Thursday, April 18, 2013

Adventures in Life, and the Benefits of May-therhood

To say that I've been emotionally drained, tested, and battered over the last month is an understatement. In the past 30 days I have experienced an onslaught of personal loss to the point where I've become either manic or detached from everything. There comes a point where you can only say goodbye to something so many times before you're completely lost, and that time has been now for me.

Through friends passing away, other's attempted suicides, friends narrowly escaping death, newborn horses having to be put down, having to say emotional goodbyes to loved ones, and the stresses of everyday life and work and relationships.... It's just been overwhelming lately.

Despite all of this, I've been trying to make my heavy heart a little lighter wherever possible, and naturally that means time with May.

I was extremely fortunate to have had the chance to spend most of Sunday at the Equine Affair with two seasoned volunteers/trainers for Equine Partners Unlimited, where May is boarded. These two exceptionally helpful women, Hannah and Yvonne (who I might add, I owe all thanks to the images for this entry), spent hours humoring my questions, concerns, confusions, and ideas in regards to May. Getting to bond with them while also getting to attend seminars, clinics, and demonstrations was an excellent treat, even if I didn't understand half of whatever they were saying.

At the end of the Affair, I had the opportunity to get one on one training with our farm's manager, Mandy Schreiber, who also happens to be May's Knight in Shining Armor. During our training session we focused on my fear and confidence, which has been a huge issue in nearly every facet of my life over the past several weeks. I have, due to many emotional pit-falls, lost almost all of my self-confidence, which has led to me being fearful of trust, fearful of myself and my actions, and fearful of the situations around me.

Anyone who has ever been around horses can tell you how incredibly in tune they are with those around them, be it another animal or a person. My difficulties with fear and confidence outside of the farm has only made my training while at the farm escalate into incredibly stressful situations. May fails to see my confidence, and therefore refuses to agree to what I suggest for her to do (being led on the lead, following me, etc). Being that she is a wild pray animal, this has led to some scary, defeating situations. Even with breakthroughs, where she and I are obviously overcoming a moment of doubt against the other, the majority of our interactions are ones that are full of fear.

At the start of our training May behaved defiantly to my lead, refusing to walk more than a step forward, or walk smoothly at my side. She pulled her body backwards, she tried to push me out of the way, or she just sat there staring at me. With Mandy's gentle suggestions and quick response time, I was able to keep May from throwing too much of a fit, however, my stress levels never seemed to lower. It took Mandy four hours to get me to stand up straight, to not shake while holding the lead rope, and to establish boundary space with May. Inside of those four hours, I was a nervous wreck trying to get May to follow without fighting, thrashing, or biting at me.

I was a mess while trying to get her to walk from the pasture to the arena, where her every other step was rebellious and irritable. I was full of panic and unease when I would try and walk her in circles while being slumped over in defeat and fear. I was, in short, a pathetic looking sight.

But I persisted, and with Mandy at my side reminding me to self-check my attitude, I was slowly becoming more sure of myself.

It took us time to get me to the place where I could stand tall, breathe deeply, and look straight ahead at my end goal. I had to fight to not look back on past failures and experiences, be it with May or someone/thing else, and to not look forward into the future onto possible fearful outcomes, be it with May or someone/thing else. Since I've been consumed with thoughts of the past and pained with the dread of my future, having to change that for our safety and for the opportunity to accurately establish myself with May was spirit breaking.

Eventually though, I got it. I stood taller, asserted myself as the head mare (with lots of exercises and training methods to get there), and I got May and I to a place of mutual respect and understanding. It took everything in me to be able to let go of that paralyzing paranoia that something bad was going to happen, and that I was going to fail. After what felt like hours and hours and hours, I was finally able to have my moment with May that said so clearly, "I am capable".

Within a blink of an eye an obvious shift between us had snapped into place and her behavior towards me was incredible. By the end of the night, she had started to follow me just by being called, with no need to pull or pressure her. She would stand beside me, would stop when I stopped, and would keep her attention towards me at all times. I couldn't have imagined how beautiful that moment would have ever been, to be in the place of letting go and becoming more because of it.

All of this, every second of training that I got to have with May is so easily applicable to life. It is so important to not hold onto our fears, or to let them control us. It is so important not to concentrate on the past and all of the bad from it. Most of all though, it is so, so, so important to not beat yourself up so badly, to the point where you are incapable of growing past and beyond something, some roadblock. Nothing is impassable. Nothing was worth missing out on this.

As I think back on Sunday and I think over all of the things that have been happening in my life, I find myself acknowledging more and more that I made the right choice when I chose May. I never would have guessed that I would experience what I have with her in such a short time, or that I'd be her first therapy patient. But honestly, I couldn't be more honored to be here on this journey.

Until next time.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hello, Spring Weather!

The weather in Ohio this week has been amazing! I haven't been able to get enough of our 70 degree days, the cool, soft breezes, and the blooming flowers that are shooting up everywhere I turn. Spring has finally (truly!) found us, and it is glorious. Even our thunderstorms and rainy afternoons are making me happy, as it's just as wonderful and calming as the bright days. 

This has all left me feeling massively inspired to build myself a sanctuary, and I've been able to do just that by gutting out my room and doing a little remodeling. I took my overcrowded walls and stripped them bare, moved my furniture around, purged a good amount of my belongings, and filled my space with flowers, plants, and bright white window treatments. I made it so that my open windows are the focal point of my room, and the natural light that spills in is just magical. To say that I feel instantly refreshed and happy just walking into my bedroom now is a total understatement. The only thing left to do is to build my library space, and fill my room with a few more plants. Until that's done I'm holding off on any pictures, but for now I'll leave you with a teaser of my new Venus fly trap. It's name is Rachel. 

Hi, Rachel!

Aside from all of that, I've been putting effort towards finding a balance with everything that I'm doing, and everything that I want to be doing. Over the last year I've discovered the importance of not doing too much at once, and giving yourself time to just be. I try to balance what's currently on my plate as much as I can, and I've found so much fulfillment in just doing that. Lately I've been dividing my time between farm, home, work, and quality time with Tuesday. If I spend two nights at the farm volunteering or working with May, then I spend two days of quality time with Tuesday. If I clean the farm, I spend a night cleaning or organizing, or crafting at home, and then I take two days to just be lazy and do whatever I feel like. It leaves everything in my life dealt with, and gives me a sense of calm. So far it's worked wonders!

Of course, I'm not the only one that's been getting spoiled by spring. I've been taking Tuesday on impossibly long walks all around the neighborhood, to dog parks, and to parks around my house where we can just explore. We've also been going on picnics and car rides, and oh god, does he love them. 

I hope you're enjoying the season as much as we are!

Until next time. <3

Friday, April 5, 2013

Time to Relax.

There are days, or weeks, where there seems like a never ending string of bad days, stressful moments, or singeing memories that threaten to swallow you alive. When you're caught in the middle of it, it seems like you can never get out in one piece, and you're tormented by everything. Every song, every conversation, every step up your staircase. 

On those days, I take a drive out to the farm. I spend over 30 minutes on the road, with the sound off, thinking. I think about everything, from why I'm feeling upset, to why I'm letting something get to me, to what I might be having for dinner in a few hours. I sit and I simmer in my car, until I reach the farm. I then put on my pasture boots, and I immediately take off to find May. The second my eyes are on her, everything, all of my outside thoughts, my feelings, my memories, my emotions restart, and I'm left to dance around in a silent mind, at peace. 

In all honesty, it's part peace and part frustration, as I usually have to chase her down and then deal with leading her in, but you know, it's a recharge all the same. When I'm out there in the pastures or in the arena, spending whatever time I'm spending with her, everything else is irrelevant. 

I've spent the better part of two and a half years searching for something or someone who could wipe away my hard days, and all along it was out in the middle of nowhere. All along it was a horse. 

Go figure.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Surprise! It's A Birthday Party.

Last Saturday I took some time out of my crazy hair sculpting to throw Dan a surprise birthday party, and it was a blast! I'd been planning it since the end of January, and despite all of the insanity of the last few months (friends passing away, getting bronchitis, getting ready for the show, and adopting May), I somehow managed to throw a very smooth affair (with the help of our beautiful friends of course).

Since Dan makes every day feel incredibly special for me, it was only fitting that I did my best to give him at least one day where he felt extra special, too. After days of searching, I found an online seller who would custom make an edible Delorean cake topper, and 2 dozen hand painted Back to the Future cupcake toppers, since that's one of Dan's favorite movies ever. The seller, Tutu Cute Cakes, went all out on making my order as detailed as possible. The Delorean was made of Rice Krispy treats and fondant, and weighed a good 3 pounds. The topper was placed on a custom gluten-free fudge cake, with chocolate fudge icing in between a double layer of deliciousness.  

The appetizer spread was pretty basic, but ended up being a crowd pleaser. I ordered two of Dan's favorite Chipotle bowls and made it into a dip, which was eaten up so fast I didn't even see it go! This paired with a never ending veggie and cheese tray did well to tide everyone over.

But, because I like to spoil Dan and all of his incredibly awesome friends, we also made steak and chicken kabob appetizers. Victoria did a special marinade for both meats, and then she sauteed peppers and onions and we made little bites for everyone to enjoy. I had purchased these lovely party picks from The Pretty Paper Shop and used those to skewer the kabobs. They were such a hit that I didn't even get to take pictures of them before they were inhaled!

We spent a good chunk of Saturday morning decorating the downstairs area of my apartment. In my rush to make sure everything was perfect, I neglected to get pictures in the front room, but it ended up being ridiculously festive. By the start of the evening (before guests arrived), Victoria and I finished the hanging of the 100th balloon, took a step back, and just started squealing. It was almost time! It was almost happening! 

I was so proud of our secret keeping and hard work (obviously, I mean, look at the mom face I'm making in that picture.) In all seriousness though, we have such a great group of friends that it was impossible to not be elated all night by the abundance of good company. My face never once stopped making a goofy smile, and by the end of the night, my cheeks were sore from the amount of laughing done. I feel stupidly blessed to have had all of these faces under my roof!

^^^ Look at that face!

Annnnd like a silly person, I also neglected to get pictures of the actual surprise portion of the party. I was just too excited to even think about it. Initially, I had told Dan that I had a shoot at the Wilds with zebras and that I wanted him to come with me. He agreed and took the night off of work, having absolutely no idea that I was scheming to throw him a 27th birthday party. There were times when his best friend and I thought he was onto us, but then I'd play it cool and change the subject off of birthday parties, and eventually he'd forget about it. When he walked in the door to be greeted by 16 of his good friends, he turned bright red and laughed louder than I've ever heard him laugh before. The highlight of my night, from start to end, was that moment right there.

Happy birthday, Dan!