Wrapping up 2012

Wow — it has been a long time since I updated my blog! There has been a good reason for that: I’ve been heads down on a huge project at work. Lots and lots of overtime. But the largest part of it wraps up this weekend (handoff on Monday), and it’s time to do an update. Lots of changes around here.

All three dogs are doing well. Pax is getting older, which breaks my heart. I can’t stand the thought of losing him — ever. Most of my critter update isn’t dogs, though — it’s horses. Back in August, Mr. Blue came home again. I was inordinately glad to see him! I’d missed him terribly. Our barn is in no shape for horses, so I’m boarding him at Eden Farms where I’m taking riding lessons. Here’s a picture of him at a clinic acting as a demo horse with Monica.



A couple of months later, Monica posted the picture of a horse in the Enumclaw kill pen. (Translation: a horse who had been purchased by a guy who sells them by the pound to slaughter houses.) We made a deal: I’d buy him and cover his stall, she’d train him, and then we’d sell him in the spring.

Yeah, that selling part? So not happening. This is Charlie, right after he came in:


Can’t get a good look at him there — sorry. He’s a quarter horse, extremely similar to Blue in size and build. He is an absolute love! He’s doing well in his training, and hopefully will get his first ride soon. Right now I’m intending to keep him. If he ends up being unsuitable for me under saddle, I’ll go ahead with the plan to sell him.

Miss Guin is still down in Olympia, happily retired at my friend Leslie’s place. I get down there once or twice a year, and Leslie gives me updates. I bought her a new purple blanket for Christmas. Hopefully Leslie will send me a photo!

My long-term plans for the horses are up in the air. We were planning to rehab the barn this spring so we could bring everyone home, but my job situation (and our funds) got iffy, so I’m not sure what will happen. More on the job situation further down.

The remodel
We still have no walls in the basement. However we have propane, and the electrical and plumbing have been done, and we’ve got a brand new whole-house generator installed! That was a huge part of the project, and we’re thrilled to have it done. It means that winter can throw its worst at us, and we’ll be fine.

It also means we can have horses at the house again. See, our well is wired into the house. No power = no water. That’s not a huge problem for humans and dogs, but it’s a MAJOR issue with horses. That generator solved the last big horse-owning problem we had.

The next major step in the remodel is to redo the stairs to the basement and finish Jay’s office. Both parts of that are huge, expensive undertakings. Right now those steps are on hold, because of my job.

The major project was a major success. It was, without reservation, my favorite project ever. I’m extremely blessed to have gotten to spend the past six months focused exclusively on it. I’ll be sad to see it end. Technically, though, it isn’t ending. I am.

As kudos to a job well done, my job said, “We love you! Come take a massive pay cut and work for us full time! And if you don’t want to do that, get out!” Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what they said, but it felt like that. I’m a contractor, you see. My division at work has roughly 15 long-time contractors, and our senior manager put together a report showing how she could save the company money by converting all of the contractors to regular employees.

It’s not as bad a deal as I made it sound. They offered straight conversions for most of us, meaning we didn’t have to interview. (I’ve never heard of them doing that before.) And if you factor in the value of their benefits package, the total worth of what they were offering was essentially the same as what I make now for 40 hours a week.

That doesn’t work for me, though. My husband works for the state, so I don’t need their benefits. I need cash. The job would have required me to work in the office three days a week — 50 miles a day on my 13-year-old car, plus two hours a day lost to the commute. I just couldn’t agree to that, so I declined the “offer.”

The theory is that I will stay until they backfill my position. As I understand it, they won’t be interviewing for it until early January, so I’m hoping I can ride this out until the end of January. The *ideal* would be the second week in February, because I’m going out of town then anyway.

All of this caused me a lot of stress. I had been doing really well with my eating and exercising, and all that came to a crashing halt with the news of the re-org. I haven’t gotten back on track yet. I have processed the changes though, and I’m really not upset about them anymore. I wish the situation were different, but it is what it is.

What’s next?
Good question. I have to get another job in my field without question. My mortgage and those hungry horses insist upon it! But I think this is also a call to pursue some things for myself that I’ve put on the back burner.

I’m signed up for a Reiki Level 1 class in January. I’m going to focus on the animal communication again. And probably most importantly, I’m pulling Doubting River out of the drawer. The Universe asked me to write that, but I got too comfortable in my life and put it aside. Now I’m on the edge of being not-so-comfortable. I’m going to get to work before I become decidedly UNcomfortable! There are a few other things I’d like to work on too. (Honestly, if I didn’t have to get a job again, I wouldn’t be bored. Promise!)

December 22 will bring not the end of the world but the beginning of a new cycle. I think it’s a good time for a new cycle for me as well, eh? Reinventing-Melissa, indeed.

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Starting a new project

Because, you know, I have nothing but time for new projects.

Several months ago I begged and pleaded for a certain major project at work. I knew then that it would have super short deadlines and huge deliverables, but I was equally certain I was up to the challenge. We did a lot of preliminary work, but the project itself was slow to kick off. I watched with a sick stomach the days slip by on the calendar. Each passing day meant I would have less and less time to get my part of the project complete.

Finally the project kicked off, and yesterday I began what will be the toughest 3+ months of my life. Like it or not, the project is here, and I have to get it done in the time I have. I have a (terrifying) schedule that breaks the development down into two-day increments, and so now I just have to eat the elephant one bite at a time. The good news is that the overtime on this project is lucrative, which is good for both our remodel and my horse fund.

Yes, horse fund. I’m going to get back into horses. I’m going to do it right this time, however. I’m taking riding lessons and still trying to lose weight. I’ve figured out what went wrong last time, and I have a plan for doing each of those things differently this time. I’m not rushing into it. Lessons, weight loss, and money saving all take TIME.

I’m going to use these months to really focus my efforts, though. Lots of overtime plus a moratorium on books and dinners out will fill the coffers. The imposed structure — i.e., spend all my waking hours hunched over my laptop — is actually the perfect opportunity to regiment my diet and exercise to hopefully break this irritating weight plateau. (Cutting out cheese will probably help there too. Seriously, cheese is a gateway drug.)

Right now I’m very positive about the project. I’m focusing on the time off I’m going to take at the end of the project and the (hopefully) major progress I’ll make toward getting back into horses. My dear husband is less thrilled. He has accepted, but isn’t happy about, the financial investment associated with my return to horses, and he’s wary of the amount of overtime I’ll be working. As he noted, I work from home. When I snap, he’ll be the one in the line of fire.

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Introducing: My Office!


I considered taking pictures of the progress along the way, but the in-progress pictures were chaotic and not very representative. So I made you wait until it was done! Dunno about for you, but it was definitely worth the wait for me. It’s exactly what I envisioned, and I absolutely love it!

I haven’t moved anything into it yet. I need to give the shelves another 24 hours to dry. So these pictures are just the bare room.

This picture is taken from the doorway, peeking in to the right. One brown accent wall, three green walls. The ceiling slants upward at a pretty sharp angle. It’s wood with a “pickling stain,” which gives it a slight whitewashed effect, not terribly visible in this photo. The floor is Pergo to match the rest of the floor on this level of the house. All of the trim is simple and bright white.

This photo is from the doorway peeking to the left. My window is new and has a high energy rating. We’re gradually replacing all the windows in the house. You see two of the green walls. It’s hard to tell, but they’re actually different shades of green. The wall with the window is a bit darker than the other two green walls. The closet door matches the door to the room.

I stepped in and opened the closet. Swoooon! We built in wide, sturdy shelves, so I can store tons of STUFF in there. I adore my closet.

This final picture is the kind of weird one. I’m standing at the closet, and I turned back and UP. Remember, there’s a steep pitch to the ceiling so this wall is really tall. I’m going to have a sleeper sofa on that wall, so above that I had my contractor put three shelves. The bottom one is high enough that I can walk under it. The top one will require an actual ladder (not step-stool) to reach. You can see we added a ceiling fan too. It gives a lot of light, and my contractor said it does a great job of cooling the room.

I’m planning to move in on Sunday. The only furniture I’ll move in right now is my desk and desk chair. I need to buy everything else. I’m going to get a cabinet with a bookcase hutch to go with my desk, a brightly-colored sleeper sofa (maybe red?), a rug, and artwork for the brown wall. It will take some time and money to get all that though.

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Communing with horses

Yesterday — a gorgeous, sunny spring day in western Washington — I trekked down to Olympia and spent several hours communing with dear friends and horses.

I started the day at Leslie’s place. Leslie trained my (former) horse Blue, and my mare Guin is retired there now. I can’t say enough good things about Leslie. She’s an AMAZING horse person — everything I aspired to be when I was young. I wish, wish, wish that we lived closer. If so, I would still be in horses. I really appreciate that she spent so much time hanging out with me yesterday!

One thing I wanted to do while I was down there was get some pictures of me and Guin. She had been off property for a while, but she was getting too fat, so Leslie brought her home where she can better control her diet. Guin was none too thrilled about the photo shoot. She didn’t like being taken away from her friends, and so unless she was getting treats, she didn’t have much interest in sticking around. I laughed, because she managed to stick her tongue out in just about every picture.

While I was at Leslie’s, I also spent time with Jennifer, a good friend who keeps her horses there. First we played in the arena with Nemo. I can’t remember Nemo’s breed, but he’s absolutely stunning. He’s also quite the character.

I have some fun video of him as well, but it shows him rearing, and even though it’s on cue, I know there are too many people who would think it was terribly dangerous and reckless, so I’m not going to post it.

This is Izzy. She’s Jenn’s Kiger mustang. She has a reputation for being pissy, but I love her anyway!

This is one of Leslie’s Kiger mustangs. I can’t remember his name, but he was a pocket pony. Leslie described him as a big dog. She decided to teach him to step up on the stump in his enclosure. Clicker trainers do random things like that. 🙂

Leslie, Jennifer, and I ate lunch at Red Lobster, because I was craving snow crab. I’m pleased to say that even though there were cheesy-garlic (crack) biscuits on the table, I not only didn’t eat them, I didn’t WANT them. Yay!

In the middle of the afternoon, Leslie and I went to Heidi’s house. Heidi is the almost-14-year-old girl who now owns my beautiful Blue boy.

Just a note: I didn’t take a SINGLE picture of Blue yesterday. (Sorry, LaShawn!) However, they are going to be showing in quarter horse shows this summer, and I’m going to try to get to a couple to cheer them on. I’m sure I’ll get some pictures then.

Heidi is participating in the Washington Youth Mustang Challenge. She was given a mustang yearling, and she has three months to gentle it and begin its early training. Then she and the yearling will compete against other teens who have done the same thing. The kids can either keep their yearlings or, if they don’t want to do that, the yearlings will be auctioned after the competition.

Her yearling is an ADORABLE filly named Harvey. (There’s a story behind the name, but I love it! I think it’s darn cute for a girl.) Yesterday was day 14 (I think) of their time together. She has accomplished SO MUCH in that time period. While we were there, Heidi demonstrated:

  • Leading at a walk and a trot
  • Backing — light as air!
  • Lunging in a circle on the lead rope
  • Free lunging
  • Touching her all over
  • Lifting and holding all four feet
  • Desensitization (like wearing a Hula Hoop!)
  • Bowing ON CUE
  • Beginnning steps of ground riding

This horse is plugged in and very, very responsive. So soft and light. Gorgeous soft eye. Loves people. Beautiful mover. And very brave.

And, in case I haven’t gotten the point across, Heidi is an amazing trainer.

I don’t want Harvey auctioned off at the end of August. I want Heidi to keep her. Heidi wants that too — at least from the perspective of wanting to do her early training. What Heidi wants is to keep her and start her, and then for me to take her when I’m riding again.

I love that idea, but I’m afraid the timing is wrong. Heidi would have to keep her a minimum of three years, I think, before I would be ready for her. That’s a LONG time for them to feed her, and with us in the middle of a remodel, we can’t afford to pay any part of her upkeep. Plus, ANYTHING could happen in the next 3 years. I could go back to riding, get hurt, and decide I’m too old for horses. Or I could lose my job and have my income cut way back.

Even if Heidi (and her parents) decided that they were willing to take that chance, at the end of three years I’d have one big problem: no truck and trailer. Without a truck and trailer, either my horses live on my property and go nowhere else, or I have to board them. Boarding is very expensive, and unless I suddenly lose Guin — God forbid — I think we would be hard pressed to afford to board another horse.

Is it a possibility? Sure. Would I want to do this? YOU BET. I loved Harvey, and Harvey liked me. She’s going to be the right size and temperament, and I would TOTALLY trust her background.

But it would be a risky, risky proposition for Heidi, because of the time frame and the lack of guarantees. I can say this: Heidi, if you want to keep Harvey and start her, I support you completely. I can aim toward eventual horse ownership (and I would LOVE to have Harvey), but I can’t guarantee it.

I miss horses. I miss them a lot. I was chatting with a lifelong friend the other day, and she was shocked that I hadn’t ridden in years and had retired my remaining horse two hours away. When I lamented these facts, she said, “Of course. That’s the Mel that’s supposed to be.”

And that I think is the crux. (My throat is tight as I write this.) There are three things that have defined me since childhood: writing, dogs, and horses. Without any one of those, I’m not complete, nor am I the person I am supposed to be.

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Remodel update, end of May

Time for a remodel update!

My husband complained last week that I hadn’t done an update recently. That’s because nothing exciting had happened. But now we’re making progress.

Current state:

  • The electrical box has been completely replaced, updated, and inspected. This one will handle 21st century power needs, including a whole-house generator. I’d post a picture, but really, how interesting is an electrical box?
  • The outlets and switches on the first floor are being replaced and updated as I write.
  • We’ve got bids from a propane company and a plumber.

Next steps:

  • Once the electrical is done, our contractor is going to start working on my office. (Yay!)
  • I have picked the paint for my office, but I haven’t bought furniture yet. Looks like my overtime isn’t going to come through, so I may not be getting furniture anytime soon. Sigh.
  • After the office is done, we’ll be ready to do the electrical, plumbing, and propane in the basement.

And that’s pretty much it. I’m seriously bummed that I won’t be getting the overtime I had hoped for. That will definitely slow down the progress of the remodel beyond the steps I’ve listed. Other than that, though, life is good. We’re still having fun with the remodel, and the rest of life is terrific. Dogs are happy, we’re happy, everyone is healthy, work is good. We’re blessed!

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