Hello from Strep Land

No wonder I feel bad! Lee took me to a very nice urgent care place in Temple where I told them I was pretty sure I had strep, but to check for other stuff, so they did. I don’t feel like I have the flu (that I can remember since I haven’t had it since flu shots were invented).

There’s always plenty of crafting to do while waiting one’s turn in the car. I ain’t going near sick people if I can help it. And of course I masked to keep my germs to myself.

Yep. I have strep, which I’m pretty sure I made myself vulnerable to when my mental health drained me. At least it’s something you can get fixed. So good ole Penicillin is fighting the bacteria. Whee. And today I’ve rested rather than running around in the rain and cold all day like yesterday.

Carlton and Goldie entertain me.

I want to be better so I can work with Drew a lot. Poor guy probably wonders what’s going on.

Huh? Who’s gonna feed us? Suna has no backup. (Answer: eat that hay)

Luckily, Lee has been feeding me, and I’ve been cozily watching football and getting Thanksgiving nails. I probably needed a break, anyway.

I bet I’ll be fine tomorrow and able to work and do my chores. There’s a lot of poop to shovel from when the horses escaped.

Thanks to all for your incredible support and kindness over the past few days. It’s helping me get back on track! I know some of you are also struggling and want you to know I’m thinking of you, too.

Clever Equines (and Saddle Stuff)

Hey all – thanks for all the support from yesterday’s post. I sure appreciate the empathy and ideas. You all rock.

Today it’s rainy and cold PLUS both Lee and I seem to have come down with something. I haven’t been sick since LONG before COVID, so this is a surprise. It feels like strep throat (isn’t COVID, says my test), but of course it came on after the local clinic closed for the weekend. We did go out for a very nice dinner Thursday night in the “big city” of College Station, so maybe we ran into a germ there.

The original plan for today was to have horse lessons for both my guys then take Drew back home so it could be another horse’s turn to go into training. Instead, things took a different turn. I went out to feed the chickens a bit late, due to the sore throat, only to see a whole lot of horse poop everywhere that isn’t fenced in for the dogs. Then I heard a greeting nicker. Mabel was saying hi from the little pond.

Well, hi, Suna. It’s a bit chilly out here.

That explained the horse poop. I went to check the gates and was a little startled to see someone blending into the front-end loader.

I’m using this tractor as camouflage.

Yes, the side gate had been opened by some clever equine. I was relieved to see the equine I usually blame for these things (Apache) and Fiona standing under the shed to keep out of the wind. Whew. I only had to wrangle two horses in my sickly state. Even better, Dusty and Mabel had decided it was too cold for them and were already coming back.

That grass was good, but we want shelter.

That was the easiest horse herding I ever had to do. They just walked back in. From the looks of the poop piles, they’d been out all night and were done. Of course, they pooped right by the tack room, in front of the hen house, etc.

Lee and I then hurried over to Tarrin’s to get Drew, but it had started to rain there by the time we arrived. There was no chit-chat or ceremony as we let him in and headed back. They got more rain than us, at least so far. But my boy is home and got the expected greeting of sniffs from everyone but Apache, who had to remind him he’s in charge. Apache needs a new boss.

About the new saddle

I got more questions than I expected about the new saddle I got for Drew. The reason I got a new one when I already had a fairly new one is that we are concerned about keeping Drew’s back healthy. Because he was ridden by large people when he was very young, he has already developed some arthritic areas. He also has a narrow torso and short back (basically, he’s a small horse). So, a standard saddle probably isn’t best for him.

Tarrin recommended a type of saddle made by DP Saddlery in Alabama that is good for both short-backed horses and those with back issues. The cool thing about their Quantum line is that it is a blend of the two most common ways of building saddles. It’s like the best of both worlds. It also comes in lots of different sizes to fit different horses and riders, so I could get one with shorter stirrups and the correct seat for my size.

My black saddle with short fenders covered in flowers.

So, there are lots of kinds of saddles, but in the US, most are either Western or English style (there are Australian ones, side saddles, and such, but these are the main two). A Western saddle is, generally speaking, built on a rigid and sturdy wooden frame called a tree, which is then covered with padding and leather. They usually have a saddle horn to stick your rope on, longer stirrups, and more covering of the horse. There are many variations, depending on what you do with your horse (roping, barrel racing, general ranch work, etc.) but they look similar. They are tough!

Parts of a Western saddle, from Horse is Love. See the link for more info. My saddle lacks the back housing and the rigging dees.

And English saddle is smaller than a Western one and built on a flexible tree with a lot of padding (flocking). It doesn’t have the saddle horn or the long stirrups. It’s used for jumping, dressage, and many other activities.

The parts of an English saddle, from Horse is Love (follow the link for more info)

My saddle (as well as the first one I had) is a hybrid between the two types. It’s their Quantum model (the link explains all the features, so I’m not gonna do it here). The top has all the expected appearance of a Western saddle, including decorative tooling on the leather, a horn, and a padded seat (mine is called a Western dressage seat). The underparts are English, though, and it’s fastened on with an English cinch instead of a Western one (uses buckles). I could have gotten a similar model with Western rigging (as they call it) but that one was sold and the one I bought was the closest to my ideal that I could get without special ordering, which would take months.

A Western saddle would have leather under the seat, not the pads you see here.

This hybrid saddle doesn’t touch the spine of the horse at all, and has padding where it does touch. Plus, it comes with a giant allen wrench that lets you make the saddle wider or more narrow.

The magic tool came with no instructions. Geez.

Tarrin adjusted it a few times yesterday to find what works best. As it gets broken in, it can be adjusted more, too. That is a very cool feature.

That silver circular hole on the right is where the adjustments are made.

Combined with the new dark gray saddle pad I got, Drew should feel as comfortable as possible, given that he’ll still have a big ole person up there.

Here’s the saddle, the new pad, and my old cinch that happens to work, but is slightly large.

I better like this saddle. It’s an investment, but if it saves future doctor bills, it may pay for itself!

Since I feel so sick, I think I’m going to go read all about saddles at the links below. You can, too, if it’s remotely interesting to you.


DP Saddlery – this page tells you how the saddle I got adjusts.

THE 8 PARTS OF A WESTERN SADDLE YOU SHOULD KNOW, Horseislove blog. This is really informative! It shows you how the trees work and how saddles are constructed.

THE 15 PARTS OF ENGLISH SADDLE YOU SHOULD KNOW, Horseislove blog. Also tells you all you need to know!

Dealing with People Like Me

Advice for me, too

For the first time in a few years, I didn’t blog for a while. I’m not back because people were clamoring for me to write (in fact, no one said anything at all about it, which is perfectly fine). I’m back because I figured out some stuff about my mental challenges that I thought might be helpful for others. What prompted it was a lot of introspection I did after seeing some of these motivational posts in social media.

Oh yeah, Nikki? Really?

My mental issues tell me that no one wants to see the unmuted version of me. It’s been backed up all my life by folks telling me I’m too sensitive, too judgmental, too negative, too…blah blah blah. And thanks to having this extra-unpleasant “rejection sensitivity dysphoria” (RSD) deal, when I hear something that sounds to my extra-sensitive ears like a criticism or put-down, my limbic system kicks in and goes into defensive mode. That guarantees I’m going to overreact and piss someone off. Nope, no one really does want to see the unmuted version of me! Consequently, I do try to make myself smaller, to avoid subjecting other people to my unregulated self.


And this week, after being told how negative I was, I fell into a deep well of self-criticism. And when I asked for help and support, I felt criticized for not asking for it appropriately, and was informed that when people tried to help me, it made it worse. You can see how a downward spiral might ensue, even when I knew in my head that I was being criticized for basically being who I am, which I can’t change as much as I’d like to. Being told not to react to things that trigger me the way I do is like telling a tree not to have bark. Well, yuck to all that, right? (Note that I know the person I was talking to was not intending to be mean. This is just an example.)

So, I was wondering how I could have the reactions in my head that my mental challenge makes me have but mitigate it somehow. One thing I thought of was for people who are forced to talk to me when I have an RSD episode to not add criticism about my reaction on top of my reaction. For example, if I react to something by hearing in my mind that I’ve been told I’m the most negative person in the world, an unhelpful response would be, “No, I just said you were ONE OF the most negative people I know.” Yep, my mind heard an exaggerated view all right, but pointing out that I heard it wrong just makes me feel worse.

I wonder what would happen if the response was empathy rather than added criticism? What if my reaction was acknowledged, but not critiqued? I was thinking something like, “I know what I just said was hard for you to hear. Just remember I care about you, warts and all. Let’s look at what I was trying to tell you, not how it came across.” I feel like that would give me a chance to get past that initial reaction and be more realistic. Who knows?


I have to acknowledge, though, that just like I have no control over reactions that aren’t conscious, other people can’t, either. That’s how people end up where they each build on each other’s issues until there’s some bad result. Talking to each other and trying to understand each other’s struggles is a good way to start, though.

I’ll keep working at it, but no, I don’t think I’ll be subjecting my unmuted self to many of the people in my life. It’s just too much for them, and I honestly don’t blame them one bit. Some people are hard to deal with, and I am one of those. That’s something I have to deal with!

(By the way, in my mind, I’m a cheerful person who laughs and jokes around a lot and has a lot of fun – I wish I could expose THAT version of me!)

It’s not necessary to try to make people you are fond of like you back!

In my heart, I know that the work I’ve done here at the ranch has been good for me. I’ve felt much better about myself as I’ve been finding the beauty in my surroundings, treasuring kindnesses I experience, and working to be as kind and caring as someone like me can be. And of course, hanging around with animals who help me so much has made life much better.

The main reason I write this blog is to have a record of the good things that come through my life, like the nature, the travel, the uplifting people, and the things I learn. It may just be me talking to myself and trying to convince myself that there’s good in this messy world, but it helps. So, I’ll still be here blogging about horses, dogs, birds, and flowers.

Here I am, looking happy because I’m able to ride Drew and he likes his new saddle and pad.

You get to react to what I write however you choose to. I’m fine with that. I’m prickly, so I’m going to rub folks the wrong way, make poor word choices, and look at things from my RSD perspective sometimes. Oh well, it’s me. Who among us isn’t prickly in some way?

Always Something, Right?

It hasn’t been a good day for me, mentally. I’ve been meaning all day to look up why anxiety attacks cause intense chest pain.

I need to chill like a mini donkey on a brisk, sunny morning.

Okay, I finally did. That answers one of my burning questions, ha ha.

Anxiety attacks or panic attacks can cause chest pain that mimics a heart attack. It is caused by the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline during moments of acute anxiety or panic. The pain may come from contractions in the chest wall, muscle strain due to hyperventilation, or the sudden spike in blood pressure and heart rate.

Richard M Fogoros, MD

It definitely feels like hormones. So, if you’ve ever had those weird symptoms, now you know.

Must chill, like Mabel.

Of course it will pass. It’s just how I’m wired, unfortunately. And I was doing my best to focus on the good stuff.

Clouds. They are good.

Poor Apache seemed to be having an anxiety attack this morning before our lesson. I was pleased that he eventually settled down and I stayed patient with him. That’s hard when you’re keyed up for non-horse related reasons!

I’m edgy.

Drew and I didn’t do all that well in our long-awaited lesson, but it’s not surprising, since we’re both learning each other. I didn’t help by being shaky, but you deal with the horse and person you get every time you ride.

Today you got a horse who wanted to stay home and chill.

Like I read in a sweeping novel of the fictionalized Old South, “Tomorrow is another day.”

No matter what, sandhill cranes make me feel better.

Good day for a cozy blanket

Well well. I had good timing in finishing the main part of the rather large blanket I’ve been making for myself to sit under at the tack room. All that’s left is the border, which will be simple black clusters.

That’s the border up there by the crochet hook.

I’ll share the finished look when I’m done with it all, but it sure is long. I had to use all the colors three times.

It could make you dizzy.

While I was riding in the car to go get some groceries with Anita, I looked for other ideas for little projects. I wanted something with texture. So I made a flower square.

Five petals in a square!

These are small, so I grouped them into four and made a larger square. I’m not sure if I like it or not. I may do a row of the flower color on the outside. Or I’ll try something else. Who knows. Maybe I’ll combine it with knitting.

Flower power

First I’ll finish the corner-to-corner blanket.

By the way we got over 1.6 inches of rain! the ponds aren’t full, but they look good.

Shiny and pond-like

Declan helped me set up the greenhouse I got from the Red House when we bought it. All my vulnerable plants are in there, because we’re getting a hard freeze (about the right time of year). I’d love to get bougainvillea to over-winter!

Hmm. This is interesting!

Looking forward to finally getting my horse lesson tomorrow, even if it’s cold! The horses are nice and fluffy.

It Rained without Flooding

A cold front blasted through this morning. Declan mowed the yard, and we were comfortably discussing how he should wait to trim until later, when a huge gust of wind came and instantly lowered the temperature. Declan said, “Hello, winter.” It’s a powerful front that has lowered the temperature at least 20 degrees and brought a lot of rain.

The downspouts got their first workout. Gurgle.

Usually if it rains hard here, we get a flood. But while we got a lot, it didn’t instantly refill the ponds. I was happy to go out to the new pond a couple of times to see it wasn’t full all the way, and now was slowly filling.

The arroyo and front pasture are nicely draining into the pond, and I hope not washing too much dirt away. Some grass had started to grow. I’m encouraged, though.

The dogs weren’t thrilled by the thunder and stayed close to me all day. Well, except when the cows and calves decided to stand right by our fence and moo. And the calves enjoyed the rain and we’re playing, which especially outraged Harvey. It was hard to work (in between internet outages).

It may be cold and wet, but we’re cozy. Sending cozy thoughts your way.

Yep. The pool is full!

Do unto Others

I’ve seen a lot of younger, more “woke” (in the good sense, not the pejorative sense) folks reminding us older folks to not treat others as you’d like to be treated, but to treat them how THEY would prefer.

This is how Goldie wants to be treated, I hope.

That made me wonder how I’m supposed to know that? How do you know how someone wants you to treat them? If you know them, you can base it on experience. Otherwise…Do you guess?

Pondering deep questions like this makes me glad for the quiet back yard at the Red House.

Perhaps you might have to ask someone how they want to be treated. That might lead to a conversation. Insight may occur. Or not. But doing unto others like they prefer may end up being a bidirectional thing this way, if approached with kindness and respect.

Let’s sleep on it, says Penney.


Keeping Hope Going

Let me say that I’m disappointed in myself that an election some years ago got me so messed up that I can’t stand election coverage now. My spouse loves it. So I sat with him for hours last night, watching his favorite news channel. I honestly think that could traumatize anyone, no matter what your ideas about our polarized country are. It’s just nerve-wracking.

Settle down, Suna

I awoke this morning feeling completely drained. I sure would have preferred to wake up, read a neutral summary of the results, have a sad moment, and move on. Instead, though, the first thing I read was this:

Hope cannot be defeated finally because it belongs not to the whims of fate but to the common life pulsing through our veins. Hope cannot be defeated finally by any present evil because hope is our heart’s commitment to the lives yet to be. Hope is not is the naive assurance we will reach our stated goal, only that we will find our noble path.

Jim Rigby

That put me into a better frame of mind. I began to see signs of hope and inspiration all around me. Our ranch reminded me that even though we just went through a bad drought, things are trying to come back. The plants just keep trying. Look at this new green grass! There was nothing there a few weeks ago, just dirt.


I need to shed what is confining me and move on, like my snake friends. I can’t change things, just get a new hopeful attitude.

Bye bye old skin

One true inspiration for me is the asters I’ve been enjoying all autumn. They are blooming away and providing food for so many butterflies, moths, and tiny wasps. That’s even though they’ve been repeatedly mowed. They just started over and over and bloomed even harder.

Way to go, asters.

And I spent a long time today watching the great egret patiently and persistently stalking the little fishies in the pond behind the house. Reaching your goals takes time and patience. And you may miss. A lot. It’s okay.

I’ll get that fish…eventually.

Jim’s right. Hope is necessary and part of the path that our highest and best selves strive to stay on. I’m still committed to my personal goals and morals. Nothing can stop that. I hope the same for all of you.

Just think how long these little guys waited until it was damp enough to send out their spores.

The Free Tranquilizer: Nature

I’m always telling you all how much being out in nature helps me deal with my chronic anxiety and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). Today I’m really taking advantage of it and pulling out all the stops with nature, cuteness, and sunshine helping me deal with how people treat me and (the worst) the fact that it’s the second Tuesday in November in the USA. Election Day. I sure hope that voting tradition continues!

I’ve been voting since this time of year in 1976, when someone I truly admire to this day got elected, Jimmy Carter. I believe there’s only been one other time I actually admired a Presidential candidate. The rest I had deep reservations about or was just okay with. This year, we just deal with governors. I did vote for a few governors I liked, especially when I lived in Illinois. But I just hope that I continue to have the right to my personal freedoms and can feel safe in the future. And this is why I need warm fuzzies and cute animals to cheer me up.

Just pet our muddy selves and you will feel better, Suna.

You’re supposed to say what you’re thankful for nowadays. It spans all of November, not just the US Thanksgiving holiday like it used to. I guess it’s to help us remember what is still there for us. I’m thankful for the friendly animals in my life, like Christmas the bull over at Tarrin’s house.

My merry band of horses, who are enjoying the front pasture, the new pond’s hill, and the mud.

A lot of the time, though, I just need to breathe and look at the sky. While I missed the lunar eclipse last night (Lee was sure it was tonight), I did enjoy the sight of a beautiful sun dog in the afternoon sky. I love those cloud rainbows!

I also loved the rain we received over the past few days. It was supposed to rain again today, but maybe it won’t. At least new grass is growing and it’s no longer crunchy outside.

I’m breathing more steadily now and resolve to continue to treat people the way I’d like to be treated and assume people are doing the best they can. This reminder I saw on Facebook really rings true and has helped me for the past week or so.

Peace to all. Let’s try not to live in fear, especially of our neighbors.

The Red House – Almost There!

I spent most of the weekend working with my family on getting our vacation rental ready for a trial run this weekend. We still have some things to get done, but I tell you what, if you want a pillow, I can give you one (unfortunately, there were NO king-size pillows where we shopped, so I’ve ordered some for the back bedroom). I’m really happy with how this project has come along, after many delays waiting to close on the property so we could really work. So many people have helped out, too. It takes a village, or at least a small town.

Living room is ready to hang out in.

The place will be called The Red House on Fannin, for a good reason. It’s a red house on Fannin Avenue. Visit the link above to like its brand-new Facebook page. Then you can see if we ever actually have anyone rent the place! There will be a website soon; I am working on it!

Logo and catchy catch-phrase

The only real issue is that we have not yet uncovered the dishes and flatware we plan to use in the house among all the boxes labeled “kitchen” from my Austin house. By “we” I mean my dear spouse, who is looking for them every day. I can’t even lift the over-packed boxes, so I’m no help whatsoever. He is one step closer to Heaven, as my friend Janet van Sickler used to say. If we don’t find them by Saturday, guests may need to use substitutes. It’s a “soft opening,” anyway, and we hope the first couple of renters will help us out by telling us what else we forgot or could do more differently. As many of these things as I’ve stayed at, I’m sure there’s more we forgot! Oh, like the refrigerator that has to be moved from one building to another. That’s a hard one. But it will happen (and may have even happened today, for all I know).

Ignore the caulk gun.

I did manage to put up No Smoking signs and we have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. That makes me feel good. The HVAC system, washer and dryer, dishwasher and microwave all work, too. Yay. The leaky bathroom sink leaks no more, as well. All systems almost Go!

We don’t want you to run out of hand sanitizer!

Lee kindly put up all the curtains, which was made harder by the fact that Lowe’s sells ONE curtain per package. I guess that new trend had bypassed me, since I thought there should be two. My big job was to put on all the sheets. If there is a hell, it will include putting sheets on bunk beds. I also built the clothes rod for the front bedroom, which has the bunk bed and trundle, because it lacks a closet. What were they thinking in the 1930s? Oh, and by the way, the living room sofa is also a bed, so this place can sleep more folks than you’d think!

Killer bed. The colors came out weird. The room is navy and gray.

Anyhow, we’re pleased with how it has come out and look forward to using it for movie nights, ourselves (those fancy houses in town can get cable and good Wi-Fi). And no doubt it will be used by grandchildren and other family of our own (no, no grandchildren for me as far as I know). It’s really comfortable and cozy, and should be pleasant to stay in.

This bedroom came out great, thanks to donated furnishings.

Proud of our teamwork on this one!


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