What Did I Want to Do When I Grew Up?

Hello from the road to South Carolina. I love road trips. You can sure think a lot. You can also knit a lot. I’ve actually arrived at the end of the pattern I’m making, but because I’m using different yarn and needles, I’m going to repeat the lace pattern.

Best picture I could get in the car. You can get the idea.

I have plenty of yarn left. I enjoy knitting without disturbances. It lets me think of new techniques to try, modifications to make, and things I want to try next. I was wondering if I could crochet a border off live knitting stitches (not bound off). I think I’ve seen socks done that way, with crocheted cuffs.

I can’t wait to block it.

I could knit for my job, if I’d taken that choice when it came to me. I love the science of designing patterns, love teaching it (so much, oh so much), like to go to conferences, and all that. And I do technical writing, which helps a lot. I’d have to have figured out a niche and done a lot of marketing, like so many of my knitting friends did so well. Knitting blogs got a lot of folks started, and I loved doing that, too.

So much comfort.

That dream ended as abruptly as my work in La Leche League did. I didn’t have the self confidence and hadn’t healed enough to figure out a way to get through the hard part and start again, which I now can do. I no longer just disappear when I’m unfairly treated and no longer believe what other people say. Woo!

What Else Did I Want to Do?

But, who knows, I have a lot of years left! There’s another alternate route I could have taken, like the road less traveled. Yes, it’s exactly like two roads diverging in a woods, because I didn’t choose the one leading into a forest.

I do love those plants!

In college, I concentrated hard on classes leading to an interdisciplinary degree in linguistics. I loved studying all the different areas, and was strongly tempted by neurolinguistics. Brains fascinated me. (Still do; notice what I read about now.)

But, I had to get those darned prerequisites out of the way. I did most of them in the wonderful honors program, but I got burned by an awful teacher in Biology who gave exams that were ten essay questions where if you missed any part of the answer, the whole thing was wrong. That ended up ruining my boyfriend and his best friend’s GPAs. I was like, “You ain’t messing with my summa cum laude, asshole,” and got the only A in the class. I gave him one scathing evaluation.

Crimson clover to cleanse your palate from that guy.

That preamble was intended to explain why I took my second biology class as a normal class, with a grad student TA instead of a mean full professor. The class mostly covered genetics and biochemistry. I ate it up like ice cream. Figuring out chromosomes and proteins and all that was like figuring out puzzles. It was so fun.

I always wanted to know how plants worked. This is a beautiful invasive vetch in Georgia.

I stayed after and asked the teacher questions. This guy was studying bees for his doctoral research, so I asked a lot about insect genetics. All I now remember is that he always wore incredibly wrinkled shirts, apparently because his girlfriend didn’t have an iron. There was much good-natured kidding, and he rewarded us with wearing an ironed shirt to the final exam.

Like this wild azalea hiding in a prissy trimmed hedge, I was nature girl stuck in academia.

Because I answered all the extra credit questions right, I didn’t need to pass the final, but I did it for fun. Then came the fateful question. The TA took me aside and begged me to switch majors. Biology needed me! I said I’d think about it. With my love of trees and springs and swamps, I imagined becoming a wildlife biologist and working with a State agency.

But, by that time I was already accepted to grad school in linguistics with a full fellowship. I had to take that path. Plus I was following my boyfriend. Hint to young people: your vocational choice should be determined by your brain, not hormones. I’ve been stuck working with language a lot longer than I had my boyfriend (a great human, don’t get me wrong).

The Good Part

But, all was not lost. I came to the Hermits’ Rest and got to hang out with Sara, the genetics PhD. And I met Dorothy, who’s not only a blog/podcast sponsor, but also got me into the Texas Master Naturalist program! I now get to do biology every day if I want to, I get to study the natural world, and if I can’t BE a wildlife biologist, at least I get to hang out with them! And I do work with a State agency.

Like this fine plantain, I’m choosing to find beauty wherever I am and grow where I’m planted.

It took me a while, but I did get to be what I wanted to be when I grew up. It just took patience.

So, have you attained your goals? Does your vocation match your avocation?

My Horse Is My Toughest Teacher

I’ve always contended that I plan to keep learning new things until I die. I often think of my friend, Marian, who, well into her 90s gets all excited about the new topics she’s reading about, new technology she’s mastered, and new ideas she’s heard. I hope that’s me in 30 years!

And you certainly never know where you’ll find teachers and mentors, or where you’ll find your education. For sure, my neighbor, Sara, who you hear about a lot in my musings, is a great teacher and mentor in many ways. We’re very different, but have similar interests, which makes us a good team.

We are so proud of how Ace is progressing!

I’m sure glad I have her with me when I’m out with my Paint/Arabian mix horse, Apache. Sara has a lot more training and experience, which helps her figure out my problems. I’m also learning a lot watching her work with Ace, the Black Beauty she’s working with. I read this in Western Horseman (SUCH a great magazine) last night:

…when you ride by yourself you perfect your mistakes.

Chuck Reid, quoted in “All-Around Horseman,” by Jennifer Dennison, Western Horseman May 2021, p. 21.

But, are you really alone when you’re riding? No. You always have your equine partner with you! And Apache is one intense task-master. I mentioned last week that his back was hurting. Maybe this had something to do with the fact that the last few times I’d ridden him, he has been pretty scary. Whatever I asked him to do, he reacted by trotting nervously wherever HE wanted to go. He had absolutely no interest in turning right (making me think he was hurting). His head would either be tossing around or down frantically gulping grass. It was not a fun experience, and I even got a bit scared when he started backing and turning sideways.

Big Red says she wasn’t scared. I took this when she and I went on a walk. Yes. We did.

And on the ground, he was patently uninterested in doing his warm ups. He’d walk a couple of steps, then eat grass. It would take a lot of effort to get him to move, back, or pay attention to me. And when he WAS paying attention, he’d stop in the middle of doing something, face me, move his head up and down, and paw the ground, as if to say he was DONE with whatever we were doing. He was trying to tell me something, but what?

Continue reading “My Horse Is My Toughest Teacher”

The Student Becomes the Teacher

I remember, in my youth, the first time I became a teacher of linguistics in addition to being a student. It was a gentle introduction, since I co-taught with one of my professors, but it really did me a lot of good. They say that you really start to master a subject once you teach it, and “they” (whoever they are) are telling the truth! The stuff I learned when teaching interested college students about linguistics, as well as teaching grumpy engineering students about rhetoric for engineers sticks with me today.

Here’s a shameful admission: the ONLY writing class I ever took after high school English was reading the textbook for engineering rhetoric a chapter ahead of the students the first time I taught it. Yep, I taught myself technical writing. That seems to have worked out.

What? I can’t believe you never took a class. Also, I still don’t love this food.

I watched this phenomenon of the student becoming the teacher play out yesterday, when we went out to play with the horses. Sara had already worked with Ace in the morning, so today she saddled him and put a bridle on him. The bit was a new surprise for him, but by the end of the day, he could eat grass with it. He’s no fool!

What the heck is going on here? Does this saddle make my butt look big? Photo by Sara.

So, I brushed tons of hair off Apache, then got him all saddled up, while Sara took Ace to the round pen for some groundwork (that’s when you teach a horse to follow your instructions while running around). I started groundwork using a rope, but she was doing it “at liberty,” which means you’re in the pen with a horse who can do whatever it wants to (including, one hopes, what you ask it to).

It was quite an active scene, with Ace running and bucking and doing the kinds of things a horse who’s learning will do. Meanwhile, I decided it would be a good opportunity to help Apache keep focused on doing what I ask him to do, no matter what’s going on around him. We did patterns and turns, and different ways of approaching obstacles, and he did an impressive job of not paying much attention to Sara and Ace.

Ace was making progress, but not finding it easy to settle down, being burdened with all this new paraphernalia on him. He truly did not want to calmly walk in a circle. So, we tried having Apache be his role model. We walked calmly around the outside of the round pen, while Ace and Sara walked on the inside. Sure enough, Ace matched Apache’s mood and pace, and we walked in both directions just fine. That was the perfect time to stop the lesson, while success was happening.

I also stopped to look at flowers. These two types of verbena look very different right next to each other!

I was proud of Apache for being a good teacher. Both horses got their reward when we walked to the end of the driveway again, me mounted and Sara alongside of Ace. Then we enjoyed a grazing break again. That was also good practice. It’s nice that these two get along so well.

We’re friends, so we don’t bother each other.

I know it’s really good for Apache to be the calm, reasonable role model for the first time in his life. I can tell he enjoyed doing it, and he didn’t even realize that yesterday was the second time we ever rode without another person riding with us. Score!

Plus we had a big ole full Passover moon! Photo by Lee.

That’s it for today’s horse report. Don’t worry, I won’t be writing about Ace progress every day, even though his owner says this makes him “famous.” But, Trixie comes today, so we may need a foot report!