Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Big News!

I am BURSTING at the seams with excitement. Garrett and I are moving to San Francisco! I'll be there in just two short weeks; Garrett and Mollie will follow at the end of November. Eeee!
We've known for a bit of time but have been working to get all of our ducks in a row. Now, not only are our ducks all lined up, they're swimming, and swimming fast.
I'm 100% ready for this move, though I haven't wrapped my head around the two week departure date just yet. We'll be apartment hunting in SF this weekend, so that means I have ONE weekend left in Phoenix. The countdown to filling the next two weeks with all of the people and places I love here begins now.
We're on the verge of something good with this move, I can feel it in my bones.
And yes, you better believe that I'll be arriving with flowers in my hair.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting to Know You(rself)

A head's up, men: you might not like this post. It's about being a woman. I'm about to talk about cycles. And hormones. Emotions, too. If you're wise, you'll keep reading, because you could learn something. If you become weak at the knees (not in the good way) when any in-depth female talk comes up, you may want to close your computer and step away. It's about to get allll types of woman up in here.

I'm 24, a youth in my womanhood. Though I've technically been a woman for 12 or so years, I'm only starting to just understand what being a woman means. And though I didn't realize it at the time, that understanding began in the fluorescent-lit thin-walled room of an OBGYN office.

At my annual gynecology appointment a couple of years ago, I had a very off-beat PA. She was a total granola cruncher in the most extreme case, complete with fingers dripping in mood rings and sun-shaped studs in her ears. As I laid staring at the ceiling, feet bracing against the stirrups, the PA rambled on about the moon and the stars and the woman's draw to Mother Earth. An already physically uncomfortable appointment, she took it to a whole new level of emotional discomfort. I was all like, lady, get your gloves on, get out the crank, and get on with it. I have no desire to be in that position for any longer than I have to be.

Irritated and annoyed, I closed my ears to her rambling as she snapped off her gloves and patted my legs, the universal signal of being done. But, oh, she wasn't done. She wanted to keep talking about all that moon cycle stuff.

Closed off to all of her radical advice, I snapped to attention when she said the words "your creative energies will flow during this week." Blinking my eyes into contact, I tried to play catch up as she advised "avoid sugar in days __ through __ of your cycle, because it will __. Try and eat less salt during this time, because it will __. Exercise during week___, and you'll feel all the more amazing."

Damn it. My lack of attentiveness led to the inability to retain the only useful information the PA had shared.

Though I've blocked out most of that appointment, I've been searching my brain for years to pull remnants from that last bit of advice I was given. Alas, my memory has failed me.

Still, I remained determined. Ok, I thought to myself, she talked about four things: creativity, sugar, salt, and exercise. I can work this out. To do so, I created a "feelings" calendar.

The feelings calendar is exactly what it sounds like--a calendar (via Google, nontheless) on which I map my feelings. If time and memory permits, I log into the calendar and mark whatever current strong feeling comes over me. Just simple phrases, like "I want to make something today," or "all I want to do is write," or "I feel anxious and anti-social, not myself," or, "I'm hungry and can't stop thinking about Goldfish crackers." All of the notations are simple and to the point. It's just me, after all, so there's no BS. Here's an example (not directly pulled from my personal calendar):

Woman's Calendar

I'll admit that I haven't been as diligent as I'd like about the feelings calendar. Jotting down the notes are quick and easy, sure, but the act of being mindful of my emotions is what gets me. It takes time to recognize and process my different feelings, and I go in waves of not having enough time to spare. Which is silly, because if there's anything a woman should spare time for, it should be for getting to know herself.

I've come to recognize certain patterns, like the fact that my PMS symptoms are regular every three months instead of every other month. One month I am a raging B, one month I struggle with depression, and one month I feel vulnerable and insecure. I've also realized that I seem happiest and most driven in the first week of my cycle, creative and sensitive in the second week. I still haven't--and may never--quite figured out when I need to avoid salt and sugar, though. As for exercise, I know that I need it all of the time; the next step is figuring out when I'm most apt to get off of my butt and do it.

It may seem silly to track my feelings on a calendar, but it has helped me get to know myself a little bit better. If I feel a certain way and don't understand why, I can reference the calendar and ask, was I feeling this way around this time last month? A couple of months ago? In doing this, I've definitely had some "Aha!" moments. Right now, I'm starting to understand what my body and mind are doing. The next step is coming to learn what they need, and how to give it. The more I understand, the better.

If I were to come across that PA again, I know that I would see her differently. Instead of judging women, I now try to learn from them. All of them. We've all got something to share.

I wasn't very concerned with learning about myself a couple of years ago, and that's all changed now.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

By far my favorite cold weather meal, I patiently count down the late spring and summer days to a time that it is acceptable to eat soup again. This soup is so flavorful, so creamy, and so comforting. I could very possibly eat it every day. Enjoy!


4 cups chicken broth

2 chicken breasts, boiled and cut into tiny pieces

2 cups water

1 box Uncle Ben’s long grain wild rice

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

½ cup flour

½ cup butter

2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream (half and half works too, if you want to go lighter)


Over medium heat combine broth, water and chicken. Bring to a boil, add rice, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

In a bowl combine salt, pepper, flour, and seasoning packet.

In a medium sauce pan melt butter; stir in seasoning mix until bubbly. Reduce to low heat and whisk in cream slowly. Cook until thick (about 5 minutes).

Stir mix into broth, cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until soup is warmed through and rice is cooked completely.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Four-Legged Therapists

In my 24 years, I have only sat in on one formal therapy session. I was in 7th grade and having a hard time with my peers that led to a deep depression. I met with the therapist, embarrassed, ashamed and confused. I didn't like her methods and the session made me uncomfortable. Whether or not she should have, my mother didn't make me go back.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against therapy. Rather, I highly support and encourage it. It's just that, even though I was unaware at the time, I was in fact receiving a whole lot of therapy throughout my childhood. That therapy came in the form of four legs, a mane and a tail.

I sat on the back of a horse for the first time when I was three years old and was instantly hooked. At that time, in all of my understanding as a three-year-old, horses meant happiness. As I aged, horses started to mean a lot more things: courage, strength, responsibility, fear, frustration, safety, pain, confidence, confusion, understanding, and more.

Though every horse I have encountered over the years has brought me some type of therapy, some have had more impact than others.

When I was 7, I met my first identify-your-feelings-and-actions-and-fix-them therapist in the form of Ginger, a small and chubby Appaloosa mare with a fiery attitude. Ginger got mad when you were scared. It was almost as though she didn't want to deal with it. Ginger's worst habit was slamming her body into yours and the wall behind you when you attempted to saddle her. She only did this, though, if you were scared. From watching the older barn girls, I realized that she didn't try the same antics with them. I noticed that when the girls worked with Ginger, they were calm and authoritative. So, each returning week, I would try the same air of confidence. Week by week, I breathed through tricking myself into being brave; in turn, week by week, Ginger got less mean. One of the greatest victories I had as a kid was saddling Ginger on my own and returning later in the role of "older girl" to help the new, fearful riders. In a phrase, Ginger taught me to "man up".

My next significant therapist was my own horse, Jasper. Jasper and I met at the wrong time in our lives, though I didn't know it at the time. I fell in love with him the first moment I saw his head pop out of a stall, and my heart clouded my mind. I was a young girl in need of a confidence-building  horse. Jasper was instead a challenge, and a beautiful one at that. Brave and head-strong in my young age, I pushed to keep Jasper, even though my veterinarian and parents warned me against it. I like to live without regrets, so instead of being upset over our years of ups and downs (and a few broken bones in between), I've chosen to learn from them. I got Jasper as a pre-teen and had him in a difficult growth period in my life. Though he was my savior in many ways, I was too much of an emotional wreck for him. On top of being an emotional wreck I was a girl that didn't know what was happening with my moods, or how to control them. Instead of being the type of horse that took my pain and soothed it, Jasper bottled it up and threw it right back at me. That type of reflection was lost on me in my youth. Instead of always healing each other, Jasper and I had our highs of victory, success, happiness, and comfort, and our lows of defeat, frustration, miscommunication, and pain.

After Jasper, I was left broken. I felt that I had failed as an owner and a rider. Each fall that I had off of Jasper took a mental toll. When I returned to riding about a year after giving him away, my mind was so blocked up with fear of falling that it was hard to trust anyone, even myself. That's where Killian came in. Killian was a big, sweet Thoroughbred owned by my pediatrician's wife, Kathy. Kathy was kind in letting me use Killian for lessons and, eventually, the occasional show. Killian taught me how to trust again. He was the kind of horse that takes care of his riders. He moved at a big, slow pace, and had such confidence in his young years that I started to build a confidence of my own. Killian made me feel safe, and in that safety my ability as a rider grew. He was the type of horse that I perhaps needed instead of Jasper and definitely the type of horse that I needed after. In his trusting and gentle ways, Killian healed me.

Fast forward to a couple of years and a horsemanship course that I took at Michigan State University. MSU is home to an Arabian breeding barn, and though Arabs are not my cup of tea, I enrolled in the horsemanship class to feed my riding needs. As Killian had left me a much more confident, calm, and able rider, my instructor had me work with a 7 year old broodmare named Star that had just been pulled from breeding to be used for riding. Her training was minimal and her trust was low. She was a reactionary horse, ready to buck or fly at any brush with discomfort. Since I was in a much calmer and more stable part in my life, I was ready to take Star on. I worked her through insecurities, brought her to new places, and calmly held on for dear life in her freak outs. Star reminded me that though horses are large animals, they still need to feel as if they're being taken care of. They need a leader.

Now, as a riding instructor, I've been able to call upon the teachings of all of my therapists past. Each horse mentioned above along with countless others have taught me a great deal about myself. That understanding of self has enabled me, along with horses, to help others. It's really the horses, though, that help. I'm just their channel. In guiding people to understand horses, people come to start understanding themselves.

Horses are, above anything, honest creatures. They do not lie, they do not cheat. They give you signals for everything--you just have to know how to read and interpret them. You have to remember that horses are prey animals, reactionary beings.  It is their nature to be observant, to be constantly aware. They are always looking, always listening, always mindful. Horses are equipped to sense a change in pressure, ready to hear the change in breath.

And that is the key to understanding: breathing. Horses can hear your breath when you're around them and feel it when you touch them. Breathing affects the way you hold yourself, and to horses, that is communication. They use body language to speak to each other, to speak to us. Their body language changes with their moods, just as ours does. When I get frustrated, my breathing is halted. When I am sad, my breath is deep and low. When I am anxious, I hold my breath in my chest and stop it from falling into my belly. When I am sick, my breathing is obstructed and off-rhythm. When I am fearful, my breath is shallow. When I am happy and at peace, my breath is effortless. You better believe that my posture changes in reflection of my breath, and yours does too. Some horses will take the energy I give off and, like Ginger, require me to be strong in order to work with them. Another horse, like Jasper, will fight me through everything unless I am at peace, while a horse like Killian will restore me to where I need to be. Or, a horse could be like Star, and not trust her own shadow unless I am present, confident, and whole. That's the beauty in horses: they'll take what you give them and make it their own. You just have to know what you're giving them.

Though I still rotate between bouts of frustration, sadness, anxiety, illness, fear, happiness, and peace, I now have the power to recognize where I am and what I am giving, according to my breath. To begin the process of healing, of reaching peace and happiness, all I need to do is breathe. Horses taught me that. It's the best lesson I've learned to date.

My personal equine therapy will continue to evolve as I grow and develop relationships with new horses. Right now, I've got 6 active therapists that help me and my clients at Hunkapi Horse Program. Please stay tuned for my next post to see how they help me and, in turn, can help you.