The internet here has been very slow- that’s why I haven’t posted anything in a while. I want to post some pictures of the beach and my wanderings the past week and bit, but the low speed internet won’t permit that. So I figured I’d put a little bit on from my journal- just kind of a reflection piece I guess- most of you have probably heard all these stories from me before. If so, the other point of this post is to let all you out there know I’m still alive! Yay! Pictures will come soon, I promise! For now, here’s some thoughts from the pages of.. me? There’s news at the bottom of this post. I give you permission to skip down to that if you don’t feel like reading a novel first :). You’re welcome.
Nov 23- Change. It effects us all. Where were you 5 years ago? I was in 9th grade. A shy, reserved kid who dreamed of going to college in Alberta to study equine science. I played volleyball at school, but didn’t plan on playing many other sports- especially not basketball. I was bff’s with somebody who I never thought would leave my life, we were inseparable. Thinking back, this year had a few life changing moments I didn’t see coming. The first; Mr. Martin approaching me, asking (telling) me to come to JV basketball practice. After much convincing, I agreed to go. After all, Erica did it and I idolized her as the big sister I never had- and, if I hated it- I could quite anyway, right? Wrong. I came home from the first week of practices bawling. All the other girls were so much better then I, and I made so many mistakes and got yelled at so much. I can’t do it. I’m not going back! This idea ended quickly. Mom said I was at least finishing the season- no quitting- that was that. I’m forever grateful for this. Also for Mr. Martin including me in the team, tough love and all. I learned (started to) how to be tought and determined that year playing with the older “athletic” girls. This is where I first learned what being a true athlete means. That year I also got Will. He also was something that taught me how important confidence is.
Jump to 2 years ago. My grade 12 year. I now played every high school sport I could. Captain of volleyball, soccer, and basketball, as well as riding on average 4 times a week (often during school hours (spares.. of course..)). Through grades 10-12 I met Lyle Myers- who is definitely responsible for taking me to the next level of toughness. Character building as he would call it (I’m shaking my head as I write this). I remember when I first started training with him in the mornings, this would have been in grade 10. Joel, Pierre, Mackenzie, Garth and I would be in the gym every morning at 7am running sprints. Hell. Sometimes Mr. Martin would watch from his office. I always tried harder if he was watching. I swear this was why I got off the bench and got to play more Varsity in my gr. 10 year. As much as Lyle caused me physical pain and discomfort with his training- I can now see how much it helped and changed me as an athlete- and person. I’m sure anybody who knows Lyle, or has trained with him, would say the same thing. What a crazy old man. Back to my senior year. By this time I’d made many new great friends, most of which were on teams with me. My best friend who’d been by my side for 7 years decided that I wasn’t putting enough effort into her and all but cut me out of her life. What would high school be without a little drama, right? Those close to me know how much this effected me. As it would anyone I’m sure. To this day I still get confused about the whole situation- and it took me a long time to get over it. It didn’t stop me from pushing myself in every way I could.
Our basketball team made Provincials that year, after an amazing season. I’ll never forget what it was like to be apart of that 2010 team, and it still inspires me. That was true teamwork. Every time we pulled a one-point win out of our asses it was because of pure heart and athleticism. On the court, it was like we were one person. When we were on, nothing could stop us. No matter how much taller the other team was, or how many more players they had (often close to double our team in both height and numbers). I draw from the experiences I had that season all the time when I need a little reminder of what awesome feels like. I learned so much that year about people, myself, and life. But I guess that’s what high school if for. Setting you up to learn those things. I say “setting you up” because you re-learn a lot of things you thought you know as soon as you get into the real world. This same year, I was also faced with my coach of a year and a half pulling a giant con on Bluebear and in the process leaving me without a coach 3 weeks before my first time competing at a Gold (national) level show (Royal Manitoba Winter Fair). Putting on a brave face through this time was unbelievably hard. It felt like, yet again, I was being left behind and having to start all over.. again. With the help of Sheryl Feller, someone who’s been with me since the beginning of my riding career, I was able to keep training up to Fair week- where Wilf McKay took over as my temp show coach- a role he has filled a few times over the years.
It certainly wasn’t my easiest show. I had the added pressure (that I put on myself) of making a good impression on my future coaches Mike and Charlene. The days leading up to and the first few days of Fair week I was all but a nervous emotional wreck. I remember one morning I was reviewing my courses by the ring and Charlene came up beside me and helped me dissect the course. No introduction (not that she needed one), just straight to the point in that calm tone of hers. I relaxed so much after that. And had a very successful first showing at RMWF. That same year, I applied for the Miss Manitoba Pageant as a joke. Well, it started as a joke. Then I actually got accepted. And followed through with the whole thing. Swim suit competition and everything. I remember telling my mom about it, and her first reaction was laughing for about 5 minutes and then saying “they actually accepted you?!”. Thanks Mom. But also, thank you for letting me go through with it. To Dad too. I know how grateful you were when I only placed third (boo yah top 3!). I learned a lot from that. One that pageants are generally a money grab. Two- spray tans are really, really questionable. And useless. Three- confidence is beauty. It was something I never thought I’d do, but can now say that I successfully did. I’m very proud of winning 4/5 special awards, but also very very happy i didn’t win my category. It was just enough to remind me to believe in myself, because even when something seems insane chances are I’ll get through it, and learn a lot on the way.
Today, looking back on all the chaos that was the past few years- all the friends I’d gained, and lost, all the teachers and coaches who pushed and believed, all the things that cause me to break down, every lesson I learned the hard way- it all brought me to here and now. I have all of the above, and lots more (I could list everything.. but you’d be reading for as long as I’ve been alive probably. I’ll save you that), to thank for who I am today. So many memories, good and bad. I’ve grown and changed a lot since then. Made new friends, kept old ones, reconnected with some. I definitely couldn’t have handled some of the things I’ve dealt with in my first year of Uni, or in the past few months in NZ. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to come this far away from home if I hadn’t learnt how to believe in who I am early on. It just goes to show that everything-mo matter how devastating, amazing, hard, easy- benefits you if you let yourself learn from it. Living means changing constantly. We always have to be learning and adapting to keep up with our world. It’s okay to screw up, or to be different, or to be the rookie. How else do you gain experience? You gotta start somewhere. Live is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Well, there’s your novel for today. Gonna have to buy a new journal soon. Don’t worry, not all the entries are that.. thoughtful.
In other news, as I said up top- the internet is slow. Those of you that have me on Fbook will have seen my pictures from the beach and the area around where I’m living. Lucky you! I’m still unemployed (although I’ve applied for probably close to 100 jobs- including going into town and handing out resumes in person), and still unable to drive standard. Which leaves me at the house a lot of the time. Cooking, baking, cleaning, reading (‘Tis by Frank McCourt if you were wondering- great read!), going for walks, just chilling. I’ve been trying to add more working out to get some strengthening accomplished for the good ol’ back/hip situation. I’m backing off on that though, as it’s STILL consistently bothering me. So no change on that front. I won’t get started on that.
I just realized I’ve been here for over 3 months already. Wow!
I’ve booked a ticket to Christchurch for Dec. 7, where I’ll be staying with some more family connections for a few days- then going down to Dunedin for the 12th to do something that I haven’t spilled on yet. With the exception of a select few (whom I expect to keep quiet). My only hint is that it’s something I never EVER thought I’d do. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve said once or twice that this is something I couldn’t and wouldn’t ever do. Well, I’m pushing myself to a new limit. December 12th something crazy goes down. Stay tuned for more on that.
After my weekend in Dunedin I haven’t quite decided what I’ll do. I might visit some other family connections that live not far from there, in Alexandra, and then head farther south and do some exploring there. Then back to Cchurch and eventually back to the North here in Whangarei where I’ll be for Christmas.
I’ll stop writing now, because this post has now reached the word count of a research essay. Also, there’s no pictures. That’s no fun! I’ll post again soon with some pictures and hopefully some adventures. There will definitely be more on December 12th’s events!
In less then 3 days since making my move North to my family’s place in Whangerei, I’ve gone from grooming for the rich/elite/ whatever show jumping barn, to roping steers and barrel racing at a local rodeo. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!
The first few days at my new home were pretty quiet. While everyone else was away at work or studying for exams- I stayed in the house, cleaned (yes mom, I cleaned), and baked. As the weekend came, things got a bit more exciting- roping and barrel time! I went with Alison and Diva, her horse, about an hour and a half to Paparoa where the Northland District Team Roping Club was having a club day.
Saturday consisted of practice time for the 5 or 6 of us there. The group joked that I was their new groom- but soon had me practicing heeling with the steer dummy and put me on a horse. Hutch, who’s horse I was riding, was quite surprised when he found I had tacked up the horse in all it’s western gear and hadn’t asked a single question. Who knew the show jumping groom could double as a cowgirl? Thank you 6 years in 4H and numerous western horses I’ve ridden and worked with over the years. Plus, I am Canadian. The first thing I had trouble with was when Hutch told me to “build a loop” in my rope. The response he got was me looking down at the rope in my hands, and promptly back at him with a “uhhh.. whaa?” expression. After a good 3/4 hours of Roping 411, I still don’t have a hot clue how to build a loop. That’s the only thing I really had a issue with. Apparently I’m a natural at the actual roping. I mean- I didn’t actually go full speed, chase down a steer, and rope it. BUT- I did catch a steer by the end of the day… from a walk, and with a lot of luck- I was on a horse, and I threw the rope- so it counts!! It’s definitely not easy. And it’s definitely frustrating. But it’s also addicting! I caught myself quite a few times, and my horse. Who was very patient and knew his job. Thank god.
Sunday was a points competition for Team Roping and Barrels, and more people showed up. I was put on Hutch’s other, younger, less trained horse to run barrels. For a kid who has never run real barrels, only the slow (on a pleasure horse) 4H version, running full speed on a young horse that’s never done barrels before- I (according to Alison and other spectators) did quite well.
It was amazing to see the differences between what I saw this weekend, and what I’ve experienced on the other end of things. I have to say, the people on this end of things are much more relaxed, easy going, and fun to be around. They were very supportive and so willing to teach me all they could and all I was willing to learn. There was never a face without a smile for too long- everybody was having fun. I was accepted into the “rodeo” family, no questions asked. Before even finding out if I could ride worth anything I was offered a horse to ride for the weekend and went out with the group to bring the steers in from the field. I was lent show clothes so I could compete on Sunday, and trusted enough to be put on a young inexperienced horse. It was said many times over the weekend “everybody here is treated equally”, and that statement was very obvious. Everybody there was at different levels in their riding and skill- but everybody there was equally happy and learning. Nobody was unhappy if they didn’t catch on their runs, because everybody was cheering them on anyway. It was nice to be a part of that sort of community. You don’t often get that in the show jumping world- at least not in such an obvious way. I haven’t seen that many smiling faces at a competition since.. 4H Provincials- the year our team theme was Gangster and the three boys made up that rap for the big supper night. Uncomplicated would be the best word to describe things “on this side” of the spectrum. Simple. Oh, and another bonus? Things don’t get started until 10 or 11 am. Big change from getting up at 5:30 am on show days to work all day and then repeat (I told the group this was what I’m used to.. almost got laughed out of town). I’m being spoiled here!
While I did have fun and learn lots while working at LC- I’m realizing stuff like what I experienced the past couple days at the rodeo is almost more valuable to me. I made so many local connections that may play a part in finding me a job- or just as friends in the future. I’ve been reminded many times already that I definitely made the right choice in moving up here. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to come home and turn Willard into a barrel racer. Besides- I don’t think he could handle the rodeo scene. Too many cows.
Here are some snapshots from the weekend, click on the picture for a larger view.
What keeps us down to earth? Literally speaking, it’s gravity, the force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass. This force is increased by acceleration. Figuratively, however, sometimes it feels like we’re spinning so fast that we might just fall off the earth and float away (especially if we gain weight, right Leah?). The faster our lives go, the more we lose track of where we are, and what we want to do. Sometimes all it takes is a good friend to bring you right back down to earth.
This summer I worked at a research farm in the FHB (Fusarium Head Blight) Program for the second year. The job itself is incredibly boring, and involved a lot of setting up and taking down irrigation systems, seeding wheat, taking data on the wheat (standing in the field with a clipboard for hours upon hours), spraying the wheat with Fusarium, taking more notes, and then rating the diseased wheat on a severity and incidence of fusarium infection, putting all that data into the computers, and eventually harvesting some of the wheat. This is a very general outline of the job. In between all these things there are other things of course. What makes this job tolerable is the people you work with, running over spray paint cans with the van (Bertha), and spending hours every morning before the boss man arrived sitting in the van (sorry Roger, we did do some rating…sort of), truck, whatever we were driving that day talking about everything and anything. The summer of 2011 was a lot of work, but I became close with some amazing people because of it.
Between a never ending game of truth or dare (it literally went on for about 2 and half months), eat-out pay-day fridays, slurpee runs, overtime, and endless computer entry- I made connections with friends I already had, but never really knew before. This was the second year I worked with Jolene, but the first year I really connected with her. All those days in May sitting in that little plant analysis room counting seeds and organizing plots made us a little crazy, but a lot closer. We talked about our adventures (“nice jeans”), and dreamt about our futures. She put up with me complaining about my body basically every single day, and I helped her with her pre wedding jitters and worries about the future. We made up crazy schemes to get the attention of the hot organics crew guy, and ended up starting an on going hang man game. By the end of the summer I couldn’t imagine my life with out her, and it seemed so weird that we hadn’t gotten to know each other sooner. After all, we did work together the year before. By August, one of our crazy ideas really came to life. We dreamt up the idea of a youtube baking show, called “Blondie and Ginger”- featuring us taking recipes we found off the internet and filming the baking process. We also came up with merchandise ideas, and Jolene even drew a amazing logo for us! We decided that this idea must come true, and wouldn’t become one of the great ideas people come up with, but never follow through with. So, a youtube channel was created and we began making videos. Although there are only two up- I’m sure once I return to Canada there will be many more to come. I’m sure all 4 of our fans are waiting anxiously! We also owe Leah an ice cream cake.
Later in the summer, a Facebook status courtesy of me changed the life of Leah Unrau forever. Leah and I played vball together in high school, and knew each other through other school events. But the magic of the wheat fields, or maybe the spray paint fumes- or sun stroke- made her one of my closest friends. All those mornings sitting.. I mean working of course.. talking (while looking over our shoulders for Roger’s van and occasionally chasing random donkeys), showed us how much we have in common- and that we are dealing, or have dealt with many of the same issues in sport and in life. As the summer wore on, it became clear that our lives were intersecting that the right time. Both of us were, and are dealing with injuries holding us back from our sports- and all that comes with that. You’re my person, Leah. The person I tell everything to- after a great day, or an awful day. And I’ll never forget the support she’s given me over the past few months. I loved when she came to the Fall Harvest show, got up at 5:30 am with me to do my hair and make up for my portraits with dad, and cheered me on all day at the show- no question why that was my best show all season, or ever. We talk everyday and I’m so glad for that. Because even when I feel so far away from everything, she brings me back down to earth and logic. Whether she knows it or not.
Something Leah said on our last skype date inspired the thought in the first paragraph. After a long, entertaining discussion of how gravity works- Leah expressed her fear of me falling off the earth one of these days, especially if I gain weight- don’t worry, it does actually have some logic in it- if you watch her demonstrate the situation with her hands. I can’t explain it as well as her, so I won’t try. After laughing at the literal situation Leah was presenting, I began thinking of the figurative side. I’ve been having a rough week or so- fighting with myself over what to do, how to do it, and when. I finally came to my decision- with the never ending support of Leah- who’s been listening to me bitch about things for awhile. My inner battle had to do with my current job at LC Horse Farm, and if it was right to stay here or leave.. asap. About a month ago I had the same war with myself, and I chose to stay until Christmas for sure. And for a while, things started getting better with the whole situation. But then they started declining again. My body never stopped hating it, but that’s nothing new. This time around, I have made the decision to leave. Even though this decision has been made in my head for a long time now, it’s unbelievably hard for me to admit to not liking it here this much. There are numerous factors that go along with this decision, but I’m choosing not to list all of them as I feel it would be unprofessional- however, if you want to know more about what brought me to this point please feel free to email me and ask and I’ll do my best to explain. A few of the reasons are:
A) I don’t want my body to get any worse then it already is.
B) I feel that it would be good for me to get away from the horse industry for awhile- even though I am very glad for the experience I’ve had so far, and all it’s taught me (after all, how many people can say they’ve worked in a top show jumping stable with an up and coming rider on the other side of the planet?), I just need a break.
C) I’m in New Zealand. 10,000 miles away from home. But, currently, I’m working 12 hour days, 6 days a week, feeling trapped and seeing very little of the beautiful island I’m on, not making enough money to do much either. That’s not how I want to spend the remaining 6 months I have.
D) I’m lucky enough to have family connections scattered throughout the country- why not take advantage of that opportunity?
I have absolutely no regrets from this experience, even though it was completely different from what I wanted, or expected it to be. It’s taught me a lot, not only about the business- the people in it, but about myself- and how to stick up for myself. And how important that is. The reason it was so hard for me to admit to myself how much this isn’t right for me was that I was/ still am scared of quitting. I didn’t want people to view me as not strong enough to handle this type of work. Or see me as a quitter, which I have never been. The truth is though, from day one this hasn’t been a great situation. Again, I won’t expand on that on here. It’s definitely made me a tougher person, and put me through some tests. The truth is, I’ve handled everything LC has thrown at me- with relative poise- but there’s no reason I shouldn’t have. The real challenges I’ve faced don’t really have anything to do with horses, or the hectic days at shows, or dealing with horse people- that stuff I’ve been handling for a long time and working here is really not much different from what I do at home, except on a much larger scale of course. The things I’ve found most challenging, so far, have been focusing on what’s best for me- not what other’s will think of my decision, and working up the courage to make that decision happen and not just going along with things until I really can’t take it anymore. Does that make sense? Through this ginormous thought process, with the help of Leah and Mom’s support- I’ve decided that I’m not quitting, or running away from this. I’m doing the smart thing and the right thing for me. And that’s what is most important.
My new adventure starts on Wednesday. When I move up north to Whangerei to live with family. Lets hope this one works out a little better! Oh, and PS Leah- I could still kick your ass in a fight.