her school because I know that everyone there is taking good care of her. It is a very special school filled with really special students and teachers. They have earned that new bright shiny school.

So that is it for today....no weight loss, no new photo, just my life as it is. And it is good.

Thanks everyone, I appreciate your encouragement,

Laura....who didn't lose any weight this week.......but gained more insight....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Facebooking

Last night as I was reading my facebook page and keeping up with old friends I was moved to post on my wall just how grateful I am that facebook was created and that so many people are taking advantage of the phenomenon.
I have close to 300 friends on my page. Now, of those 300 or so, probably 100 are people I have actually met and/or have had personal contact with away from the page. They include people that I went to high school with, people that I showed horses with growing up, people that I worked with at various racetracks over a 20 year span, people that I showed horses with as an adult after I was at the racetrack, people that I have run agility dogs with and people that I have done canine freestyle with. I have gotten back in touch with family members that I truly believed that I would never hear from again. Facebook has given me the opportunity of a number of 'do-overs' with people that I cared about but somehow lost track of over the years.
Why do we love Facebook so much? For me, it is the chance to reconnect and stay in touch with people without the fear of rejection. Oh sure, I can ask someone to be my 'friend' and they can ignore me- or even worse, choose to 'un-friend' me, but at least that is done in private and not out in front of other people.
I have gone thru life believing that I am a 'forgettable' person. That people I have met and have had a past relationship with would not even remember me without a number of specific facts that helped to jog their memory. I am surprised when people recognize my face or my name. I am especially surprised when they remember me without much prompting.
This fear has caused me many times to not approach people when I have seen them later in life- either in person or through the Internet. I worry that they will not want to acknowledge that we even know each other. I suppose that this causes a vicious circle of me coming across as unfriendly and aloof at times. I am afraid to be the first one to smile, or say hello, or approach others, and consequently they do the same and we never make the contact in the first place.
But facebook has resolved so much of these situations. I am friends with people that I barely knew, and that I know I would be afraid to approach in real life if I ran into them. But on facebook I can stay in touch, let people know what I am up to, see what others are doing with their lives and sometimes even live vicariously through each and every one of them.
It almost seems a bit sad to say that facebook has made me a less lonely adult. I know that in a perfect world I would be as active with others away from the computer, but what's true is that as I get older I miss more and more people from my past. And there are not enough hours in the day to stay in touch one on one with them. But facebook has given me the opportunity to find many of them, regain contact and feel as though once again they are part of my life.
Nothing will ever take the place of actually being up in the press box at Los Alamitos after the races with my friends, in the horse show ring with my fellow competitors, going to my high school reunions, spending the weekend with my dog friends or just sitting and catching up with old friends. But if it were not for facebook, I would not be in touch with any of those people. They are scattered across the country now and many have completely different lives than they had when we were together in person. And now we are back in touch and sharing our new lives along with reliving our old joys.
So Thank You Facebook. You have given me a part of my life that I believed was gone forever- that of my family, my old friends and colleagues. I am truly grateful for this gift.
Tomorrow is weigh in day...not sure how it will go as I have added more carbs this week, still keeping them as simple as possible. But no matter what, I know that I feel better eating this healthy style and it reflects in how I am living my every day life.
Thanks Everyone....talk to you tomorrow.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The story of TillyBelle

I'm writing this post from my position on the couch in front of the air conditioner- and there is a chance that I will stay here much of today! Horses are fed, dogs are walked and a very small amount of housework has been done. Perhaps that is it for the day!
Many years ago I gave the sport of agility dogs a go. I put several titles on my sheltie Jakey (aka Jake the rocket dog) and a few on my golden Charlie. Then I discovered freestyle and began devoting my training time to that sport.
Since I began freestyle I have become a judge and have had the great fortune of traveling all over the country- plus a fabulous trip to Holland last year as lead judge for the International and European Championships- and making amazing new friends along the way. My sheltie Jakey was my first real freestyle dog and he has paved the way for all that has come along since then.
But unfortunately our dogs get older and sometimes for health reasons we need to retire them. Jake already had degenerative arthritis in his wrists when we began freestyle and after a couple of years his big high spins and jumps and extremely fast speeds began to take a toll on him. He refused to slow down (and was miserable when I tried to work him slowly) so he retired and I took a year off of competing in freestyle.
Then along came TillyBelle. Tilly had come from a breeder who raises many litters of puppies each year. She has homes for many of them, but Tilly was both shy and very plain looking. So Tilly ended up spending her first year in a kennel without very much human contact and absolutely no socialization. She had never even worn a collar or leash. Every now and then this breeder would spay/neuter any of her excess older dogs and would them place an ad in the local paper offering them free to a new home.
My best friend Lisa went out to take a look. She loved mini aussies and was hoping to find another one to ad to her family.
When she got there, Tilly was the only one left. Not only was she unwanted as a sale puppy, she was not even wanted as a free puppy. She was not what Lisa had hoped for, but she brought her home anyway to at least give her a chance at a decent life.
But Tilly was a lot of dog. She did not know how to live as a pet and started tearing things up in the house and causing havoc with Lisa's other dogs. Long story short, I began playing with clicker training with Tilly and soon she became my dog.
Today she is a very different dog than she was when she came home three years ago with Lisa. A year after she became a house pet she was competing in her first freestyle routine. And while nerves and early experiences sometimes still come up for her, she has become an amazing partner for me, earning 6 titles in freestyle so far and not showing any signs of slowing down.
But it is obvious to me that she does not relish being out in front of a crowd of people. Clapping still concerns her and I know that she is working because she loves me- not because she enjoys it. She loves to train at home and learns very quickly.....but when she gets to a competition she is still nervous even after two years.
But then we tried agility. I thought that it might help boost her confidence if she enjoyed it. At a Christmas party last year I won a six week course from Twister Agility in Edmond, Oklahoma. I took Tilly to class and she loved it! When it ended I unpacked a few of my old pieces of agility equipment and set them up around my very small yard. We played with the pieces for a while off and on and then I took her to an agility fun day.
She had such a good time that I registered her with TDAA (Teacup Dogs Agility Association) and entered her in a trial that was about 6 weeks away. I really meant to get more training in, but the weather got really really hot, and the mosquitos got really really bad in the evenings- so we really did not do very much.
But even so, off we went this past weekend. Entry fees had been less than freestyle, the building was air conditioned and I knew that many of my dog friends would be there. Anything else would be gravy.
Teacup agility is for dogs 17" and under. They jump in their own height divisions against dogs of their own size. Much of the equipment is scaled down somewhat (smaller diameter tunnels and tire jumps, lower A frame and teeter) but other than that it is just like regular agility. Tilly measures at jumping 16" just as she would in other venues.
Well we had a blast! Tilly did really well in all of her classes and finished two of her titles. We came home exhausted but happy. And cannot wait to try it again.
Will it help with her freestyle? That remains to be seen......but while we are waiting to find out we are sure having a good time!
Two weeks until our Austin trip! WooHoo!

And how am I doing with my weight loss? Not sure....I took food with me on Saturday of the trial and stuck to eating healthy. Probably ate too many cashews....but tried to balance it with fruits and veggies that I carried along. I thought that I left the food at the trial for Sunday, but Kaity packed it up when we left and brought it home. So when I got back on Sunday I did not have my food. By about mid day I was pretty hungry and ended up eating some of the snacks that the club had set out for competitors. I made sure to try and be conservative, but I was not completely successful. It was still much better than I would have been a few weeks ago, and I came home and ate watermellon for dinner to try and balance the day out a bit. But I will not be surprised if I do not lose any weight this week. I can live with that, I am back on track and have to accept that there will be days and times when circumstances may dictate that I revert to old habits. So we will see what we will see on Wednesday. What I do know is that even with the small amount of weight loss that I have experienced that I had a lot more energy this weekend than I would have had a few weeks ago. I ran 8 agility runs this weekend and lived to tell the tale!
So back on track..........an easy day today of eating healthy and drinking lots of water!

Thank you for listening....it really does help!

Laura and TillyBelle the agility fiend!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Win a few, lose a few......

When I started this blog I planned to use it- at least in part- as my own private indulgent therapy. A place where I could talk about how I got to this point in my life and hopefully learn some answers about how to fix things along the way. I had decided that I would say anything that came to mind, regardless of how I thought it might sound or how it made others feel. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for a number of reasons and wanted a little validation from others that I have every right to feel this way.
Then I began telling people about the blog. And I thought to myself that this was good.....more understanding from others when they read about what life has been like these past years. I will get a few attaboys from people, play a bit of a sympathy card and when it is all said and done perhaps I will feel as though the cathartic experience had helped to heal me in many ways.
But you know what happened? All of my old stuff came up about wanting people to like me no matter what the cost was to myself. I have lived my life terrified of rejection in any form- family, friends, men, work, animals....you name it. I would do almost anything to feel a part of a group or society. And so all of a sudden I felt that I needed to be careful about what I said in this blog so as not to hurt anyone.
For a moment I was sorry that I had even shared anything about this blog in the first place. I thought that perhaps I should have kept it a secret and written it anonymously.
But then the strangest thing happened. I started getting emails from people supporting my efforts at losing weight. Some people shared their own struggles, both successfully and as failed tries. I realized that maybe the way that I felt at times was really no different than many others feel every day. Maybe I wasn't so different after all.
I discovered that I did not have to play out the old struggles and pain to get well. That while for some the process of reliving the past may help them come to terms with the present, that this was not the path that I wanted to take. I felt forgiveness for so many things. I know that life is too short for me to dwell any longer with what has happened or for what might have been. It is time to move on.
And without realizing it, these people gave me another gift in a very special way. As I came to the realization that it was time to look only ahead, I knew that there was something else that I desperately wanted to do. Because while I have felt sorry for myself because my immediate family has passed on, I do have some family members that are very much alive. I have an amazing Aunt out in California. She was wonderful to me when I first moved to Southern California back in the mid 70's. And growing up I spent time with my cousin Jack both at our farm in Oregon and again down in California during family holidays. I was not even sure how I could find them. But I decided to try. Even though I was not sure how my getting in touch wit them after all of these years would be received, I felt that for the first time I needed to make the effort.
I tracked down my Aunt via whitepages and called her. I was so nervous and scared. I know that it sounds odd to hear someone say that they are afraid to talk to their own relative, but I carry a lot of baggage about this subject.
And I could not be more pleased with the outcome. We talked to for quite a while and then reconnected thru facebook. In addition my cousin and his wife Linda also contacted me to express their pleasure that I had called. I went to bed that night happier than I have been in so very long.

Oh yeah....and my weight loss? Well.........I have stayed the course through the week and also swam a few times. Today on my weigh in day I am down three pounds for the week, Not exactly earth shattering weight loss, but I feel good and as long as the scale keeps going this direction I will eventually get where I hope to be.

So it has been a wonderful week.....I lost three pounds; but more importantly, I gained a family.

Thank you for your support- it means everything.

Laura....down three more to 275 today.