Monthly Archives: February 2012

February doldrums

Every year I seem to forget that February is a grim and dreary month.  Doesn’t matter about the number of bluebird ski days I get, February is still grim and dreary.  I get blindsided by IEPs at work, the kids are sinking into midyear grumpiness and behaviors and start blowing out, there’s usually at least one house/car/health issue and….stuff.

February.  Yuck.

This year, too, instead of taking a quick trip to the Tri-Cities for Radcon, I’m staying home.  It’s a good thing I had already planned to do this because I discovered that as union vice president, I need to run an election and the two days I would have been gone for Radcon would have interfered majorly with it.  There’s a major rally planned at the State Capitol for President’s Day and I need to go to it.  I have a certification test to prepare for.  I have an e-book MS to prep for.  IOW, while Radcon would have been a welcome sanity break, it would have piled on the stress in spades.  I would have needed to cancel and felt awful about it.

Not that this particular upcoming three-day weekend will be much of a break (see election, see paperwork, see certification test, see rally).  But at least I’ll get in skiing, I won’t be up late and doing panels, and I’ll get in more time working on the writing stuff.

Sometimes stress reduction is in the small stuff.  And this is one of those times.

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Ski day # 11–the joys of wax

I’m still figuring out this waxing thing.  I can’t decide if it’s the wax I’m using on the skis, the scraper, or if it really is the conditions that have me looking at the bottom of our skis and waxing after each session.  Could also be that I’m waxing in situations where before I would have said “Oh, just let it ride for another time or two.”  Then again, when I was buying wax in Hillcrest the other day, some other folks came in looking for wax, quite urgently.  So it could still be the conditions.

Nonetheless, it was another nice ski day.  It started out bluebird :

But soon enough the clouds started moving in for some moody shots:

DH and I started out skiing low, since it was crisp and cold.  Squeaky snow as we stepped into our skis.  We figured it might be icy higher up.  Instead, it was crisp and a wee bit sticky down low.  We had first tracks for most of the Kruser run, and got first chair of the day on Jeff Flood.

We did the four major runs on Flood, and then headed up to the Magic Mile.  Lo and behold, what we hit up top was not ice but instead soft, crispy, confectioner’s sugar snow over hardpack.  Deep enough to flow out of the way without icy patches that require the skier to dig in edges.  Easy stuff to bash through.  We had two good runs and then the clouds blew in.  We’d planned to do the easternmost run, but the clouds socked us in and we went down the main east run, as it’s easier to do when Braille skiing anyway.  Then the clouds cleared away and we did two runs down that side.  It’s a little bit different and has a couple of interesting pitches which run more toward the east rather than to the west, like most of the rest of Timberline.

Ten runs in all.  Crisp and a real delightful ski day.  No falls, nothing tweaked.  Just nice, steady runs without drama, stunning sharp vistas up high, and soft snow underfoot.

Doesn’t get much better than this.

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OMG! Forgot Ski Day #10!

Yeah, I  know.  Y’all don’t wanna hear about skiing.

Too bad.  You’re gonna hear about skiing.

So Friday was ski day number ten this season.  Not too great for February 10 to only be the tenth day, even if I’m only skiing weekends.  But that’s just a reflection of the sort of season it’s been.

Day 10 was decent enough.  I was able to park right next to the Day Lodge and get some interesting shots.  Not a bluebird day…rather one of those moody, wispy fog days that turned to first rain and then snow.

Kind of like this:

And this:

Turned into this:

All the same it was around 36 degrees F and a mix of rain and snow showers.  For the first hour I had the runs on Jeff Flood to myself and got four solid turns in on Kruser, Uncle Jon’s Band, Jojami and Brother Beau.  A nice relaxed set of runs with photo ops.

Folks started showing up after ten o’clock.  I got three more runs in on Kruser, UJB and Jojami, and by then it was ten-thirty, lines starting to form, and time to head down the Mountain to work.  Nonetheless it was a nice quiet morning with moody fog wisps, fast but slushy snow, and I got to happily bomb down that last pitch into the Flood chair.

I even passed folks.  Me.  The slow skier.  Passing people.

Granted, it was lousy conditions in some respects.  Before I left the lodge I was yakking with the Ski Patrol associate hanging out to check in with folks before they headed out.  We started talking about waxing our own skis (I’ve started doing my own wax, turning into ski geekess here), and opined that this would be a wax-stripping day.

Oh yeah.  At one point I looked down to see about a quarter-inch of ice hanging off my inside edges.  When I see that, I know that means I need a wax job at the end of the day.  Instead of dropping off my skis, though, I hauled them home, wiped, cleaned and waxed last night.  Winced at the level of stripping.  In past seasons, I’d probably have skied one more day, then dropped them off for waxing.  Instead, this evening after last night’s waxing, I spent a half hour scraping and buffing.

OMG.  I am so turning into a ski geek.

I even came up with a Netwalk’s Children backstory vignette idea tonight while scraping and buffing my skis.  Might even write and post it tomorrow–unlikely it’ll ever make it into the book, but it’s a nice little backstory setting mood piece.

That is, Melanie resorts to old-fashioned waxing, scraping and buffing of her skis when she wants to think about stuff.  And guess what…the children she’s helped raise do that too.

Yeah.  I might just do that.  Tomorrow.

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A busy but pleasant Saturday

After a stormy week of off and on rain showers, it was nice to wake to an overcast morning that became nicer as the day went on.  DH and I went for breakfast, did some shopping…usual route.

And then we did more.  Ran up the Mountain to make sandbags for the renter (until the occasional deep snowfall/fast runoff twice a winter situation gets improved by having the county clean out the culverts and ditches on the roads above the house.  We don’t have it bad.  The neighbors, now….).  We also dug out a drain, which will help.

Then!  Off to the barn and Miss Mocha.  A short but intensive work, culminating in small circles with random flying changes into a different small circle rather than predictable large circles with flying changes in the usual spot.  Mocha started trying to anticipate and I had to yell at her once.  Granted, my sore back isn’t letting me signal with the greatest precision, but it’s improving–ergo, the more complex figures.  Once she got it, I pulled the plug and we went for a little trail ride by the road.  High 40s F temps, nice comfortable temperature for working and doing stuff outside when it’s not raining.  DH walked with us, which Mocha really likes.

Miss Mocha also did a Cuteness while being untacked and groomed.  There’s a new mare in the stall across from Mocha, right next to the croos-tie station.  She was fretting back and forth as Mocha got treats during the tacking process.  So….DH commented suddenly that Mocha was taking a long time munching her treat, making extra loud smacky “yum yum” horsey noises, and exaggeratedly licking her lips as she savored it.  I’d kind of noticed the phenomenon before, but, y’know?  Sometimes you’re not sure of these things.

Well, he noticed it too.  And we watched, and she didn’t do it when the other mare wasn’t watching.  Bingo.  Little teaser.  She’d look right at that other mare, then start up with the Loud Happy Treat Savoring Noises, complete with a horsey sneer on her face as she broadly licked her lips.  If the other mare got more excited, Mocha’s gestures grew more exaggerated.  But if the other mare wasn’t looking?  Typical Mocha treat gobbling, discreet and quick.

Horsey humor in action.  And, perhaps, a little bit of dominance behavior.  I’ve seen Mocha do this with excitable types like this mare is right now.  She’ll exaggerate her own calm, relaxed postures with a little twist that suggests a bit of “in your face!” posturing to the other horse.  She definitely Does Not Approve of skittery behaviors in Her Barn, and pulls faces and other tricks like this as a result.  Girl likes her routines.

Anyway, a fun afternoon with Mocha.  Then a quick run home, scraping of skis for tomorrow, and then off to a pleasant dinner with a couple of friends.  Lots of laughter and fun….and now, to bed.

No writing, but once in a while one needs this sort of all-action accomplishment day.

Skiing and writing tomorrow.

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A reason not to support Writers of the Future any longer

Warning: may be triggery to follow the link below.

Summary: Deirdre is a former Scientologist and current sf writer.  She knows whereof she speaks.  She’s not openly opposed WotF until now…but after this testimony, well, yeah.

She’s asked those of us who post this link to warn you all that it’s triggery for bullying issues, amongst other things.

I stopped sending stuff to WotF a few years back after Deirdre’s first cautious postings.  I definitely won’t send things now.

Link here.

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A late winter/early spring barn night

This has been a rare winter’s week, in that things have been quiet at the barn.  Not a lot of lessons, not a lot of college students.  The other boarders either come later than I do and infrequently or they only ride in lessons.  Not a lot of kid lessons at the moment, either.  Temps aren’t too bad–temperate, not so warm that Mocha sweats easily with her heavy winter fur coat; not so cold that the ground is hard and icy.  The indoor surface is damp enough not to be dusty but dry enough to offer up steady footing.

Perfect conditions for getting us both back in shape.  Protracted riding in the Western saddle added to the layoff due to work/stress/back/travel may have helped straighten out her movement issues.  I still think she tweaked that shoulder muscle and it’s just taken time to rebuild and recondition, nonetheless I think going Western has been the better choice.  I think the Western saddle is also easier on my aching back right now as well.  Plus the correction curb gives me a little bit of lateral influence, so we can still school movements effectively.

And it’s worked.  Mocha appears to be happy to be back in regular work.  In this new stall, she’s now standing with her body parallel to the door, nose waiting to poke out the minute I open it.  She’s usually waiting when I arrive, but she’s not bolting or dancing out, just marching out all cowhorse calm, but that sort of cowhorse calm that projects a quiet eagerness to go.  Unlike a Thoroughbred, she’s not going to bounce on her tiptoes (nor would you want that in her because in Mocha that’s a clear signal of Lost the Brain, which really, really Ain’t Pretty), but a certain type of measured, precise, low-headed rhythmic swagger is the cowhorse equivalent.  Instead of boinging off the ceiling, she hits her marks.  Precise.  With pop.  Energy doesn’t get wasted, it gets used in short, explosive bursts.

We had a good work tonight.  My back cooperated and we did some nice schooling with lead changes.  Her shoulders came up nicely on a lot of the flying lead changes and she was willing to work one-handed in small canter circles, collected.  I’m really liking the way her shoulders feel these days.  Much better than in the Collegiate.  Sigh.  I so can not, do not, want to go saddle shopping.  Maybe Western Dressage will take off more here and I can do that.  But I still like riding in the Collegiate.  Sigh.

OTOH, there’s no way my back will support any English saddle right now.  Period.

So the two of us are making do with Western while we’re getting her shoulder and my back reconditioned.  Worse fates out there, especially with the quality of Western equipment I’ve got on her.  All good mid-range stuff.

Anyway, we had lots of energy and upward motion in the changes in figure 8s.  Not ready yet for three-loop serpentines–neither my back nor Mocha’s conditioning will support that.  But she’s readily coming back to me in complex small circle/figure 8 changes, which is good.

My back lasts about as long as her good rhythm.  A good match.

And now the daylight is such that we were able to go for a short ride by the tree farm after schooling, on a long rein, between rain showers.  Pretty much an amble on a long rein.

A nice evening ride.  It’s good to be on the path back to regular schooling.  And now that I’m signed up in the AQHA Horseback Riding Program, maybe I can actually track how much time I do spend in the saddle over the course of a month/year season.  Plus it’s a good way to record my schooling time, and who knows?  The program does have some nice prizes.  Worth the time.

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Writing blather

I don’t have much this morning.  Generally I have a topic in mind that I think about throughout the day, then post.  But there’s been a lot stirring at work, to the degree that it’s pretty much work, horse, house, ski and that’s just about it.  Well, except for Netwalk’s Children.  That writing process is fascinating me even as I’m going through it.

Ironically enough, I got a batch of rewrites back from my series editor for The Netwalk Sequence (purchasing info here) for my latest planned upload, Netwalker UprisingUprising is–uh–turning into a larger story.  It’s reflective of the greater arc of the entire Sequence, and I’m finding myself having to rethink the dang book as well as what I’m trying to do in Children.  Let’s just say that Children answers some questions that Uprising brings up, while bringing in a few bombshells of its own.  I–uh, well, there’s been some worldbuilding pieces I’ve been consciously avoiding and now I can’t.  Or, rather, I’ve been gathering data for several years and suddenly it’s starting to coalesce.  Fascinating how that happens.

OTOH, it’s interesting to be plotting one and creating the underpinnings for that connected story while working on this next one.  I already see the need for a transition story that will explain a couple of pieces between Children and already published stories as well as the book that follows Children.  It’s very fascinating doing this sort of building and creation on my own and hopefully something good will come of it.

Meanwhile, I have other writing tasks to do, a deadline to meet, etc.  I suspect that this month I’ll put up a short story, perhaps a prequel to the “Cold Dish” story published in M-Brane 9, that tells us a bit more about Kathy Miller and a bit about Melanie and Andrew’s backstory.  That one might be a freebie.

Thinking about it…and now, onward!

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I should be practicing mindfulness more frequently these days.  I spent much of last year’s Interpersonal Neurobiology coursework learning about the value of being in the moment, of being mindful of simple, everyday acts.  We even practiced the mediation of mindful walking and I could see its value in my daily work with middle school kids, many of whom need to have that sort of modeling to help them relax and focus.

But, of course, I get sucked into the go-go-go vortex which is the modern middle school life, as well as the modern corporate/business/daily life model.  I’m juggling a number of demanding hobby activities, attempting to get a writing career going, managing my family, as well as an extremely demanding job this year.  Mindfulness went right out the window, except for brief moments when skiing or schooling Mocha.

And then….

Yesterday I was in a situation with a kid where I needed to be mindful.  I needed to be quiet, centered, and there for the kid.  Without really thinking about it, I took some deep, calming breaths and told myself “I am here.”  And you know what?  It worked.  Maybe not for a long term, but it worked.

Reminder number one.

This morning, I came across this article in the New York Times about mindful eating.  I thought about it.  Decided that today I am going to find moments of mindful action, both in dealing with my writing, my family management stuff, my paperwork, my students, and my colleagues.

Reminder number two.

I’m hoping I don’t need a third reminder.  I have a feeling it might be–erm, uncomfortable.

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Super Bowl reax

I’m not a football fan, but like many Americans with connections to football lovers, I end up seeing some portion of teh Big Game on Superbowl Sunday.  I remember watching the famous original Mac ad and feeling goosebumps; also remember a lot of forgettable halftime shows before the halftime show turned into A Major Vegas Production.

And oh yeah, I do always catch a few plays.  For me, watching the game itself is usually more about “did they do something I can marvel over athletically” rather than who’s actually scoring the points (I reserve caring about the points for Oregon Duck games, primarily the Big Bowl Games.  Even then I tend not to watch just because I’m superstitious about jinxing The Game).

Gotta say, this year I didn’t get disappointed.  I was amongst those eager to see what Madonna would turn out for the Super Bowl halftime show.  I’m an unapologetic Madge fan, have liked her for years not just because of her clear love for music and dance but because she’s one of those sassy tough females who has been in charge of her own life for a long time.  Sometimes her choices are–well–not the choices I’d make but still?  All good in the long run.

So when the first strains of “Vogue” broke out and I spotted the gladiators, I broke out laughing with joy.  Because it was clearly a lovely little Madonna twist on some of the biggest Super Bowl tropes out there.  Roman numerals?  Check.  Football players as gladiators?  OH HELL YEAH.  Love letter to the cheerleaders?  Yep.  Tongue planted firmly in cheek the whole time, a nicely ironic combination of the Midwestern girl paying homage to one of her daddy’s favorite traditions while lovingly putting a snarky twist on it.  Madonna singing (some lip synch, clearly a couple of moments though where the mic was cutting out.  Stuff happening) and dancing and, y’know?  Not too bad for a 53-year-old with a hamstring issue.

Was she chewing on the scenery?  Girl, you betcha.  Come on, that’s part of the whole performance!  When I see a Madonna performance I expect an over-the-top spectacle which integrates scenery, costuming, images, song and dance.  Sometimes it flops, and sometimes it works.  Madonna always plays with her sexuality and sometimes the choices are rather like a not-so-good date.  But you know, that’s what happens when you choose the role of the sexual trickster firmly in control of your own sexuality.  Sexuality is not always predictable and sometimes things just don’t work.

That didn’t happen on Sunday.  The songs came out pretty well (didn’t hurt that her old favorites were some of my old favorites), she had great guest performers, the dancers….happy sigh…and it was quite lovingly and ironically over the top.  No, it wasn’t all red white and blue I-luv-Amerika-mindlessly-let’s-play-Nuremburg-visuals game that some folks really wanted to see.  I’m not a fan of such spectacles just because that kind of mindless patriotic froth sends me wanting to run the other way.  It reminds me too damned much of the Third Reich, and that’s not the country I want to be a part of.

My form of patriotism showed up in the Clint Eastwood commercial.  Quiet.  Proud.  Acknowledging the hardships and talking about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, working together, and moving on.  As a team.  No fireworks, no huge spectacle, no waving flags.  Just calm, let’s-get-the-job-done, no heroics, no flash.

And anyone who has a problem with that has a problem with working America.  Spectacles are all well and good in their proper place, but they don’t get the job done.  The Eastwood commercial to me reflected a lot of what is good about the US and why it’s good.  We were built on a foundation of independent thinkers and hard-working folks from many different ethnic, cultural and religious traditions who came together cooperatively to build something bigger than we could on our own.  Maybe it’s time we reached back to that community cooperative tradition in our civic lives, instead of embracing the I-Got-Mine Go-Galt libertarian worship of the Independent Man who treads on the lesser folk around him.

In many ways, the Madonna-Eastwood coupling was oh-so-reflective of what’s best about the American tradition.  I’m still unpacking this thought, so enough for now…but let’s just say that I liked them both.

What do you think?

(fyi, on the home blog I’m controlling comments pretty tightly of late.  Spam swarms and all that.  If you’re reading this on Facebook, please comment on LiveJournal or back at Peak Amygdala.)

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Ski day #9….Let the February Skimarch begin……and the Netwalk jacket!

Okay, it appears to be in the cards that we’re doomed to have bluebird ski weather.  I may be forced to embark upon a February Ski Death March, absolutely forced to try to ski three times a week for the next few weeks.  It’s my doom.  I swear, I’m doomed.

DOOMED, I tell ‘ya.  Life is so freakin’ hard on a day like this….NOT!

So.  Yeah.  It was 28 degrees F and absolutely much, much better than Friday, if that could be at all possible.  The snow was firm, crisp and fast.  DH and I did a quick run down Kruser, then down Jojami and Uncle Jon’s Band.  Fast runs for us…we’d finished the third run by 9:25 (keep in mind the lift takes ten minutes from bottom to top).  Even with starting ten minutes before 9 am, it was still pretty decent.

The trees were nice but I had my eye on the Mile, so we went up.  DH suggested we ski down Kruser from the top of the Mile, so we did.  Twice.  Two two-mile long runs.  And a whole new perspective on the slope.

The last run was on what we think is the original Magic Mile, just to the east of Silcox Hut.  It’s a nice little run with some rolling pitches.

A gorgeous day.  Ten miles and six runs (unless you count the Kruser run as two runs).

And I finally got a pic of me in my Netwalk jacket.  It has a story, of course.  I bought this jacket at the ski show this fall, but I was looking at the color and not the design.  It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I looked at the design and realized…it was kind of a pixel design.  I hadn’t noticed it before.  Nice pic, but dang am I starting to show my age.  Sigh.

Well, I guess I am older than Madonna.  But still…..

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