Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Conditioning for the Older Horse, Part I

photo credit: andreavallejos via photopin cc

With 4-H season looming and all the unusually beautiful weather we've been having here in the mountains for January, I thought I'd talk about something other than writing for a change. The fact that I've been able to ride on a fairly regular basis this early in the new year is pretty cool, though I'm not quite sure what to think about the horses losing their winter coats so early. We'll see how they feel come the next zero-degree blizzard. Fortunately, Zzari has his blankie to keep him warm, though Bearkhat has to tough it out a bit more, grizzled old mountain pony that he is.

My wonderful gelding Zzari (who I've owned/been owned by since he was three) just turned 26. While this isn't considered ancient for an Arabian, he's definitely no spring chicken anymore, and there are certain things I have to take into account when it comes to riding and conditioning.

For one thing, those joints aren't as young as they once were, especially for a horse I used to ride in 50-mile endurance races, over downed trees in the forest and even over a cross-country course or two (in addition to the regular dressage training we did for years). I'm lucky in that Zzari has remained completely sound throughout the time I've had him (save for one temporarily bowed tendon due to a run-in with a pipe corral), but now that he's a senior, I'm not taking any chances.

I don't feed him much differently than I used to (a bit more Equine Senior every day, maybe), and he's not ridden too differently either (though his workload has definitely tapered off in recent years). One thing I do make sure to do is a long, slow warm-up and a long, slow cool-down each time I ride him - especially when it's colder out and he's wearing his winter long-undie fur coat. In fact, it's safe to say I generally don't work him up to a sweat in the winter at all. The days are too short for a proper cool-down after an afternoon ride, and you never know when an icy wind is going to kick up around here.

In a later post I'll get more into what we've specifically been doing this year so far and what we're looking at for the spring and summer months as far as workload and competition.

In the meantime, for any horsey folks reading this, what are you and your four-leggeds up to this winter?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Linklove Friday!

TGIF, Everyone! Our weather here in Northern AZ is actually bordering on otherworldly at this point. And while it's lovely to see people walking around in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops in late January, it's not so lovely to watch the news stories about how our water situation will not be looking good this summer unless we get some serious precip. Still, we'll be out and about enjoying the gloriousness this weekend.

The Internet was abuzz with some great stuff this past week, including this article for aspiring authors from Rachelle Gardner on just who does all that book marketing anyway.

Shannon Hale's thoughts on an incendiary article about the readers (and writers) of young adult (YA) fiction - lowbrow or highbrow, depending on your POV - got things cooking among folks who love this genre. Here's a link to the original article that got the whole thing started. Ironically, it just makes me want to read Walter Dean Myers.

On the lighter side, if all blog posts went like this one from childrens writer/illustrator Marty Kelley, I truly would never ever get anything done:

Finally, our house would be a not-quite-as-funny place without the Bad Kitty books to entertain us. So, I thoroughly enjoyed GalleyCat's interview with Bad Kitty author Nick Bruel. I hope you do, too. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Exercise to Synthesize

January has been such a mixed bag! Exciting things are happening in my life and in the lives of several people I know right now. At the same time, though, there have been some serious stressors this month. I'll share more in the near future, but suffice it to say I've been busy, busy, busy, practically tied to my desk chair at the computer day in/day out for hours on end, and I need to get away - even if it's only to the gym so I can synthesize all this information.

Last year I was walking some foster dogs through town with the gal who runs our local (and awesome - you should totally support it) dog rescue. We walked past a pickup truck and nearly jumped out of our collective skin when a couple dogs in the bed of the truck lunged and barked ferociously at us. The poor fosters were quaking, delicate anti-social souls they were, but my friend the Rescue Lady just marched straight ahead and told them, "Shake it off, girls. Just shake it off."

That's exactly what I feel the need to do right now - just "shake off" all the tension and excitement and settle into life in a new and different way. Maybe yoga, Zumba or Nia would do the trick. Time to check the gym's schedule.

What do you do to regain balance in your life when it all starts to be a bit much?

Monday, January 23, 2012

I got nuthin' today.

Here. Have a clean chicken.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Linklove Friday!

TGIF, and welcome to another Linklove Friday where I post links to various stuff of interest I've found online during the week!

"That's why I work so hard. I want things to be better." ~Samantha Garvey
This teen girl gives me hope for the future of our world.

While more and more information is being put out there about what it's like for an author to walk the road to publication, I don't think there can ever be too much of it. Veronica Roth's "A Peek Behind the PublishingCurtain" is a must-read for all aspiring authors.

In eBook news, there's a good article in the Altlantic about the ins and outs of ebook lending and what it might mean for the publishing industry. The comments are just as informative as the actual article, in my opinion.
Finally, Volkswagen's SuperBowl commercial has been "leaked." I know, I know. It makes me a minion of corporate advertising culture to help spread their ad, but come on! The At-At dog at the end kills me!
Have a great weekend, Everyone!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Fat Chicks?

I spent the past few days reading Carolyn Mackler's The Earth, My Butt, & Other Big Round Things, and, as I posted on Twitter, this book is pure YA (young adult) genius. Why? Well, for one thing, Mackler takes on body issues, sexuality and dysfunctional family dynamics in a way that really hits home. Who among us (young, old, male, female) hasn't wished there was something we could change about our physical person or lamented the fact that our family isn't perfect?

In Virginia Shreves I found a character I could root for whether she was in full-on self-destructive mode or fighting her way out of that dark place where her best never seemed good enough and the mirror was her worst enemy. The book was laugh-out-loud funny in some places and heartwrenching in others. So, read it! It will make you want to give yourself and your BFF a huge hug. Mackler's newest book, co-written by Jay Asher (author of Thirteen Reasons Why) is out, and I can't wait to read that one next.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Linklove Friday!

TGIF, Folks. It's all about the tweets this week on Linklove Friday. Here are some cool links mined from the Twitterverse:

First, this: I walked into our local Barnes & Noble last weekend to kill some time and ended up meeting and chatting with Debra Beck, teen mentor and author of My Feet Aren't Ugly. It was so neat to meet an author who's out there walking her talk, and I was so impressed I bought two copies. Girl power!
Next, if you're a reader and/or a writer, Indiebound is a great place to buy & promote books. Check it out!

Anne Trubek has a great piece in the NY Times about why authors tweet. While I honestly used to think "Who cares?", I'm starting to understand and enjoy the whole Twitter thang.
Comedian Margaret Cho lit the Twitterverse on fire a bit when she posted this response to someone who unfollowed her. It left me feeling awed, fortunate and, truthfully, a bit scared.

Also (and this is not Twitter-related), I love this song by Christina Perri. Just found out it was used in the latest Twilight movie, so it looks like I'm not one of the first to discover it. Darn!
Looks like we have another unseasonably glorious, sunny weekend ahead of us here in Northern AZ, and I plan to enjoy the heck out of it. You all do the same, wherever you are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Planted Passion

Thanks to a freakishly warm January and a friend who graciously shared her bounty of fall-planting bulbs at Christmas time, I found myself outside at sunset last night with a couple of my favorite people on earth, all of us feverishly getting those tulips and paperwhites into the ground.

Watching my son wield the shovel reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a student about how one of the neat things about being an adult is looking back on childhood and realizing how the seeds for what we love to do (or wish we were doing) now were so often planted during those tender years. I can remember clearly, for example, how much I loved to write and illustrate stories, poems, radio scripts and anything else that could be brought to life on the page. I could sit for hours writing, drawing and losing all track of the time-space continuum as I composed my masterworks. Here's a sampling that found publication in Ms. Rowe's Book of Second Grade Poetry at Sleepy Hollow School:
I used to squish my squash.
Now I squash my squash.
I know, right? The genius made itself known early.
Now that I have a tween and an almost-tween of my own, I tell my kids to nurture the seeds of things that bring them joy - things that, when they're doing them, make everything else disappear, time, space and worldly problems included. Not that those problems will go away, and not that we won't regularly have to do things we don't want to do (root canals and bill paying, anyone?). But I firmly believe that letting the seeds of dreams and calling and vocation dry up and die before they have a chance to take root can make it exponentially harder to face the sometimes harsh realities of life. It's why my kids no doubt get sick of me telling them, "Don't lose your passion - and if you do, work like heck to get it back again!"

What do you think about this? Were the seeds of what you love to do as an adult planted in childhood? Have you ever lost your dreams and subsequently had to track them down, grab them by the scruff of their necks and haul them home?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Top Tens

One of the links I posted last Friday was to a compilation of various authors' Top Ten favorite books. It got me to thinking of what I would consider my top ten list works of fiction and poetry, and I decided they are as follows (in no particular order)

What does your list look like?

Friday, January 06, 2012

Linklove Friday!

There was some good stuff for readers and writers posted online during the past week or two. I'd like to share it here for the inaugural Linklove Friday!

To start off, Susan Dennard had a great post on her blog about fulfilling reader expectations for a compelling story
Then there was Chuck Wendig's (rather colorfully-stated) 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing, which was tweeted by the awesome Sara Zarr
My friend (and another great writer) T. Greenwood, shared the Writers Store's "Don't Break the Chain" Calendar (and so far I haven't broken it - yay me!). It's free and downloadable, so what are you waiting for?
A former student, Chad S., from a Literature/Short Story course (one of my favorites to teach) sent a link to this article in the Paris Review about what happened when a teenage punk kid contacted several of the"biggee" writers of his day (i.e. Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury ) asking them to take part in his homemade survey. The fact that they responded at all is pretty amazing to me; the fact that so many of the responses were clearly time consuming is hard to even believe. But then, it was a different era in written communication.
Finally, there's this great list of authors and their top 10 favorite books. It was interesting to see some of the classics (i.e. Madame Bovary) make it onto so many lists.
Have a great weekend, Everyone!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Pre-pubescent Reads

My son, (aka The Reader) walked toward my car from the school bus yesterday afternoon holding a book up for me to see. "Guess what our class started reading today?" One look at the sepia-toned greasers on the cover, and I knew it was S.E. Hinton's classic The Outsiders (which I last read in middle school, too). I have only vague memories of the movie, with its pre-Brat Pack cast including Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell (who my friends and I once shamelessly stalked via a contact address published by Tiger Beat Magazine. Strangely, he never replied). 

Anyway, over the years I've heard many people (usually guys) cite The Outsiders as their all-time favorite classic young adult novel. Mine? I'd probably have to go with Judy Blume's various books including Forever (which, if not my favorite, is at least among the most memorable reads of my youth). I'll never forget standing outside my elementary school and begging the older girls to let me see what was in the book they were passing around that was making them giggle and blush and clap their hands over their mouths. When the book was finally passed my way and I read THAT passage (on p.81 in the old edition, according to this Blume fan)...well, let's just say it was my original OMG moment, decades before OMG even existed. Girls of the 70's, you know what I'm talking about.
So, what's your all-time favorite (or most memorable) YA novel?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Being the Owl in 2012

This morning, while pondering a recent visit to the incredibly cool Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, I asked myself, "Self? Who are you going to be this year? The Great Horned Owl or the kangarooo rat?"

I'm not dissing any particular species, mind you. Kangaroo rats are adaptable, resourceful and just plain adorable critters. Unfortunately, they also tend to get eaten by bigger, faster and equally resourceful critters on a regular basis. Just sayin'. (I snapped the photo of the owl in the pic above, by the way, during one of his training sessions).

Owls amaze me. They're sleek, powerful, intelligent and attuned. Plus, my kids inform me that their necks are actually a type of ball-and-socket joint that allows their heads to rotate as they do (can this be true??). 

On Friday I'll be posting some links that have struck me this past week as great ways to Be the Owl in life which, for me, means loving, mothering, writing, teaching, staying present and noticing the details. What does Being the Owl (or the Thunder, or the Catalytic Converter or the ________ (insert favorite representational metaphor here) mean to you?