I’m sending you away.

This is probably anti-productive, but I’m sending you to another blog. Three, actually.

1. The Pioneer Woman

The first is one you’ve heard me mention here before. I’ve told you that she has amazing photography, and that she sometimes frustrates me with her rate of production and her perfect blogsmanship, but this is something you really must see, especially if you are an animal lover.
I’ve also told you how I feel about animal lovers.
Pioneer Woman’s latest photography contest includes all 4-legged animals, not just cats & dogs.
Now, I’m a sucker for cats & dogs, but I think they get too much attention. I like variety. This contest does have its share of cats and dogs, but other wonderful creatures get to share the spotlight, too.
And the photography is amazing. Honestly, I wish I had the camera, Photoshop software, and time to learn it all, but I’ve got plenty on my plate as it is. For now, I’m content to be a visitor to the gallery.
Please take a look:

This might look like a sweet picture of a dog kissing a chick.
Do not be deceived.
That dog is tasting the chick.

2. Into The Hermitage

The second stop on your blog tour today will be to the south of England, in Dartmoor. There you will meet a lovely artist by the name of Rima who draws and paints fantastical folkloric images, and adorns some of her work onto clocks made of sliced wood. I’d like to have one someday. Her paintings, as well as her words and pictures on her blog, are warm and come from the heart.
click picture for a story about this clock:

A peek into Rima’s world will just make you feel good. Like when you were a kid and you went to visit your grandma’s house, and she gave you a cookie and told you to go outside and play, and you laid on the grass and watched the clouds, and wondered at lilies-of-the-valley, and spiderwebs twinkling with dew, and ripe sun-touched raspberries. And that’s all you had to worry about that day.

Her latest post encourages an interesting discussion about this clock, and commissioned pieces. Enjoy your visit.

My friend Ken, a poet, used his usual humor in describing his recent experience at the SCBWI’s Arizona conference.

I’ve never been to any other state’s conference, or the huge national affairs held bi-annually – summer in L.A. and winter in New York. I’d like to, in the future. But our little AZ get-together is done very well. Our regional advisor, Michelle Parker-Rock, does a good job of bringing in some top publishing industry pros. We’ve seen editors from the big houses like Scholastic, Penguin and Harper Collins, as well as smaller imprints who like to focus on something more specific, like First Second. Since our members also include illustrators, we are always sure to have an art director present. It’s amazing what they can do, and to find out just what goes into making a book.

My favorite speakers this year were Francesco Sedita, Vice President & publisher at Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin), who gave a fantastic presentation. He spoke how his love for reading throughout his life brought him to where is is today, and about the impact a book – any book – can have on a kid. And Jill Corcoran, a literary agent who seemed to be one of the most down-to-earth, un-snobby people I’ve ever met at a professional function. She had such great advice on writing query letters, and talked about the whole process of what happens after you get an agent – what you should expect from them, and what you should expect to do when working with one.

Also, Calista Brill, from First Second really made me think twice about graphic novels. With just the right amount of twisted humor, she’s the kind of speaker who is so passionate about her field, she gets you excited, too. Even if it’s something you never considered. Good thing she’s not a drug dealer.

And here is Ken’s take on his conference experience. He was lucky enough to be a guest blogger for David L. Harrison!

And, as a tip of my hat to Calista, here is a picture of my Cat kids:

 You’re welcome.

And, even though I’m sending you away, please feel free to come back and visit anytime.

Colicky Babies and Rookie Mistakes

Some girls, when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up will say things like: “A Teacher. A Doctor. A Fashion Designer.”

Some girls actually loved the dolls they got for Christmas, and knew that when you played house, the proper thing to do was to carry the “baby” around on your shoulder and pat it on the back while you cooked the pretend dinner for your pretend husband. When prompted with their career of choice, these girls would say, “I want to be a Mommy.”

I never got those girls. My dolls usually had the one lazy eye and a leg missing, due to being swung around by the foot.

1982
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful

My answer was always “MOVIE STAR,” which I thought would be obvious to anyone — why would you want to be anything else, much less — a Mommy? Never mind the fact that in reality, becoming a Mommy is much easier to achieve. (Oh, but that’s a whole ‘nother talk for a whole ‘nother day, now isn’t it?)

So, when I did get married and yes, become a Mommy much earlier than the rest of my friends, most of them and my family were pretty surprised, but no more so than I. (It’s all my husband’s fault. He had to be so damned cute and adorable and make me fall in love with him before I got a chance to fill out my employment application for MOVIE STAR. It’s a good thing, too, because with me around for competition, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston would have nothing to do all day besides vacuuming and laundry. Those grimalkins** owe me a Thank-You.)

Anywho, when my first son was born, and me not having the aforementioned patting-the-baby-on-the-back experience, I had no idea what was going on when about five weeks into his life, every night at bedtime, he began to scream endlessly at the top of his lungs.

Have you ever held a colicky baby?
Let me rephrase:
Have you ever been horribly sleep deprived, in bad need of a shampoo, sore in all the wrong places from birthing a child and then nursing said child, loved said child so much that your soul hurts, finally rocked sweet, soft, squishy, milk-filled child to sleep, held your breath as you laid child down in the crib, and as soon as you very very quietly click the doorknob into place, adorable tiny baby turns into a living tornado siren?

And then, instead of going to your own bed to luxuriate in slumber pass out from exhaustion, you go right back to baby, softly coo into his ear, pick him up, and begin pacing the floor again, patting on the back saying “Ssh, ssh, it’s okay, Mommy’s here,” while tears roll down your cheeks and you just pray for this baby to get some sleep and stop screaming in your ear?

I feel you.

Seventeen years later, and my colicky baby is now a strapping young man with the world ahead of him. But I was reminded of those hours of floor pacing when my most recent baby, in the form of a 650 pound, year-and a-half-old filly, Keira, colicked this week.

It was a rookie mistake that could have been avoided. How can I still be making rookie mistakes after five years? I don’t know.  Maybe, as Red Forman would say, I’m just a dumbass.

In Arizona, where our ground is very dry and rocky, it’s a good idea to feed your horses from some type of feeder/container so they are not eating right off the ground and eating a certain amount of dirt.

There’s the over-the-fence half barrel feeder, which is quite popular, since it forces the horse to pull the hay through metal bars, which makes them eat slower (or at least that’s the idea) and keeps the food off the ground.

Or there’s the huge bathtub-type bucket (or various styles of trough-type feeders) that allows the horse to hang its head in a more natural grazing position, but still keeping the hay off the ground.

These are wonderful, sensible options. Unless you have horses like mine who knock their feeders around so much, banging them against the fence (and believe me we tried wiring the feeders to the fence to avoid this. Wire breaks. Plastic tears.) And then they proceed to use their big horsey noses to shove all of the hay out of the feeders anyway so that they can snuffle it around with their noses, crunch it up with their hooves, and eat it off the rocky ground.

So feeders don’t really work with my girls. I did finally get a load of wood grindings for their stalls, to provide better bedding, maybe help their feather grow in without breaking off so much (another side effect of the dirt – it’s horrible on feather), and I figured it would be better to eat hay off of a nice layer of wood grindings, rather than dirt.

But those pesky tasty alfalfa leaves get down into the layers of wood, and prehensile horse lips love to dig around for the very. last. bit. of. green. they can find. Down to the rocky soil.

In which case, if you have exhausted all of your options, (check) you should have your horses on a schedule for feeding psyllium, to help get all of that ingested sand out of their gut. Now, by nature of their personalities and/or constitution, some horses will have problems with sand colic, and some will not. Chroi has never had an issue with it, and I’ve never bothered with feeding psyllium. First mistake. It’s called preventive for a reason.

If you’ve never “had an issue” with cavities, should you just not worry about brushing your teeth? If you’ve never “had an issue” with your car, should you just not worry about changing your oil?

You get where I’m going here.

By starting and keeping my horses on a preventive regimen, I could have saved poor Keira from suffering with her tummy ache, having her lip twisted in a twitch to distract her from the rectal exam, and a tube shoved up her nose in order to pump a gallon of mineral oil into her gut.

It was at this point in the vet’s visit that I mentioned to his assistant that I should have had my camera so I could take a picture. She gave me a weird look and asked, “you want a picture of your horse getting a tube shoved up her nose?” I said sheepishly, “Yeah, for my blog.”

I felt kind of bad using my horse’s pain for creative spark, but I thought this is exactly why I started this blog. To share my experiences, including all the slip-ups, for those who might be going through the same things, so that you can learn from my mistakes.

I mean, it’s not like Keira can scream into my ear when she’s not feeling good, and it would be very difficult to carry her around on my shoulder and pat her on the back.

So write it down: PSYLLIUM. One week out of every month, and you will save your horse from suffering. And a vet bill.

Speaking of which, I have to give a shout-out to my vet, Dr. Longworth, and his assistant Rachel. They are my heroes this month. Thank you

**I originally had the word “bitches” here, but I’m not really sure how much I want to offend the few readers I have, so when checking my thesaurus for alternatives, the word “grimalkins” showed up, with the qualifier: archaic.
I had to use it.
I mean, come on.

Guilt, Guilt, Guilt

Do you have an RSS reader? Before I started reading blogs, and then started blogging myself, I had no idea what an RSS reader was. I knew it was something that super computer-tech-savvy people used, and I was familiar with that little icon:

But the more I started reading blogs, and saw the little icon, and especially after I found a blog or two that I wanted to read as soon as a new entry was posted, I decided to find out more about this RSS thing. Then, when I signed up for my Google homepage, and found out about Google Reader, I signed up.
So, basically, what a reader does (and there’s a whole bunch available, just look up “RSS Reader”), is compiles all of the new blogs posts from every blog that you subscribe to, and keeps them all in one spot, so you don’t have to go all over the place, trying to keep up with everything. It’s kind of like email – you can even have a subscription sent to your email inbox. But I get enough email already, so I choose to look at my reader on my homepage.
Here is a picture of my iGoogle homepage:

I have my Art of the Day widget, my Google Reader widget, my Mad Men quote of the day (don’t even get me started on Mad Men), and a couple of other things, maps, links to other Google services like Blogger and such, and on my other iGoogle page, I have a widget for a new Calvin & Hobbes comic a day (even though they’re old). I love Calvin & Hobbes. Watterson just GETS how some kids’ minds work. Probably because he was that kind of kid. Me too.
Anywho, here is a picture of my Google Reader widget:

One of the first blogs I started reading is from a lady in Oklahoma who just happens to be The Queen of All Bloggers, The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. I like Ree’s blog for a number of reasons:

  • She’s very candid, and unassuming, and her humor comes out well in her writing.
  • I love to cook, and she has FANTASTIC recipes. Warning: They are mostly laced with butter and bacon fat (but that’s what makes them so good).
  • Beautiful photography. She also hosts photo contests, and the entries from her readers are just amazing.
  • Free giveaways – which incidentally, she funds herself as a thanks for making her blog so successful. I like that. And she gives away nice stuff – ipads, cameras, Fiestaware, Kitchen Aid stand mixers. Yeah.

But here’s what I DON’T like about her blog:

  • She’s an overachiever. Every time I log on to my homepage and see my reader, it’s FULL of PW (Pioneer Woman) posts. She must blog ten times a day. P-dub, I love ya and all, but I don’t need an update every fifteen minutes. 

But the other drawback to seeing someone else being so prolific – and this is the real crux of the situation here – is that it makes me feel

  • GUILT for only blogging one post every couple of weeks. I’ve never been an overachiever. Not really an underachiever, either, but just kind of pokey. 

I’m also one of those people who decides she needs to do EVERYTHING, so I have a lot to do, and so some things get done not as often as others. So if you only hear from me every so often, it’s not because I don’t love you (And believe me, I do love you, my one subscriber out there in the ether, whoever you are), it’s because I’m doing one or more of the following:

  • working
  • cooking (and I’m planning on sharing some recipes here soon)
  • feeding: kids, husband, horses, dogs, cat or bird
  • laundry, my arch-nemesis 
  • cleaning
  • grocery shopping
  • watching Mad Men
  • writing
  • attending a writer’s critique group or function
  • reading a book (just finished Mockingjay)
  • or reading someone else’s blog.

On that last note, I have to give a shout-out to my fellow SCBWI writer-friend, Amy Fellner-Dominy, on her latest blog post. Her first book, which has been bought and is in the stages of production a book must go through before it hits the shelves, just received its cover:

Congratulations, Amy!
Make sure you look for OyMG in spring of 2011.

June, July, August, October

Ok, so yes, I realize I have broken a fundamental rule of blogging; that is to blog regularly and often. And yes, I realize I missed a WHOLE MONTH! I haven’t given you a book selection. What have you been reading?!
What’s wrong with me?
(Oh — that’s a whole ‘nother blog for a whole ‘nother day.)

In the meantime, here’s what happened in September:
Chroicoragh and Keira started training with Linda Storey-London, a Dressage trainer. She is teaching them to:

  • Pay attention to whomever is working with them (I’ll have her work on my kids next);
  • Start and stop on cue, in a “snappy” fashion (When I say whoa, I mean whoa);
  • Offer their feet freely when asked (Chroi has been used to giving me her feet, for grooming, but wasn’t happy about it. Now she is more willing); and
  • Being more “supple.” In dressage:






Its fundamental purpose is to develop, through standardized progressive training methods, a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform, thereby maximizing its potential as a riding horse. At the peak of a dressage horse’s gymnastic development, it can smoothly respond to a skilled rider’s minimal aids by performing the requested movement while remaining relaxed and appearing effortless. (from Wikipedia)


Linda works so well with the horses, and is exactly what I have needed in a trainer. I’m sure part of my problem has been my own lack of self-confidence when working with them, and Chroi and Keira can tell that I’m not in charge, so they naturally take over. It’s a basic behavior, and how they achieve their hierarchy in the herd. That way, the leader takes over, and in a natural setting, protects the herd and maintains order.

No, that’s not Chroi. Can you tell I like gray horses?

This very example of herd behavior is sometimes lost on those who are used to seeing horses in a domestic situation, especially a training barn where all the horses have their own stalls, are turned out periodically for exercise, or to work with their riders and trainers. Everything is controlled by the humans, who are then — for all intents and purposes — the “herd” leaders. This is the basic principle of working with horses. I mean, a horse can weigh upwards of a thousand pounds. The only way to have any control over it is to assume the position of its leader, and the horse works with you willingly.  Through a process of building trust, the trainer establishes an understanding that he or she is the dominant, or alpha member of the herd, and the horse naturally goes along with it.

That is the basic principle, but it is easier said than done. Especially with a horse that already thinks SHE is the boss. Anyway, it’s why I’ve decided to go with a trainer rather than pull my hair out trying to figure it out for myself.

The Grand Canyon in the distance

BUT one of the cool things we did in September was take another “let’s get the heck out of here” weekend trip to the otherlands of our great state. This time we headed up north. Off a side road that thousands of visitors pass daily on their way to the Grand Canyon, we found high desert peace and solitude.

We rode over miles and miles of gravel roads, looking at sage, power lines and cattle. And horses. Ranchers in the area turn their horses out to graze freely, and even though the horses are domesticated, on the range they revert to wild herd behavior. Now, as hunters, we are often privileged to view wild species like elk and antelope in their natural herd setting, but it’s just neat to see animals — like horses —  that you are so used to seeing in a controlled environment, in their more wild state.

Wild-domestic-free-range-horses

At one point on our route, we have to pass through a gate next to a ranch house. There are corrals and feeders, and this is where the cowboys bring in the cattle for round ups, branding, vaccination, castrating, and finally, shipping off to become your next BBQ. Yum.

Anyway, as we pulled up to the gate, I noticed a small herd of horses trotting towards us. They must keep their ears open for the sound of the rancher’s truck, and know that it could possibly mean a handful of grain, fresh hay, or some type of break from the dry grasses and sage they normally browse. At the head of the line, the alpha mare led the rest of the group into the corral area, where they expected… something, I don’t know what, and I was disappointed not to have anything for them.

It was so interesting to watch them, though. As they trotted toward the gate, a few of them got out of line, and tried to get ahead of her, and she put them back in their place. Once in the corral, they fought with each other for rank, as to who would be where in the space, nipping and nudging, giving little warning kicks.

Have you ever watched a class of first-grade school children waiting in line for the water fountain? Pushing, shoving, giving each other dirty looks, trying to get to the front. It’s a lot like that. And it reminded me that I need to be the teacher at the front, not the fourth kid in line with my finger up my nose.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Medium-rare with sauteed mushrooms in a red-wine reduction sauce, please.