Giving Thanks Because I Suck

This year I’m most thankful for my Colossal Failure.

Yes, of course I’m grateful for healthy kids, friends, yadda yadda yadda. But just today I learned that the project I’ve been working on for the past 11 months and dreaming about since the third grade is just another unanswered email.

Of course I had that initial disappointment, that sense of loss for the Colossal Failure, that big break that would’ve catapulted my professional and personal dreams forward at warp speed. But that was not the gift I received this Thanksgiving week.

This year’s greatest gift is rejection. Not even rejection, really, but a complete lack of acknowledgement that my dream even matters or that my talent exists.

No, I’m not being sarcastic for once. The upside of all this is my challenge to find the upside in all of this. It’s easy to get to a place of gratitude and joy when things are going the way I want them to. But when I can suck it up over the fact that I suck, when I can flex my gratitude muscle after an emotional sucker-punch, then I know I’m really, finally starting to get it.

Every day I preach to my kids that happiness is a choice, that we’re the luckiest people we know, that if they don’t like the way they feel, they can change their minds so they feel good again. All day I’ve been running those tapes through my head and holding myself back from my self-help book shelf and leftover Halloween candy.

I haven’t even told anyone about the Colossal Failure. The simple fact that I’m not indulging my ego in a pity-party is huge. I have a phone full of fabulous girlfriends (yes, thankful for them, too) who’d do their best to raise my spirits with encouraging words and love. I appreciate the fact that I can fall back on that. 

But instead I’m turning inward. I’m looking to myself to make it all better, because when it comes down to it, I’m the only one who can. 

So I’m profoundly grateful for this shattered dream. It’s a chance to really think about who I want to be when I grow up, what matters most to me and model all that for my kids.

What a gift. Thank you.

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All Eyes on the iPad

I am way too plugged in. I know that. We have Apple TV,  iPods, an iPad and multiple Macs. I sleep with my iPhone next to my bed, kinda like I did with my diary when I was a kid. I’ve been known to take and make calls while undergoing unpleasant ER procedures.

That was way back when I was crazy.  Now I just use it to Google the doctor’s name to make sure nothing creepy comes up on a cursory search.

So it’s not like I can cast cyber stones at my kids for being iPeople. But this morning we plugged an additional set of eyes into the matrix.Image

Yes, even the cat is now hooked. He saw the kids slack-jawed and clustered around the small screen like they were being programmed a la “A Clockwork Orange,” and he joined in. He even started batting at the screen and paused the cartoon. Then he smacked it and got it going again.

I’ve been clicker training Loco for such impressive feats as “up,” “down” and “sit.” Now my ambitions are reaching Apple-sized proportions. I think the next command he learns will be “Download-me-a-new-workout-playlist-lots-of-P!nk-and-Katy-Perry-maybe-a-little-Taylor-Swift-but-make-sure-it’s-upbeat-none-of-that-sappy-crap.”

Wish me luck. I see an iPad commercial in our future.

Happy Trails

Hi, my name is Kerry. I’m a horseaholic.

My earliest memories are of wanting to ride horses. It’s a passion that’s hardwired into my mainframe. It’s one I try to not push on my kids, but they do happen to take riding lessons and seem to enjoy it immensely.

Thank God. I’d hate to have to go all “Toddlers & Tiaras” on my little Honey Boo Boos.

To make myself even stranger, my very favorite flavor of equine is the Peruvian, a rare breed with a super-smooth gait. They’re not known for their cattle work, their jumping ability or their rodeo tricks. They’re known for going tirelessly over all kinds of terrain with nary a bounce.

There are only about 20,000 in the United States, compared to about 2.5 million quarter horses. So kid-sized Peruvian gear is hard to come by. For the past year, I’ve been searching for a saddle that would fit Things 1 and 2 with no luck. I finally found a friend who was willing to part with hers, and it arrived today.

The kids are thrilled with their new saddle. They started dancing when they opened the box.

On top of it being in perfect condition, this saddle has history. It was brought to the U.S. to fit the narrow rear of a dear friend’s daughter, who’s now well out of college. It then went to another fabulous friend whose granddaughters learned to ride in it.

Now it’s made another lap in the circle of friends to land in McGinleyville and help my kids steal my favorite horse from me. I can’t wait to slip it on Wonder Pony’s back and hoist up this next generation of riders.

Stick and String

I just finished a 10-day colt starting clinic with Clinton Anderson. For you nonhorse people, Anderson is a famous horse trainer. He’s got a cult following that has always creeped me out, so I really didn’t pay much attention to him until I decided I wanted to start my mom’s 2-year-old filly myself. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Anderson treats his students like he treats his horses. He has high expectations. He sets them up for success but jumps in to whack them when they fail. As he repeats so often on TV and in the arena, he makes the wrong thing uncomfortable and the right thing comfortable.

I was pretty uncomfortable the first two days.

Mom treats her animals like she treats her kids and grandkids. So I showed up with an equine version of myself at 16: spoiled-rotten, stubborn, smart, quick, self-sabotaging, ambitious and entitled. She’s even a redhead, too.

The filly formerly known as Rosita — smallest horse there — earned a new name during her first saddling. As soon as she moved forward, she hunkered down and skittered like gutter vermin around the trainer working her. Then she broke in half and shot skyward in a bucking fit to match the bigger, bolder horses in the group.

“Look at that Swamp Rat go!” Anderson called out over the PA system as he watched from the next pen. He made some cracks about how awesome it would be if the runt mowed down and killed the trainer in the pen with her.

Her attitude needed serious improvement.

I’ve read enough self-help books that I was trying to negotiate with the mare. Didn’t work. Every trainer  yelled at me to get after her with my “handy stick with string” — a euphemism for “big-ass whip.” I was frustrated, overwhelmed and wondering what the hell I was thinking when I signed up for this, even though I was loving every minute of it.

The turning point was my first ride on her in the big arena. Anderson screamed at me repeatedly and rudely over the loudspeaker to whack Swamp Rat out of her repeated bucking fits.

Basically, he took his stick to me.

It worked. I got past my fear of being a bully. I found the clarity and confidence to expect, demand, and get more out of my horse and myself.

By the end of the 10 days, I had a filly I could ride over a teeter-totter, gallop across a field in a group, cross water and charge up steep embankments. At the end of the last ride, Anderson told us to strip our saddles, kick off our boots and swim with our horses in a pond deep enough they couldn’t touch the bottom.

It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

Swmp Rat and I went off the deep end. We were wet up to her ears and my hat.

And now I find myself facing my kids with more clarity and confidence, especially as I re-establish myself as boss mare. I love my mother dearly, but time with Gran tends to turn the best of us into swamp rats.

Now where did I put that handy stick?