Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I need to clone myself. I'm thinking three, of me, would be about right.

The wife/mother me: This one would be attentive and always available to the three precious persons who share my immediate space in life. Quality and quantity time would be in abundance along with time for the necessary evils of said job--cooking, cleaning, laundry. This model would never say things like, "Be quiet; just give me a minute," while typing a scene for a work in progress (with her thumb) in the notebook app of a Blackberry while spending time with family at the lake.

The writer me: Though having poor hygiene and social skills (with real people), this model would never lose those amazing bits of inspiration that fly into the brain at the most inconvenient times. During a sermon, for instance (is it a sin to write fiction on a church bulletin?), or while cutting a child's birthday cake. She would tweet, Facebook, and blog regularly to maintain a "viral presence" (is it just me or does that sound very wrong?). She would churn out books every six months and be on the edge of marketing techniques and changes in the publishing industry.

The horsewoman me: This model would never feel guilty about trail riding or telling the lie of "I'll only be gone an hour or so" as she loads horses in a trailer and speeds down the road. Her horses would be in shape and regularly schooled. She would not have a dirty barn, tack, or fence lines loaded with approximately 100 pounds of blackberry vines, thus shorting it out. Her horses would not have tangles in their manes.

It can be exhausting to marry the elements that make up a human being. I think the term would be "balance" and I know I'm still merrily pursuing that state. Some days it comes close to being in reach. Yesterday, for instance. Wrote 1,000 new words on a nearly finished WIP (How can something so vaguely measured in value feel so good?); cut above mentioned blackberries off electric fence lines (and have the scratches, and blackberry cobbler, to prove it) AND rode Eli (over an hour); and spent time cooking with my kids, reciting meaningless yet hysterical movie lines, watching an old movie, and cuddling in bed. It was a good day.

I've been thinking of things that come in threes since going to an insightful workshop using horses in July. One of the many things I learned, and since ponder, is the three part nature that is a human being. Created in the image of a God who is, mysteriously, three persons in one, a human being is three parts--mind, body, spirit-- searching for balance. Even our brains are in threes: cortex, limbic system (amygdala), and the primitive brain stem that controls basic instincts and body functions. This I learned from my new friends at the HEAL center--Human Equine Alliances for Learning--in Chehalis, Washington (stay tuned for a creative literary project between the four of us in 2011).

Our three part nature craves balance and our three part brains need to be healthy to enable an individual to reach their potential. Maslow's hierachy of needs comes to mind. A person struggling to fulfill the most basic demands for food and security may never get to fully develop the cortex--thinking--side. Conversely, a person who lives in their cortex and ignores the amygdala (center for emotions) will fail in relationships. Since we are created for relationship, this part of the brain is critical for mental health and stability.

Interestingly horses also have a three part brain, though not as advanced in the cortex and limbic system as human beings. Chance is an example of a horse with a seriously underdeveloped cortex. Man, that horse lives in his amygdala and it short circuits him to his primitive, fight or flight, brain ALL the time. Forget a "window of tolerance" for stress, this horse has a peep hole. But clicker training seems to be developing his cortex a bit so he can learn to think, not simply react. That is my hope anyway. Only time will tell if if it is effective long term.

Enough of Writer Me. Time to get those other models operational this morning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


One of the gifts of age is finally, blessedly, accepting the body you were born in. I have two teenagers who regularly lament things like hair/eye color, body size, and the strange idiosyncrasies unique to that body. A typical mother, I say things like, “Be grateful you aren’t handicapped/have enough to eat/are loved/have arms and legs,” you get the picture. I enjoy pointing them to people like this. The truth is, I so get it. I’ve been there, too, and while I’ve accepted my body for the most part it doesn’t take much to flash back to the days of cursing genetics and wish, wish, wishing I had other physical features as I perused People Magazine and Cosmopolitan. Perhaps I can best explain my battle with body image by an encounter at a local grocery store two days ago.

There I was, hunting for a snack in the healthy foods aisle while said teenagers were loading groceries in my truck and driving it around to pick me up (having a chauffeur is a major perk of adolescent children). As I compared the ingredients of several bulk trail mixes I felt someone checking me out. Nodding politely at a man old enough to be my father, I started scooping “energy” trail mix into a baggie. He continues to stare. What is his problem? Wearing a barn outfit of dirty vest/jeans combo—complete with stray stalks of hay, my riding shoes, and no make-up I’m pretty sure he’s not impressed with my appearance. Did I pick the wrong trail mix? What? When I look at him again he smiles and says, “You’re tall.”

Stop the presses. I’ve just been informed of amazing new information about myself. In 38 years I’ve only heard this inane statement from complete strangers about, oh, a million times! I’m never quite sure how to respond to this… “Congratulations for noting the obvious?” I answered with my usual, genius comeback, “yep.”

I’ve always found it interesting when people tell me I’m lucky for being tall. By the age of 13 I’d reached my full height of 5’11. This did not feel lucky, it felt like genetic punishment. Most of my friends were short and petite. And in the eighth grade this included the guys. There was one boy in junior high as tall as me and he wasn’t one of the cute ones. Guess who I had for a partner for square dancing every year? My first “boyfriend,” Sean, came up to about my shoulder. We had a meaningful relationship for several months after I circled “Yes” on the note he sent asking if I wanted to be his girlfriend.

The battle for self acceptance continued through highschool. Blessedly many of the guys began to grow, but I still wished and dreamed of being small and cute with a curvy cheerleaderish shape. Instead, I got “Olive Oil.”

Perhaps I’d have felt differently about my size if it included amazing athletic skill. I could have tried out for WNBA and felt secure in my height every time I made a bank deposit. Then I’d have nodded enthusiastically when I got asked, over and over, “Do you play basketball?” But, no. In lieu of athleticism, God made me a painful introvert who hated sticking out in a crowd. Who says He doesn’t have a sense of humor? Thankfully I had horses. They were the one thing that made me feel graceful and at all talented in the athletic department. Without my horses I’m not sure how I’d have made it through the teen years.

It would make sense to pair my extra height with a big beefy warmblood or, at the very least, a leggy Thoroughbred. Alas, like my first boyfriend Sean, I’m a fan of the shorter members of the equine world. Tall for my very favorite breed—the Arabian—Eli is a solid 15’2. Not huge but on the bigger side of average. Borrowing his energy, drive, and grace under saddle is an absolute thrill and the experience does what riding has always done for me—make me more comfortable in my own body.

While I’ve finally accepted my height with a measure of gratitude, I still look at some of the little breeds with envy. What fun I could have if I were small. I’d gallop away on a wild looking Kiger Mustang, an adorable Pony of the Americas, or, perhaps my very favorite small horse, a Welsh Pony. Check out Northforks Cardi, a simply stunning Welsh stallion.

Oh, the horses I’d ride if I were only five feet tall…