Monday, August 29, 2011

On Relationships And Life

Ever visited a discussion forum? I used to be quite the forum junkie with my horses and not only was a member of many but very active in those places. Over time I found the appeal lessened by realizing just how fake people can be. I have since weaned myself off those forums and life is much happier; however, lately I have found myself surfing the relationship forums from everything from long distance relationships starting with my own LDR to more recently age gap relationship forums and just flat relationship forums hoping to find the secret ingredient to build and keep a happy relationship strong. What I have found is that by and large while the subject line changes, the people do not and the subjects are all based on the same topics. The majority of those topics are based in insecurities and how people deal with them.

About eight months ago I was lucky enough to meet someone that I to this day consider my soulmate. The age difference between us, some 17 years, was quickly overshadowed by the personality of this man that I fell in love with online. It progressed to visiting in person and culminated in a move across country in April to be closer to him and explore where this would take us. To this day I don't feel the age difference there. Though the dynamics changed some with the move and daily stress I still feel that I found my soulmate.

One of the main topics on any relationship forum as mentioned above are questions of security and holding onto relationships. This seems to be a universal problem and spans both men and women, though admittedly women to a much larger degree. So many strong women will fairly wilt in the face of insecurity if it is someone that they love and want to picture in their long term future. Personally, what has been haunting me lately is how to be sure we don't get buried in the mundane of day to day and how to hang onto some of that wonderful, all consuming feeling of acceptance and love that we had early on in our relationship. Due to past baggage I have issues with insecurity and it's a battle that I fight on a daily basis. if I let it, feelings of self-doubt, questions and anxiety take over my day. One article I found really highlighted the problem that insecure people face and gave some great tips for dealing with those feelings without smothering the object of your affection with your overwhelming worries and need for constant reassurances.

One of the points this article brought out is that insecurities are based in self confidence. Again, another problem I've battled all my life. While I recognize that everyone deals with various levels of this, one's own problems always seem worse because they are, well, right in your own mirror. In any case, some of the tips put forth in this article that I try to remember on a daily basis are as follows:

  • Focus on what is going right with your relationship rather than what is going wrong. Don't create problems in your head where none exist and don't constantly monitor your partners moods. Having to ask daily "Are you upset with me?" is a manifestation of insecurity. Everyone has moods and you as well as your partner are entitled to your moody days. Ever had a bad day and had everyone you meet ask you "Why are you upset?" Yeah, it's not fun. It gets exhausting constantly having to defend yourself when you just want to hide in your calm place and ignore the world. It's a natural coping mechanism so the next time your partner is having a moody day, just give them some space, take care of yourself and let them find their inner peace without having to fend off your questions and demands for attention. The ebb and flow of mood changes are normal. It's a pretty safe bet that they will come out of it soon and things will be back to normal, even if it takes a couple of days.
  • Give your relationship room to grow and breathe. Schedule some time for yourself, doing your own thing so that you are able to keep your own mental peace and grounding at an optimum. Even in a serious, committed relationship it isn't necessary to be with your partner every waking moment. I'm not saying avoid spending time with them, but do things for yourself too. Hide in the bedroom and read a book, go for a bike or horseback ride, go shopping on your own, turn off your cell phone and take a walk are all things that will help ground you and give you time to yourself. Hopefully your partner has things they enjoy that they can participate in on their own as well to help with their own inner calm. The hope is that you will come back together rested, relaxed and able to enjoy each others company even more than before.
  • Don't mind read. Men relax by being quiet and a woman's nature is to talk. Everyone has a right to their own thoughts and time to themselves to consider these thoughts. Don't constantly wonder what someone is thinking if they go quiet. Silence is normal and healthy. Constantly harassing someone as to their thoughts will make people withdraw further into themselves.
  • Focus on the good in your relationship. Don't dwell on past relationships and compare them to the present. Learn to relax and enjoy your partner for what you have now without stressing about what might happen down the road. There are no certainties in life and there are no certainties in relationships.
  • Learn to be self-assured. Get in the habit of reassuring yourself. If you have fears challenge them with the question "what evidence is there for this fear?" and move forward from there. If you must, write down those fears and then write down the foundation for them. More often than not they are all in our heads. Remember that even if the worse happens and you wind up on your own again, life will go on and you will heal and you will survive.
I am not sure there is such thing as a perfect relationship. Men and women are just wired differently and it's a cruel twist of fate that the wiring is so very different that we wind up going in completely different directions sometimes. Us women are our own worse enemies on this front because we tend to sit and constantly analyze where we are, dissecting every mood or statement. As I said, it is something I battle constantly. There are millions of very lonely people out there. While I truly believe there is someone for everyone out there, many of these people will wind up either settling for something they are not happy with, or staying single out of fear of loving and being loved.

I guess my message through all of this rambling is to not pass something up because you are afraid to love, or are afraid that it won't be what you imagined in your head. It's not fair to believe or expect that you can control a relationship so that it is everything you wanted and needed. So much of the dynamics of a relationship are based in compromise and understanding that it turns into an ever changing thing, growing and moving on it's own. Enjoy it for what it is, cherish the one you love, live and love for the moment and let the future take care of itself. Life is too short and too uncertain to pass up something beautiful because of what it may or may not be down the road.

I hope, if you are battling with a problem like this, that in some way this helps. It's a very common problem for women especially and trust me when I say I understand, I truly do. I adore my guy. He is so special to me and even though there are days and times I could quite cheerfully strangle him, I wouldn't give him up for the world and don't want to go through life worrying and wondering. Whatever the future holds and whatever direction it takes, I welcome it with open arms.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ok ok ok.. OK

I admit I've been a little lax posting here. Ok, I've been A LOT lax but my only excuse is damn, it's hot. With temps soaring in my area into the 110's and above it just sucks the creativity out of me. Of course, the content writing is going well, not like it needs creativity. Pfft..

Anyway, updates on things in Texoma. We took the biggest and most important load of stuff to Electra last night and got more or less settled in. Definitely need to go shopping for new air conditioners when the weather cools and they go on sale. Even if cost wasn't an issue, right now there are none to be found.. anywhere...around here. We have a tiny one in the bedroom that cooled it pretty well eventually but man, I was glad to see Daniel come to bed dragging the fan with him. I hated to get up this morning, not because I was over tired but because that was the only cool room in the house. O.o

We picked up the dogs last night too and now have Gabby, the black pug and Brownie the.. err.. I'm not sure what Brownie is. He's "supposed" to be chihuahua and pomeranian but he looks like a mini german shepherd. I told Daniel last night I was going to start calling him Rin Tin Tin. The only reason I doubt this lineage is because he is one of the sweetest little guys and we all know chihuahuas and poms neither one are known for their people skills. Oh well, he still loved us after a bath and they both seem content. It's fun to have little feet in the house again and while no dog will ever replace Cookie, at least I have one to cuddle up with now. I don't even mind the dog hair.

Still have lots to do at the house. I was sitting there last night contemplating the painting and some repair work. My poor man will be good and sick of it all before it's over with but if we do it one thing at a time it won't be so bad. The house is uber cute and I love it. I can't wait to start fixing it up and doing stuff to make it really pretty inside.

First things first though.. Ac's before anything else or I'm just going to sweat, soap up and then sweat it off as a rinse cycle. Yeah I know... gross. Deal with it. Trust me, the alternative is much worse.

Now the fun of unpacking everything has started. The common discussion in the house right now is "Do you know where  (insert item in question). is?" to which the answer is always "uhmm.. in a box somewhere." Makes for great conversations, let me tell you. Though it does break the monotony of sweating and sticking to everything and everyone.

On the upside, today we have had a cold front. It was only 102 outside and with a breeze it felt like the high 80's. It will still hot, but a much needed break. Supposed to have 30% chance of rain tomorrow and OMG if it rains I swear I'm going to waller around in it in the front yard. That should sufficiently traumatize the neighbors, not to mention the cats, dogs, small children, mice and little old ladies 3 counties over. Hmm.. I wonder if it would make the news....

Otherwise it's life as normal. I like Electra to be honest though there is -nothing- out there. It's very quiet even at night and I slept like a baby once I stopped sticking to the mattress last night. Tonight is arranging the bedroom (with the bed RIGHT in front of the AC of course) and unpacking some clothes, getting the bed together etc and trying to figure out something cool for supper. Then flopping on the couch with Daniel and Megan to watch some Voyager and relax until it's cool enough to go to sleep.

Blah.. too hot to blog. More later I promise. Still have a rocking review for my girl Valerie to do and a couple of other projects in the works. Watch this space. If I don't melt and pour down the drain somewhere I'll have another post on here soon and I promise it to be more interesting than this one.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

See Spot... canter?!? A Look at the Sugarbush Draft Horse

For as long as I can remember I have loved horses. Big horses, little horses, ugly horses, pretty horses, plain horses, loud horses, young horses and especially old horses. This love embraces every breed, every color, every stereotype known to man and doesn't discriminate, ever. A horse, is a horse, is a horse.. of course! Some horse owners on the other hand.. well, let's just save that one for another post shall we?  "/

My "verra" good friend Jamie DeHart of Florida referenced my freezemarking services out to Stephanie Adame on Facebook and in the process of discussing freezemarkings, my eyes were opened to a whole breed of horses that I'd never even heard of! How exciting is THAT?! To say I was intrigued would be an understatement.

So taking a moment, let's have a look at the Sugarbush Draft Horse and why they are so special.
What Is A SugarBush Draft?

About 60 years ago, the owner of Sugarbush Hitch Co. decided that a touch of flair was needed, something to catch the public's eye and make his company stand out among all the other companies offering their services. He decided to cross local Percheron horses to loudly colored Appaloosa. This created a horse strong enough to pull the heavy hitches that also displayed the incredible coloring of the Appaloosa horse and the Sugarbush Draft Horse breed was born.

Sugarbush Harley Quinn
Wait, They Come In Colors?

There are no color requirements for the breed, but it is best known for loud, Appaloosa type markings.  Sugarbush Drafts come in most common coat colors ; however, Tobiano and Frame Overo are strictly not allowed within the breed. Sugarbush Harley Quinn, a stallioncredited for inspiring a renewed interest in the Sugarbush Draft. Sadly, this beautiful stallion passed away in 2006 but his bloodlines can be found in most current Sugarbush Draft horses.
The breed is not based in color markings alone however, and quality breed standards are as highly desired as brilliant markings. Modern day Sugarbush Drafts come in most common coat colors.

Foundation mare with her Stonewall  Sporthorse foal.
How Many Are There And Where Is The Breed Headed?

With the stir caused once the breed was fully realized, a count was done in 2008 on the retirement of Everett Smith and the change in registrars. It was with this count to be only 12 living horses left in this little known breed. Unless something was done, the breed would disappear in one more generation. Concentrated efforts began at that point to share information on these beautiful, noble horse.

It was decided that opening the books to other breeds would help build a foundation base to rebuild the breed itself. It was important however, that the qualities that made this breed more suitable for riding than other draft breeds, be maintained.  Therefore, foundation horses of at least 51% draft dreeding with ancestors of Appaloosa coloring are accepted. This crossbreeding will be allowed until enough horses are included to provide genetic diversity.

Taken from the Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry Website, the breed characteristics are as follows:

15.2 h.h. to 16.2 h.h. but height should not disqualify an otherwise good example of "type"
Sugarbush Harley's Classic O isbeautifully marked colt

Any base color is acceptable, with LP pattern or characteristics being common but not required if the horse meets all the other requirements, including bloodline. Tobiano and Frame (Overo Lethal White) are prohibited.

The body should be wide and deep. The back should be of moderate length in proportion to the overall size of the horse, and should be strong with muscular loins. The shoulders should be sloping, deep and muscular. The quarters should be level, powerful, long and oval, the tail springing well from the quarters.

Head and Neck:
The head characteristic of the breed should be bold and not too small. It should be well carried on a long proportionate neck.

Eyes should be large, well set and kindly in expression.

Tend to be large and fine.

The Limbs:
Arms and thighs and gaskins should be muscular.

The knees and hocks should be large and well closed.

There should be 9" upwards of good flat bone below the knee measured at the nearest point on a tight tape.

The pasterns should be strong, sloping and not too long.

The Feet:
Feet that are shallow or narrow are undesirable.

The Action:
Action must be true, straight and free. High action is not characteristic of the breed, but expressive motion is desired. The horse will move freely from the shoulder and will flex his knees and hocks sufficiently. The action required is free all round, is ground covering and has some degree of suspension.

Dedicated breeders are working now to preserve this truely rare breed. For further information on joining the cause of the Sugarbush Draft Horse, or to make a donation, please contact The Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry .  SDHR can also be found on  Facebook by visiting the  SDHR Facebook  Fan Page .
With concentrated breeding efforts and the introduction of suitable foundation lines, and more than a little luck, the Sugarbush draft breed will be around for a long, long time. 

Thank you Jamie for introducing me to Stephanie Adame and thank you Stephanie for opening my eyes to these gorgeous horses!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cutting Boards

So I got this article to write on cutting boards. You know the kind I'm talking about, the big old chunk of wood boards that were popular in kitchens right up until some hippy schmuck decided they were "unsanitary" and harder to clean. I admit I fell right into this like a good little follower when I was outfitting my own kitchen, and opted for one of those fancy acrylic boards instead. I even had a glass cutting board at one time which in retrospect seems a little... well, odd.

In the process of researching this article I found out some things that made me remember fondly my mothers old cutting board and what a staple it was in our kitchen as I was growing up.
First of all, I found research had indicated that the USDA has never really said to not use wood boards. They do however, recommend close-grain wood boards (and maple especially) up there with the acrylic boards. Interestingly enough, glass boards were not recommended at all by the majority of the experts due to the danger of breakage. 

Wood boards can be made of a variety of close-grain wood, including bamboo and many times you find them with interesting patterns in the wood grain and color, making them true folk art pieces. As a matter of kitchen decorations, I think I might have to start looking for old boards, but I'm betting I won't find many that are older or unique simply because they last forever and people don't tend to get rid of them!

So the USDA has said that wood boards are actually ok?  COOL! Because I found out some other things as well. Edge-grain boards are very durable and strong. Think of some old mountain man (or woman!) chopping wood on a tree stump.

I realize this may be a stretch for some of you city folks, but work with me here, 'k?

The tree stump, if you look at it straight down, is the "edge grain" of the tree, the strongest side of the wood. Hence why it works so well, and is so long lasting, for things like chopping wood. For that matter, I don't care how excited you are about chopping potatoes, unless you are cutting them up with an AXE you will be fine with a good quality, edge grain cutting board.

Another thing I realized, that I guess I already knew but had forgotten, was that natural wood is self-healing to some degree. This means that with time those little cuts and nicks that occur naturally in the course of every day use, will close up on their own. They may leave a mark, but in truth this just gives the board some character.

Apparently there is a proper way to care for and maintain a cutting board. Treating it with a mixture of 10 parts mineral oil to 1 part paraffin will keep the wood from drying out naturally. Wood being very porous will soak moisture and then dry out, which expands and shrinks the wood. This loosens the binding and can greatly cut down on the useful life of a board. A rule of thumb is a new board should be oiled once a day for a week, once a week for a month and once a month forever. All sides of the board should be liberally coated.

Reading this I was reminded of my mother's old cutting board, a big old chunk of wood very much like the one pictured here, that we used the entire time I was a kid at home.  I don't remember ever oiling it, but I do remember that it was soft to the touch, honed by years of use. It had old battle wounds and to my memory, was a platform for cutting everything from vegetables from the garden, to chicken meat, to whatever us kids decided to mutilate on it. Washing it was dunking it in water (strictly preached against) and drying it was wiping it off and putting it back under the cabinet. Thinking about it, I'm sure the lab rats would have a FIELD DAY with locating all the different bacteria found on that old board, but in truth... we were a healthy bunch and I have to think if it harbored that many germs we'd have all been dead from the bubonic plague or something similarly nasty.

To this day it stands proudly on the counter on it's little feet, and my mother uses it regularly. It is still heavy and strong, still thick and soft, still carries old battle scars from ages ago and frankly, I'm kind of looking forward to seeing it again. It's one of those things from childhood that just sticks in your memories I suppose.

Doing a quick search this morning brought me to Arizona Wood Crafts that does some beautiful boards, as well as Cutting Boards, Etc which feature some really neat designs as well. Actually, a site like The Maple Cutting Board Gallery could get me really excited about collecting these boards. They are exquisite!!  Who would have known that a simple chunk of wood could be so beautiful and so functional at the same time. I am really looking forward to finding a great piece or two for my own kitchen and am sure I will enjoy the search.

And Mom? Don't get rid of the old cutting board either.. I have a feeling it's going to become an heirloom piece.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Preparing For A Sojourn Into Hell... or... Taking A Trip To Electra, Texas

Tomorrow, bright and early, I will get up and drag the teenager out of bed. After making sure Daniel is vertical and coherent (those two don't always go hand in hand with him), we are getting in the truck to drive to Electra, Texas to do some yard work and clean up around the house there. Also, give Daniel a chance to work on his truck and do some things he needs to get done as well.

Sounds like fun, right? Well, before you make that assumption let me explain some things about Electra.

The town itself originated as part of the Waggoner ranch. It was actually Waggoner for a time but after a post office was built and a railway station was added, the town was dubbed Beaver Switch. At some point they realized the folly of this name, as there is very little water available, so the town was renamed Electra after one of Mr. Waggoner's daughters.

Today Electra is a small town of about 2,000 give or take a family, and boasts gas stations, a Sonic, a Family Dollar, and a tiny grocery store. The countryside surrounding the town is flat and dry, as is most of north Texas at the moment, and there is not much to see beyond pump jacks, cattle, and lots of mesquite trees.

Mesquite trees themselves are a whole other blogpost themselves, but I digress.

So tomorrow we are going to work outside in 100+ degree heat, weedeat and move some trash around. I'm actually kind of looking forward to it as I've not gotten to really work outside any since I've been here, and I miss it (in a sick kind of twisted sort of way). My patio plants have all died except one due to the heat and Daniel has had more than a few laughs at me trying to keep them alive. I'm looking forward to kind of standing back and seeing a job well done. The grass will be short... still be dead, but at least it will be short.

Once that is done, I'm going to sit under the tree with a drink and watch Daniel cuss and throw tools while he's trying to get the truck running.  I figure it will be good payback for him picking on my poor dead plants.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Life in Texoma

On April 22, 2011, I moved to Texoma. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, Texoma refers to a part of Texas that is right on the Oklahoma border.. hence Texoma. Of course, Texans would never dive to low enough levels to put Oklahoma first, say Oklahexas perhaps? Nope, in Texas things Texan ALWAYS come first and God help me, I'm becoming more fluent in Texan every day.

Saying this, it leads me to think about what I like about this area and what I miss about home. So for the sake of an easy blog post today, let's do a comparison between Texoma and central Alabama... shall we?

Things I miss about Alabama:
  • The greenery. The big trees covered with kudzu and the flowers that bloom pretty much all summer.
  • The smell of fresh cut hay stacked in the barn and the sound of horses chewing.
  • Making jelly with my mom and winding up with a kitchen that looks like someone was murdered in it.
  • Laughing about said kitchen until I can't breathe.
  • My Mom and simple things like soup and salad at Olive Garden on a lunch hour.
  • Muscadines.
  • Red dirt roads.
  • Family.

 Things I don't miss about Alabama:
  • Stress.
  • The job I left quite happily when I moved here.
  • Traffic to and from work every day.
  • The humidity at 90% most days - oh. my. god.
  • The history - which isn't entirely true, there was good history too but far more that needed to just be let go.

 Things I have come to love about Texas:
  • The superb school system for my daughter.
  • The easy friendliness of most people I've met. I've never been anywhere where people were so quick to start a conversation with a complete stranger. Whether this is Texas or just Wichita Falls and Texoma I don't know, but it's a nice change.
  • The size of Wichita Falls, Texas, which is big enough to have everything you need but far enough away from Dallas and any big metropolis to avoid the traffic and crime rate.
  • Low humidity - can we say 20% most days?  Boo yah! No longer am I soaking wet before I get to my car.
  • The friends I am making here.
  • Realizing that a fresh clean start was the best idea for me, even if I left many things I loved far away in Alabama.
  • Night rides with Daniel on the bike when we get a chance.
  • Daniel.... need I say more? Really?

 Things I am still adjusting to in Texas:
  • HEAT - I would have to move on the year that is one going down as severe drought. I would have to look up the statistics but we have had a good month of 100+ degree days. See above about humidity though, at least it's dry heat and cools after the sun goes down most of the time into the 80's.
  • WIND - Granted we haven't had any significant wind since the heat set in for the summer, but I bet it's coming back. Not breezy but hurricane force wind which I guess comes off the plains hard enough to blow a motorcycle over. O.o
  • Trying to keep my patio plants alive - who I am kidding, I'm about to give up and buy plasti plants but they would probably melt in this heat!
  • Flatness of the landscape with almost no hills to speak of.
  • No green pastures or very few. Most horse facilities have dirt and haybales - which if you think about it kind of reminds me of home around our place at least :)
  • Trying to find a place to put my horses so I can move them soon and missing my animals, both of which will be resolved when we find a house or a house with a little land to have the animals.
So I guess, overall, I'm pretty happy where I am now. I like my job (most days) but the angst there comes when I'm having a bad day, not because the job is bad. Actually, for what I get paid the job is pretty awesome and I'm happy doing what I'm doing. Daniel and I are doing well and the bills are coming into line slowly and life is good in Texoma.

When asked do I miss home the answer is "you betcha!" but saying that, if you turned around and asked me again if I was ready to move back the answer would be a resounding "NO". I'm starting to feel like a local to Texoma, if not a native and I find something new to discover here every week. So to my friends and family, I love you and miss you and even look forward to a visit home... but I hope you would come see me in my new part of the world as well and find out why people in Texoma tend to STAY in Texoma. ;)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jack Russell... Terrors? O.o

I first want to apologize for my lack of posts over the last few days. I got some bad news this weekend and it really took the wind out of my writing motivation. I found out that a dear little friend, my sweet Jack Russell Terrier Cookie, died on Saturday and frankly I have crawled into an emotional hole to heal. This blog post is not going to be about Cookie herself, that wound is still way too raw and close to my heart, but as I’ve sat here days and nights thinking it through I went through all the phases from “I’m never going to have another pet get that close to me” to “You know, I might consider another dog at some point” to “I want another JRT puppy”.

Which led me to think about why a JRT in the first place.. hence this blog post.

Jack Russell Terriers are affectionally known among Jack Russell Terrors, come in several varieties, but my favorite is the smooth coat shorty. Stocky little dogs that are smart as a whip, funny as hell, quick as a cat and ferocious as a Rottweiler, they are a great pet. I heard a lot of things about them not making good house dogs and being cat killers, but like any other dog it all comes down to how they are raised and trained. My JRT was excellent in the house, a real couch spud and loved the cats, playing with them often. In fact, if they played too rough she would run away scared.

I am definitely going to be looking for another JRT however. The spot on my pillow is forever empty now where just last week I was planning and looking forward to her being here in Texas with me. I know in my heart though that above anything else, that little dog knew she was loved and she soaked it up and returned it 100 times over. Knowing she is in a better place makes it a bit easier and let’s me think about maybe having another little bundle of energy to share a home with.

For a great little dog with a ton of heart, soul, personality and outright moxie, do check out a Jack Russell Terrier. Also at the same time, check out appropriate training suggestions and lots of exercise for them. Properly trained and cared for they are wonderful companions and very smart little house mates.