New Year, New Decade, New Me?

I love this season, from October 1st to January 1st its my favorite time of the year. The world just seems happier plus the cooling weather ( sweaters, leggings, boots! Yay!). But in the days between Christmas Day and New Years Eve I always find time to be reflective. Have I accomplished what I set out to do last year? The answer is no I never do, but I get wrapped up in the hope of the new year that this year will be different I will complete that resolution I didn’t complete in 2019, that I meant to complete in 2018, and in 2017, and 2016 and so on.

Honestly, I’ve had the same resolution since 2009 that I was planning in 2010. Now a decade has past and I am 10 years older and never completed the resolution of losing weight (so cliché). If my New Years resolution was to gain weight I would have accomplished that 10 folds. Now here I am again thinking to myself, this year I’m going to do it but a little voice in my head whispers you’re not though, you’ll probably gain weight again. I hate that voice. Not only because its negative, but because I also know its right. I probably will.

But with the coming of a new decade I’ve decided I’m doing things a bit differently. Oh I still plan on setting up the resolution of losing weight, but its not going to be my priority. Because when it is I also feel disappointed in myself, so here’s my New Year’s Resolution. I will not let my weight stop me from doing things I want to do.

So often I find myself thinking if I loose 10- 20 lbs then I will do x, y, z. Like with riding, I miss it with my whole being. I miss the excitement of guiding a horse through a course of jumps. The exhilaration of the horse taking off on a particularly challenging obstacle and soaring over it. I miss the peace of grooming a horse, it’s so easy to just loose yourself in the motions of brushing a coat until it gleams. I’ve thought about riding so often so close to looking for lessons at a barn to get that back. But then I remember my boots no longer fit around my calfs. I can’t zip them up, any muscle I had when I was riding regularly has since turned to flab.

Back in the day I had always felt like I was overweight, because I wasn’t a size 2, now I look back and think that girl was an idiot. I was athletic, I had muscles and sure while my stomach didn’t show it, I had core muscles. Now my core is practically non existent. So when I think, yeah I’m going to get back in the saddle even if it will be painful to never ride Pepsi again. I want to ride again. Then I’ll get a glimpse in the mirror or that mean little voice pipes up (you’ll probably break the horse’s back if you do try and climb on) so I’ll sigh and say maybe if I loose some weight then I could ride again.

I’ve decided I’m not going to do this anymore. Yes I want to loose weight and feel healthier and happier. But I’m going to focus on the happier side of it this year. This means, I’m going to ride again. Even if it means buying a new pair of boots. I’m going to go on that camping trip with my friends like I’ve wanted for a while now not just wait until I’m more fit to do it. I’m not going to hide behind the camera as much because I’m ashamed of what I look like. Though I will take that photography class like I’ve wanted. I’m going to write more, work on that novel, work on this blog. I’m done dreaming of a time when I will be happier and healthier. I’ll focus on the happier side of it, and hope the healthier side follows.

Yes I will make healthier choices, I won’t reach for the ice cream when I’ve had a bad day, creating a endless cycle of misery. But I’ll also won’t deny myself either, no more can’t have that its bad food. It’s pizza stop being mean to it, it just has more calories and less nutrition than a salad. I’ll practice more mindful eating, choosing nutrient over cravings but I’ll let myself off the hook if I have something less nutritious.

More then anything though I’m going to kill that little voice that is nothing but negative and realize its not always right. I’ll shift my focus on being more forgiving, braver in some ways and not wait until the perfect moment. Whether that means the perfect size, the perfect moment, I’ll admit to myself that perfect doesn’t exist. I have no doubt this coming year will be challenging and wildly uncomfortable. I will probably be embarrassed a few times, but my hope is that by focusing on being happier and taking chances every now and again. I hope that voice will be silenced and this time next year will be full of memories and laughs. So here’s to a New Year, a New Decade, and a New perspective may it be everything I hope it will be.

Staying On the Ground

Staying on the Ground

My original purpose for my next blog post was to write about a huge change in my life. I got a new job and was relocating back home in Houston TX and would be closer to my friends and family. While I haven’t been as regular on this blog as I have wanted, or even anticipated when I first hit publish, I wanted to write about my horse and our many adventures. I wanted to write from the end of our story to the very beginning because it was a journey I have been completely blessed to be apart of. And I have every intention to document our story. But then my dad passed, and despite my dad’s failing health for the last few years, you’re never really ready for it to come. I was still raw at losing Peps, and even my sense of identity to an extent. After all, I had always been that girl who was probably a little too obsessed with horses. You remember those girls, there seems to be one in every class. I couldn’t wrap my mind around who I was if I didn’t have horses in my life. And yet due to my budget, cost of living, and lack of access since Peps I was forced to figure that out. 

By the time my dad passed I felt like I was maybe, just maybe figuring that out. I was going to document that with this blog as well. What’s that saying “you plan, and God laughs” ? THUMP! Another emotional hit! My dad passed and just when I felt like I was finally starting to get back on my feet I fell to the ground again. But what other choice did I have but to once again try and get back on my feet. Most quoted sayings I have heard is “When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on.” It’s as true in riding as its often quoted for life. My entire equestrian life has been Ok I fell off, let’s get back on. It’s the only way I know how to operate, through if I am being honest there are one or two times I should have chosen to go to the  hospital instead of immediately back in the saddle.

So I do what I know I fell, I have to get back up. One month after my dad, my car died. Now I am not terribly attached to my car, it was just wildly inconvenient but I dealt with that too. I was an adult I car shopped and purchased my first car, a Jeep Wrangler. Then irony that I traded in my dad’s Wrangler for another Wrangler is not lost on me. But this one is automatic so I know how to drive it. 

A tide seemed like it was turning, I got a new opportunity with a great company, and it would take my back to my hometown. I just thought ok finally refresh, things have got to change now. I wish I could say that things did, that it all fell into place and it did to an extent. But the universe wanted to get one last hit in. 

Its started when I officially moved back, see my BFF, Chelsea, took my dog, Jack, home with her so I could pack up my house without having to worry about him. I went to her house once I was settled at my my mom and stepdad. A temporary plan while my house sells. Jack is older, but he doesn’t act like it. I went to Chelsea’s house to pick him up, and I noticed he was moving a little slowly. Not too unusual he tended to over exert himself and would be sore for a few days after he played too rough with her dogs. She told me she had given him the night before his anti-inflammatory meds my vet prescribed for those moments so I just wrote it off as soreness. I figured a few days at my mom’s and he’ll be good as new. But later that night he didn’t want to eat nor did he go the restroom. Which was weird, he has the nickname Poos for a reason. Looking closer I realized that his stomach seems bloated and when I felt it it felt hard. My mom was worried too and stated that she would bring him the animal clinic that was around the corner on Monday. 

Since it would be my first day of work I went in, and let her take him. My day passed as first days typically do, just be introduced to different coworkers watch a few orientation videos. I kept an eye on my phone thinking my mom would call with news of Jack eventually. But the day passed with no word. Finally I called on my way home and asked after him. “Let’s talk when you get home” Yeah nope that’s definitely not good. I asked her to just tell me now. She did the vet did an exam and an X-ray. There was a tumor that was quite large, so large in fact it was taking up most of the abdominal cavity. He was going to send the images off to a radiologist to confirm, but in his experience dogs rarely survive once it gets that big. 

I think it was the first time my brain went completely silent, before I had a thought of well that’s not true. All I could think of was picking Jack up and driving him to Austin to his vet there. He had just had blood work in July, it all came back normal, so how on Earth did this tumor just come out of nowhere. To hell with that, I want a second opinion. My mom agreed and said she make an appointment at an animal hospital here in Houston. I hung up and continued my drive home. Sure that yes, someone would say he’ll be ok. After all Jack never acted his age, nor did he look his age. Most people who heard he was 12 would be like ‘seriously? He doesn’t seem that old.’ Jack would be fine. 

As the week went on, the animal hospital had been so busy the next appointment wouldn’t be until the following week, I watched as Jack lost his appetite completely and still had trouble going outside. What’s more is he seemed to get skinnier while his belly became more descended. By the weekend anymore then a few more steps were too much for him. He’d stop and have to lay down. Much of our walks went that way a few steps a few yards down and he’d lay down for a break and I’d sit down next to him to talk to him. Didn’t matter how long these breaks were they were the same. He seemed happy though even if he was in discomfort he seemed happy to be with everyone. Mom was pulling out all the stops for him, want chicken? Steak? If he would eat it my mom would feed it to him. 

Days before our walks came with breaks, he started to struggle with the stairs. As I slept upstairs it’s where he slept. So every night I would pick up all 68lbs of him and carry him upstairs for bedtime. It wasn’t hard to laugh at the memories of doing this when he was a puppy. When I got Jack he was 3 months old and had never been introduced to stairs. I lived in my first apartment, on the 3rd floor no elevators. When he was small and cute it was no issue to just pick him up and carry him up and down the stairs to take him outside multiple times a day. Pretty sure it was how I’d lost about 15lbs in my early 20s. But as he got bigger, it became harder to carry him. So time to learn stairs, except Jack had learned to he was to be carried up and down and he saw no reason to change this regardless of his recent growth spurt. He’d get away with it too, Mom always picked him up and carried him, sometimes I was too much in a hurry to deal with his puppy temper tantrum at making him go up and down stairs. It was a long summer of stair training, but by Fall, and when we were moving to a 2nd story apartment, he was running up and down the stairs like a champion. Now here we were 12 years later,  him 30-40lbs heavier not to mention my own weight gain, carrying him up and down stairs once more. He played the long game. 

By the weekend, I was coming to terms that the second opinion vet might have the same opinion and I would need to say goodbye once more to someone important to me. So I took him to my BFF, Chelsea’s house, see her dog Zoey, affectionately referred to as Buggy ,was Jack’s BFF. It only felt right to bring him over for one more play date. Chelsea took it harder, I had watched him decline all week, she saw him go from normal to suddenly having the most simple things be a struggle. “I wasn’t expecting to cry tonight” She said as she watched him slowly sniff around the back yard. I just nodded, tears had pretty much been a constant for me of late. The night was great though, @chubbygirlclimbing (go read her posts on the @thedihedral she’s hilarious) came over and we spend the majority of the evening talking and laughing and one memorable video of us singing N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys to Jack. (Yes, alcohol was involved. How’d you guess?). It was a wonderful evening filled with friends both human and four legged, and I think Jack was happy to be around us, even if he looks super judgemental in the video. 

By Sunday evening, I came to the decision it was time to say goodbye. He was struggling to even get up and stay up let alone walk. Mom agreed, we had two more full days until the vet appointment with the specialist and at this rate we both felt that he wouldn’t make it. “I’ll call the vet that diagnosed him tomorrow morning, first thing” I nodded and decided to let my new job that I would be unable to make it tomorrow. I had already let them know the situation and they were wonderfully understanding. Jack was not what you’d call a lapdog, when he was a puppy he loved to cuddle. But as an adult he never would, the closest you could get was him laying next to you. Sometimes if you sat down next to he’d get up and move which was incredibly rude. Honestly sometimes he was more cat than dog. But that night he laid in my lap like he was a puppy again and I decided to just sit with him like this all night if that’s what he wanted. 

By 3am he got up and curled up in his bed and I decided I would get some sleep in mine. I only got a few hours before I awoke quite violently. I looked around the still dark room and couldn’t find Jack. I had placed a little barrier at the top of the stairs to avoid him getting hurt and stumbling down the stairs. I noticed the barrier was knocked over and I hurried to the stairs. Flipping on the lights, there at the bottom of the stairway was Jack laying in his own  filth. He whined and had the nervous look of a dog who knew they did something bad. “Oh Jack” I whispered “your a good boy, let’s get you cleaned up” I let him in the back yard and I set to work cleaning his fur and his face in which he had somehow gotten messed too. My heartbreaking a little bit more. But I focused on cleaning Jack, and then cleaning up the floor. It wasn’t too long before my mom came out. I told her what happened and see stated she’d call the Vet. 

By 8am, we were waiting for a call from the vet on call. By 9am we were on the way to the vet’s office. Everyone was somber, “right this way” the vet tech lead us straight into a room already set up. 3 injections later, and the Vet said he was gone. ‘How can that be’ I thought ‘I still feel his breath’. The first injection was a sedation so he’d be sleepy, he’d laid down when his head in my lap one paw curled around my leg. The vet and vet tech left first, my mom second to give me time alone she said as she left. ‘Got all day?’ I thought because I would stay here all day. But I knew I couldn’t not really. Eventually they would come to pick up his body and take him to the pet crematorium and I would have to reorganize a book shelf to add yet another urn to it. My own little morbid collection. I unclipped his collar and leaned down and give him a kiss “say hi to Pepsi for me, tell him I said to be nice to you. But don’t try to eat his hay again, that’s why he charged at you that time” I smiled at the memory but that was a story for another day. “Love you, you were the best dog. Thank you for being mine.” 

There is something very surreal about walking into a vet office with an animal, and walking out without one knowing that you’re not coming back to pick them up later. At least not in the traditional sense. I knew from my experience with Pepsi’s passing I would be back to collect an Urn full of ashes. So on a beautiful September day I fell again, but this time I wouldn’t rush getting back up. Even if it was just for a day I would stay down and take stock of my ‘injuries”. I went to a metaphorical hospital and hid out at Chelsea’s house watching movies, letting Buggy curl up into my side I knew she knew. Tomorrow I will get back up, get on my feet and start another new normal. Sometimes it’s not always get immediately back on the horse after a fall, sometimes you just need to stop and take a pause, assess the situation, and take care of your injuries. The saddle can wait, right now I just want the ground.

Jeeps, Stick-Shift, and a Eulogy

Sighing in frustration, I click the close tab instantly closing the list of used cars for sale. I’ve been going back and forth on this decision for the last few weeks. Ever since my car decided that 30 plus miles from home in the middle of Texas summer was a good time to die. You see, I have a second car. A Jeep Wrangler that I inherited from my father after his passing. It was in his will the Jeep would go to me, and he always said that it would be mine, even before he got sick. ‘As soon as it’s paid off’ he’d say, he bought it with me in mind. I’d always wanted a Jeep Wrangler ever since I was sixteen. 

Thing is it’s a stick-shift and I don’t know how to drive a stick shift. I can’t deny that there’s a part of me that was wondering if it was always meant for me then why did he buy a stick-shift that I couldn’t drive. An ugly little voice that lives in the back of your mind and only seems to speak up late at night. The more reasonable part of me knows he probably had every intention of teaching me how to drive a manual car. We drove it once together, down the backroads of Louisiana a year or so after he bought it. Any more moments of him teaching me how to drive a stick-shift never happened. He got sick, and got worse as the years passed. 

It was my aunt who made the final payment on the Jeep, after he had been moved into assisted living. She was the overseer of his accounts and his POA. Told me she paid it off and if I wanted it I could come get it, after she had it come back from the dealerships where it was being repaired. Prior to him going into assisted living he was on his own and the worse he got the less he went anywhere. So the Jeep sat for a few months without being turned on. I was visiting him when it was decided that he shouldn’t live by himself anymore. It was around Thanksgiving and I hadn’t visited on a holiday since college. My brother and I thought of having a real thanksgiving in a Southern tradition complete with deep fried turkey. But even as I got there and saw my Dad for the first time in a few months I knew he was in bad shape. He’d lost a significant amount of weight and barely seemed to realize who was around. My brother and I took a wait and see approach with him, maybe he was just tired. But his longtime friend said she had never seen him like this and was worried, so we called the ambulance to took him to the hospital. There, the doctors felt that he could no longer be on his own. 

The next day my brother and I met with my aunt to decide where we go from there and at some point the convo turned to the Jeep just sitting in the driveway. My brother got the keys and went to start it. Nothing, ‘Battery is probably dead, I’ll swing by and get a new one and change it out tomorrow.’ Thanksgiving was officially canceled. 

By the end of that weekend it was decided to try to have him living with my aunt with the help of hired caregivers for when my aunt was at work. ‘We’ll try this for a few months to see how it goes’ my aunt said. The Jeep would be towed to a dealership to be repaired, for it wasn’t just a battery issue. Most of my dad’s possessions would be packed up by my brother, and I had to fly back to ATX. Trusting the care of everything to my aunt and brother. 

In a few months time he would be in an assisted living home, his care too much for one person even with hired help. He didn’t like it, I knew that much, but he needed around the clock care and that was much too expensive to do at home. I went only once since he was moved in, spent the afternoon in an uncomfortable chair watching old movies on TCM while he slept on and off. When he was awake he tried to talk, he knew I’d be taking the Jeep that weekend back to Texas. My mom would drive it back and it would stay at her house until I could learn to drive it. He tried to tell me how to drive it and remind me of our one and only lesson, I hummed along in agreement. He paused and was quiet for a moment; I figured he must have dozed off. 

“Don’t sell it yet” his statement caught me off guard. “Don’t sell the Jeep yet, when I get better I want to drive it again.” I looked at him lying in his assisted living bed fragile and weak, a far cry from the father of my childhood. Do you really believe you’re going to get better? I thought. I had already come to terms that he was never going to leave this room, he’d been sick for years and had gotten worse as time went on. This was the same disease that had claimed his older brother. But as I looked at him, I couldn’t kill his last remaining fragment of hope. “Of course not, when your ready for it I’ll bring it back.” He nodded and we went back to the quiet  of watching Turner Classic Movies. 

That was my last interaction with my dad, my mom had come in to say a few words when she came to collect me. I knew he enjoyed having visitors, would talk to me about everyone who would visit him. Then we left and that was it. I spoke to him on the phone, of course, less and less as time passed. It had gotten hard for him to answer it, and he never remembered to call back. I was just wondering when I could come down again. It was early June when my aunt called. He was admitted to the hospital again, the second time this late spring early summer. His organs were shutting down, he was no longer able to make legal decisions. So it fell to my aunt as his POA and she didn’t want to make any decision without input from my brother and I. 

The doctors wanted to try this procedure; no guarantees it would work, but without it he may not last much longer. My aunt gave me the number for the doctor, I had questions. He answered them with an air of logic and no emotions. But he paused after all my questions had been answered. “Right now, he can not make this decision” the Doctor started “So now you and your family must on his behalf. This procedure may extend his life, but something to keep in mind is his quality of life.” I nodded forgetting I was on the phone and not in person, but words couldn’t quite get passed my throat. “Just something to think about, and what he would have wanted.” I thanked the doctor for his time and hung up the phone. I called my brother hating that I was going to be the one who told him. No answer just a voicemail. 

“Call me when you get the chance it’s important” I left then called my aunt letting her know I spoke with the doctor. What would my dad want? “I know when I ask him he says he wants to get better, but its like he only says it, everything in his actions say otherwise. I also know he’d never want to be on life support, he did say that.” Isn’t this kinda that? Just trying something to extend the inevitable. The beep of a call interrupted our convo. It was my brother, I put my aunt on hold, and got my brother caught up on everything. He sighed as if he knew this was coming, and we all kinda did. So I merged the calls, if we were going to decide this it would be all together on the same page. Not me being the middleman. 

“You know the last time I really talked to dad, he has mentioned he’s just tired of living.” My brother confessed.  Just like that the choice was made. We’ll make him as comfortable as possible, let him just drift off. ‘I’ll be there in a few days’, it was Tuesday “I’ll drive down Friday and stay the weekend.” I told them as I ended the call.  

My dad passed Thursday afternoon. 

Now two months later, I was wondering what to do with the Jeep. My car was dead and gone, my sad attempt at driving the Jeep around my work’s parking lot ended in tears and the smell of burning. The logical side of me says trade it in, get something you can drive. It could even be another Jeep Wrangler. But it was my dad’s, the only thing besides memories and photos I have. He loved that Jeep, took the absolute best care of it. And I had wanted it for years. But I was unsure if I was able to drive it, maybe I could only ever drive it once. Down a back country road in Louisiana with my Dad teaching me. 

It’s illogical to think that. I know it is. And yet I can’t help but wonder if that was the only time I will ever drive it. Driving a Jeep Wrangler, shifting gears, while my Dad laughs and reminisce about the time when I first was learning to drive and we were cruising down a winding road in Mississippi. “Remember? You were driving and I saw that sign that said “its time” with a little boy praying? And I said “Absolutely not, pull over!’” He grinned. “I remember” I said as I focused on shifting. I also remember going back down that road with my step sister looking for that sign, as teenagers talking about stealing it to gift to my dad as a joke. “The funny thing is, “ I told him, “ We never found that sign” He laughed and I shifted into fifth gear as I merged on the freeway.