Book Report: Oh, William!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Another Elizabeth Strout book is now under my belt. I started it a while ago, then a few other things pushed their way into the queue. I was also savoring it. I do love to read the words of the fictional Lucy Barton, and that’s what all of Oh, William! is.

I love the white tulips on the cover (which are a part of the book)

Elizabeth Strout could make Lucy Barton walk across the room to go to the toilet and I’d find it poetic and striking. That’s just how Lucy’s thought processes come across to me. Even though Lucy doesn’t stray from her theme that you can really never know what’s going on in anyone else’s mind, it’s great to see her come to that conclusion over and over again, especially when it comes to her first husband, William.

Lucy has always felt like an outsider from the rest of the world, thanks to have been brought up in an isolated setting with no media or other outside influences besides school. William was, in her view, a safe haven. The plot, such as it is, revolves around Lucy slowly realizing he actually never was that.

The contrast between William and Lucy’s second husband, David, could not be stronger. David was warm, loving, and comfortable, while William was one big, scary (but fascinating) mystery to Lucy. I had so smile as I realized that Lucy just could never shake William out of her system.

William had a glamorous mother who it turned out, was not from glamorous roots at all…much like Lucy. The other subplot had to do with this woman, Catherine, who abandoned her first child…much like Lucy felt she had abandoned her daughters (but really hadn’t).

Enough about the plot. You read these books more for the way the plot presents itself and the language Strout uses to express the ideas in Lucy’s head. It’s just so, so wonderful.

Now. After I finished the book, I began wondering why I feel a kinship with Lucy and how she relates to the men in her life. It then dawned on me. I’ve had my own William and David. I literally worshipped my high school boyfriend, but in the end I had to get away to be myself. And he was much like William. And his mother was exactly like Catherine (from poverty in Mississippi to a glamorous adulthood).

But it was how Lucy felt about men that struck me. She viewed love like I did much of my life, and I never realized anyone else was like that. I always thought I was very odd. But, certain circumstances where love is sort of withheld from you can lead you to not trust yourself to really love people, so you sabotage relationships. Huh. I’ve done that. Repeatedly.

Stopped now.

Gosh, I’m glad Lucy is seeing things clearly, now that she’s my age. I hope I am, too. And if this review doesn’t make sense, well, it’s because I don’t make sense, either. Do any of us? I’ll ask Lucy in the next book.

A Horse Love Story with a Twist: The Whole Thing

[Somehow, most of this post got deleted when I went to publish it before. THIS is the real story!]

I’m excited to have permission to share this story! Yesterday I got to head out to a horse breeding and training facility in our area to visit Sara’s new love interest, a large Andalusian gelding named Aragorn. She met him last week and instantly bonded with him.

True love. (He has sweat marks from being ridden)

It’s a beautiful property, and we were surprised to see a beautiful colt on the road, prancing and dancing like a fairy animal. We said we bet he wasn’t supposed to be there. Sure enough, Glenn, the ranch owner, came running up to get the little guy. He was back in and coming into the barn to eat dinner by the time we got in.

That’s the culprit at right.

All the mares and foals just walk in and line up in stalls to be fed. All so well trained, and the foals were very friendly.

Dinner time!

Aragorn’s current owner bred him, so knows his history. Glenn told us lots about him and was very honest about why he is relatively affordable for a very well-bred European breed. He coughs when anxious, for example.

Getting ready to ride. These horses start our some other color, then turn gray. He looks like he was originally chestnut, like one of the colts above.

Once he got all saddled and we learned a lot about appropriate bits, Trixie showed up, and we watched Sara get a lesson in riding in the style Aragorn is used to. Sara is such a quick learner that I could tell Glenn was having fun telling her stuff and watching her figure out exactly what to do.

Teaching and learning

And, obviously, Sara had a blast as well. I got a lot of photos of the lesson that I’m going to send to her just to study her positioning and stuff, but my favorite pictures have to be the ones of Glenn gesturing, Sara working, and the two dogs who are exactly the color of the dirt, just sat and watched.

This may be my favorite

Just in case you are interested in what Aragorn can do, here are a few more pictures to click or ignore. To be honest, I just like looking at the beautiful setting of this ranch and its facilities. They are nice but not insanely fancy or anything. It’s “just right.”

Trixie has known Glenn a long time, but even she said she was learning some things watching him show Sara things, explaining the origin of the moves in Western dressage, and sharing history of equestrian sports. It was fascinating. And he is such a nice and generous man!

You can see the other geldings behind Sara. They were annoyed that their dinner was delayed.

The Amazing Part of the Story

After the “test drive” in Sara’s tack, we were just talking to Glenn. She asked if he did private lessons, and he said he hadn’t before, since he just retired from being an ER physician. Sara sat on Aragorn for a minute, thinking. Then she asked him, “Were you an ER physician in College Station 21 years ago?” He replied that he was.

When we were chatting (sorry for bad lighting)

She then asked if he remembered a blue roan paint colt named X that he trained. He didn’t quite remember, but said he could look it up. Sara said that was her colt she’d raised to work with before she married her children’s father. She mentioned her married name, and Glenn said that did sound familiar. So, we are pretty sure they met all that time ago when Sara had her precious colt that she had to later sell. Wow!

Back to Work

After we got over our surprise, Trixie got to work and adjusted the heck out of Aragorn. Just like with my horses, he ended up extremely relaxed. It’s always extra educational watching her work with a horse and diagnose where it has structural weaknesses and what could help it. Sara took a lot of notes.

Working on his neck

Meanwhile, I bonded with the dog and looked at all the other beautiful horses. I had no complaints whatsoever, and took lots of pictures of how they arranged their tack house, their tying mechanism and such, for reference when we get to setting up our new one.

Woof the guard dog has been busy guarding. He is very friendly to humans, though.

I knew Sara would like some “glamour shots,” so we went out and took some, even though Aragorn still had the sweat marks from her saddle pad. He is obviously fond of her already. They really had an instant bond, like he’d been waiting his whole life for her to show up.

At the end of the day, we all got to go take a look at the young stallion who was in the paddock next to Aragorn. He is most beautiful, like someone’s dream horse. They are hoping he will have a baby soon from a mare that was brought in to be bred.

I’m doing my trick. Where’s my food?

He’s been trained that he has to stand on that stump to get dinner, because he used to be pushy about his food. He was not thrilled that his food didn’t immediately show up, but he was gentle as a kitten, and apparently is a great riding horse. I’d love to see him in saddle!

The horsie gals.

We were pretty exhausted and sweaty by the time we were ready to go home, but had to take a selfie of us horse lovers in our unplanned coordinated shirts! We are a bit disheveled, but happy. I hope you enjoyed our love story with a nod to the past. I know you look forward to Aragorn coming home to Sara’s property and watching them progress in their skills.

A Lifetime Milestone, and Why It Matters

Yesterday, I achieved a milestone that was a long time coming. In fact, it was one of my “life goals” since I was a small child, and something I never thought I’d be able to do. On the surface, going over to the barn, saddling up my horse, and going for a nice ride doesn’t sound like a big deal. But it was. A huge deal. The amount of personal growth, courage, emotional maturity, and understanding of another living being required to get to this milestone was huge, and I’m just going to say it – I’m really proud of myself.

I’ve been riding Apache for a good number of years now, at least five. One of my life’s dreams came true when Sara generously gave me Apache (and his expenses, ha ha) when she realized that his health challenges meant he’d never be the hard-driving athlete she needed to fulfil her own dreams. It was obvious that I loved that generously rounded horse, regardless of his rideability, and I’d be just fine hanging out with him and doing things on the ground, if it came to that. It also helped that he seemed fond of me, too.

We took some Parelli lessons (a natural horsemanship style) back when I had money to do that kind of thing, and we got a pretty good foundation from it, though being in crowds with people barking orders at us made both of us nervous. That is an important insight.

I’m the happiest horse on the ranch. My human and I make a great team.

Since then, we have worked at our own pace, getting better at various horse/human activities, and understanding each other more and more. I am sort of glad I didn’t have the money for more lessons, because it was good to work things out on my own, with Sara providing guidance. The progress was slowed down by the fact that Apache has metabolic issues, so sometimes his feet hurt and I can’t ride him…like much of last year, right when we’d been making really good progress going out in the ranch with Sara and Spice, exploring. I learned that Apache is as curious as I am about seeing new things, as long as he can take his time.

Continue reading “A Lifetime Milestone, and Why It Matters”

Thirty Years Ago Today

On January 15, 1991, the Gulf War was all that was on the news. I was, however, preoccupied with other things, since the previous day, I’d taken a very bumpy and snowy drive to the local hospital in Urbana, Illinois, where I’d spent the least-pleasant day and night in my life. No one wants the gory details, but in the end, the day dawned with a new human being in the world, my son, Kynan. The name means high and mighty in Welsh, or something like that.

Cute little tongue!

I have to say that this baby brought so much joy to his parents, grandparents, and friends that it was totally worth the interventions and ickiness of his birth. We had so much fun with this bright, funny, and entertaining little soul.

He started talking at nine months. We went into the back yard to look at the stars, and he pointed up and declared, “Moon!” He’s never done things the standard way. My dad said K. was revenge for how I was as a baby and toddler. I apparently talked constantly, too. Lucky for me, I was in my element gabbing away and reading to my little buddy.

Woodland exp0lorer (sorry, bad photo; it’s high on a shelf)

He was also an annoyingly early walker, but again, that was fine. He got his dad’s athletic build and skill, that’s for sure.

Raising this young man was one of the great joys of my life. I always enjoyed his friends and was impressed with his loyalty to them. If a friend crossed some line, though, they were out. His sense of right and wrong has always been very strong. His intellect is bright and very sharp; he’s fun to debate with (he was good at it in school!). He’s a gifted musician, and I always loved listening to him play his mandolin.

Stick a beard on it, and that’s him as an adult.

The other greatest joy I had was proofreading his college papers. It was awesome to see how his writing became better and better during college. By the time he as finished, he wrote as well as me and didn’t need my help (and I couldn’t really understand the philosophy stuff, as he’d passed me long ago).

I’m very proud of his work as a high-school teacher, and have worried about him a lot during the COVID-19 period. That has had to be so challenging for someone who cares so much for his students.

Here, he looks like an angel. Even though it hurts, I look at this every day.

Anyway, it’s a sad day for me on January 15, 2021. Like many people I know, I have a child who will not communicate with me. The last time I heard from him normally was two years ago today. It’s been a hard time for both of us, I think, as there have been many challenges in both our lives. I hope though, that he is happy with his family and household, and thinks of me in positive ways, at least occasionally. I know when he’s ready, he’ll get in touch again and I’ll find out what caused him to ghost me two years ago.

If you have a close relationship with your children, tell them you love them often! And if you’re estranged, hold hope and love in your heart. That’s about all I can do. I’m not looking for advice, just sharing how things are right now. My sadness today is perfectly normal, and I’ll be fine and keep coping.

My children aren’t big on gift giving. This is my treasure, which he had made for some band fundraiser in high school.

Change is always possible, and is inevitable. I’ll be here for my son whenever he wants me to be.

Imagining What to Say about the News: My Dream

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I woke up this morning to happy news about the United States and its government (from my perspective). I am relieved to see that the way our system has been set up is holding up, at least so far. I fervently hope we can avoid violence and move toward a society I can be proud to live in.

WELL I’M NAIVE AND FOOLISH! I’M ASHAMED OF FELLOW US CITIZENS.

Readers of my blog have probably figured out that I fall on the liberal side of the political scale. While it’s true that I’m a pacifist, non-evangelical, pro-choice, democratic socialist, I’m not scary, out to eat you, or hell-bent on destroying anyone’s way of life. And I don’t want to live in a place that forces its citizens to toe some political line or suffer for their beliefs. I’m a big fan of diversity, and that’s why I’ve been having a hard time living in the US since our political parties have turned so violently against each other. How the heck are we supposed to accomplish anything at all if our only goal is to make the other team lose?

I hope that today’s events in the US, with actual elections, voted on by actual people, and certified by neutral parties can lead this supposed democratic republic back to sanity. I can dream, can’t I?

What I Want to See

I too, have a dream, like Dr. King did. In my dream people can:

  • Work together to make the lives of all citizens healthy and safe
  • If we participate in the political system as elected officials, do so to make the lives of the citizenry better, not to benefit a few people in power
  • Help the mentally challenged lead productive lives and contribute to society
  • Use our different viewpoints and perspectives to come to workable compromises for laws, regulations, and programs at the local, state, and national levels
  • Take care of the health of all citizens without causing undue financial burdens
  • Educate our children and adults to create a workforce of laborers, technicians, artists, scientists, and others to create a thriving society
  • Take care of the planet we live on and its non-human citizens as well as we take care of the humans
  • Celebrate our differences and learn from each other
  • Banish hate. Period. Friendly competition is great; hatred of the other is not.
  • Prioritize peace over war. Imagine what the world’s warriors could do if they didn’t have to spend so much time and energy on weapons and fighting.
  • Enjoy our religious traditions and cultural heritage without negating other people’s
  • Stay out of people’s private lives if they aren’t hurting anyone
  • Talk to each other. AND listen to each other
  • Celebrate beauty, hope, love, family, and all the good parts of life
  • Treat children as people, not property

I can be optimistic for one day. Yeah, Imagine.

Happy Birthday, Carlton!

When we got my very pale dog, Carlton, he was around 4 months old. Sandra told us he’d been taken from his mother at 4 weeks and given to a child as a birthday present. Once the novelty wore off, he was chained outside for a couple months until Sandra rescued him and took him to the pound.

Just a blue-eyed boy.

She babied him and socialized him until I decided I wanted a small dog to commute with me between Cameron and Austin. He looked perfect in size and temperament. And he was so beautiful. He had weird blue eyes and we weren’t sure how well he could see.

My favorite picture of when I got him.

So, we took him to doctors and such, determining he could indeed see at least some, and that his coloring is a rare double Merle variation. Luckily, he has a Fox terrier spotting pattern that covers his ears. So he can hear!

Beautiful.

Carlton didn’t work out as a commuter dog. After he pulled me down a steep, wet hill and messed up my ankle (still hurts often) we decided to leave him at the ranch where he could run and grow. Soon, Vlassic appeared out of nowhere and I had my small dog!

Today!

It’s the day we arbitrarily decided is Carlton’s third birthday. He now weighs around 40 pounds and looks like the Greyhound Bus logo. He’s very fast and seems to see just fine. We think being confined on the short chain as a pup delayed his vision development, but he’s good now.

He does like to chew. And Alfred taught him to find food on the counter. Grr.

The most important thing to me is our bond. We sure love each other. The thing I look forward to most every evening is when he delicately steps onto my recliner and settles between my feet. He will lean his head way back and stick that pink nose upside down in my face. After a tiny lick he will settle down with a big sigh. That makes my day.

Night night.

Every night, he sleeps at my feet, or at my side if Needy Penney lets him.

Hiding from the lights.

Carlton is now a really good dog. He’s grown out of his youthful barking and jumping, which helps a lot. We enjoy watching him play and run with the other dogs and don’t have to worry about him chasing cows, because we don’t let him out much. Well, no dog is perfect.

Peace, Joy, Hope

Sharing a quick message to all of you. Keep the Hope going, it will help.

Holiday love.

From the Hermits’ Rest to your place of refuge, celebrate what’s meaningful to you today.

It’s a memorable Christmas!

Here’s what’s keeping the ranch house looking cheery!

Of course, dogs
Blooming on time!
Looking forward to food. Yay.

Peace! Hope! Love!

Rainy Saturday of Love

Hooray! It’s actually REALLY raining today. This is what we need to refill the ponds and help all the plants over the winter. That said, I don’t look forward to going out in it!

Someday we will pave that giant puddle.

Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed a morning with Lee. I even gave him his anniversary card (note that the anniversary was November 29). I’d left it in Austin. But, there’s rarely a bad time to remind your partner in life that you love them!

Lee wants to keep the wooden part. Good card.

It’s nice to spend a morning enjoy your loved ones. Harvey’s giant belly has been rubbed a lot! Carlton is under the bed, because it thundered.

I’m watching it rain.

I’m especially grateful to be home and warm, since the rest of the household had to go out and do some hard work. I love their dedication. The personal assistance service is not an easy thing to run!

A Question

I was thinking about how much I love our former Christmas tree that’s now a tribute to nature, peace, and our pets. The poor thing no longer lights and has gotten droopy. I think I need to find another tree with mostly bare limbs to put my ornaments on.

It used to be really gorgeous, if non-traditional.

If any of you see a tree that’s at least 6 feet tall and mostly bare (on sale!) that I could order, send me a link in the comments or on other social media! I’m on a quest!

I Forgive You. Forgive Me.

Admission: I’m not feeling too great today, and this UU Lent prompt, forgiveness, didn’t help. I shall now indulge in some wallowing in self pity. You know, sometimes you just have to do it for a while, pick yourself up, and get going again. I promise, I’ll get going again. So forgive this post. I just need to say it.

I had absolutely no clue how to parent.

With the pandemic going on, it’s just killing me that forgiveness hasn’t happened in important parts of my life. Mostly, I just want to tell Kynan that if he did anything that led him to disappear from my life, I will forgive it, because I love him. And I so dearly want to be able to ask his forgiveness for anything I did that led him to desert his mother.

I tried really hard to be a good parent. Obviously I wasn’t perfect, because there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. I know I gave them too many presents, because I’m totally clear now that my love language is gifts. Oops. That’s okay, all the kids left most of the things I gave them at home when they moved out <insert smiley face>.

Memories! What a bright little kid he was.

So today, I officially ask forgiveness of my kids, people who I felt maternal toward, and anyone who I may have hurt when they were young and vulnerable.

I also want everyone who’s hurt me that I forgive them. People mess up. People get angry and do things they wouldn’t normally do. Mental illness can color people’s interpretations of others’ motives and actions, and I know that. If I love you, I love you, warts and all. Even if I don’t forget things that happen, I can forgive you and accept you.

I will always care for these three, no matter what happens in our lives.

That was all really hard to write. Today I’m still reeling from some terrible dreams I had about Kynan a couple of nights ago. He was there, which felt great, but he kept reminding me we’re really apart. At one point, he rejected an outreached hand and said, “You know, we never really did like each other.”

No, son. I adored you and thought you were the most amazing creature on earth. I only want happiness, growth, and love for you.

Interestingly, I am wearing that same shirt today.
Equal opportunity baby picture of Declan.

Hey, I know I’m not alone. Estrangements are more common than I once realized, and I am sending virtual hugs out to anyone going through this along with me. I’d just like to know why I’m estranged, but until then, I’ll go on living and hope to heck I get to see my children and all my loved ones again, and that we all make it through this disease.

Forgive someone. Forgive me. Life’s short.

End of self-indulgent wallowing. Supportive comments will be appreciated.

I’ve Had a Rough Relationship with Love

Oh, who hasn’t had a rough relationship with love? (Not a surprising UU Lent word, is it?) If you haven’t, count yourself as fortunate and give yourself a big hug. Wait, everyone else, also give yourselves big hugs. And now for some brutal honesty.

My issue, like so many of us, has been with romantic love. I was always a big fan. And boy oh boy was I full of it. Those happy hormones it kept pumping into me were my drug of choice. I kept seeking it out, even when I had perfectly good relationships. This here was my biggest failing, because I repeatedly did really inappropriate things in my quest for my love drug.

No, I do not blame my parents for how I came out. They did their best.

And, what did that do to me? It made me love myself less. And that led to the feeling that I was worthless if nobody loved me, so I did more unhelpful things to try to get the people I loved to love me or continue to love me. I worked way too hard for my Dad’s love, which spilled out to romantic relationships.

That led me to like myself less and less. My inner monologue consisted of, “No one likes you…you have no friends…you are so fat…you are a failure…” I’m surprised I could get up every morning and go to work, take care of my kids, or volunteer constantly.

Do you see a downward spiral looming? I sure do, in retrospect. I ended up with the pathetic tendency to do just about anything to get love, romantic or otherwise. I was one of those people you read about who change themselves to try to be the person their object of affection wanted.

Note: That does not work.

It never occurred to me that it’s very hard to love someone who doesn’t love themselves, and I certainly didn’t love myself. I needed to learn about other types of love than romantic love, obsession, and sex hormones.

I did it! Was it easy? Nope. I had to admit a lot of icky things about myself (see above) but thanks to a good therapist, I was able to figure out what led me to end up the way I was, and forgive my past self. I was able to see that all those past actions were leading me to current wisdom and peace.

Loving myself just as I am. Pink hair is all faded, too.

Learning to love myself has let me love others in so many ways without having to have all that hormonal stuff mess with my mind (I still have hormones; I just recognize them for what they are).

What I Can Do Now

I can love my family without expecting anything in return (thank goodness, since one of them seems to not love me back at the moment). And I can appreciate their love without basing my self esteem on it.

Shine on, Suna.

I can love my friends and be okay if they go away or have a problem with me. If they want to work it out, I’m there to do so. If not, I’ll love them from a distance.

I can love people I don’t know. For all I know, my loving vibes may be helping in some way I can’t be consciously aware of.

I can love all my animal companions and enjoy their love back.

I can love my planet.

Will I have bad moments? Will I get jealous or envious of someone else’s relationship, or hurt when things don’t work out? Yep. But I’ll pick myself back up and keep going.

Gratitude

I’m grateful to everyone I’ve ever loved and hope you got some good out of it. And I’m sorry for those I hurt.

My favorite picture of my spouse. Thank goodness for his love.

I’m grateful for my spouse, his patience, and his ability to love me as I am.

I’m grateful to Victoria.

I’m grateful to Brené Brown. Even if I generally find self-help books annoying, her conversational style and repetition of the same point in different ways helped me break through and shut my inner voice up. Go read a Brené Brown book.

“I know something about love.”

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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