Monday, November 24, 2014

Silence is Another Assailant: Thoughts on UVa

Last week Rolling Stone magazine published a long, heartbreaking story about an alleged gang-rape at a University of Virginia fraternity two years ago. I'm not going to rehash the story: I linked to it on my Facebook page, and it's available all over the internet. Since I couldn't get it out of my head this weekend, I spent some time reading other stories and comments about UVa and what looks like their pattern of concealing and thereby enabling sexual assault.

When the attack was over, the alleged victim, who was 18 and had only been on campus for a few weeks, asked some of her new college friends for help. According to the article they were primarily concerned that if she reported the rape it would be bad for her reputation and theirs. She later went to the Dean in charge of such matters, Nicole Eramo. The story gets a little complicated, but on Eramo's advice the police were never notified. The men involved were not charged. Nothing happened to them.

It would be lovely if this were an isolated incident, but according to stories easily found on the web, it's happened again and again. Thirty-eight incidents of "sexual misconduct" were channeled through Eramo's office last year. In only nine were the cases pursued to any extent; there were zero actual criminal charges.

Erasmo is quoted in Rolling Stone as saying that UVa has to keep allegations quiet, because parents wouldn't want to "send their daughters to the rape school." She's also seen in a video available online, filmed a year ago, as saying that rapists at UVa who confess ought to receive a suspension from the University instead of going to prison. Some alleged sexual violence victims say that UVa pushed them to not pursue criminal charges on the grounds that the rapists' lives shouldn't be ruined.

Let's try this: if a man doesn't want his life ruined by a prison sentence, he shouldn't rape anyone. If a school doesn't want a reputation as a "rape school," then they should work to reduce campus rapes to zero, not cover up those that have already happened.

If a woman is raped, her reputation should not be on the line. That of her rapist should be.

If a woman is raped, she should immediately go or be taken to the hospital, in case she requires medical attention. She should be treated by female staff members trained to do the work. If possible, DNA evidenced should be collected and appropriately held for potential future prosecution. (Please note: victims should not be forced to immediately press charges: in places with mandatory prosecution laws, victims delay necessary medical treatment and commit suicide at higher rates than in places without.)

If a friend says she has been raped, take her to the hospital. Stay with her, support her, listen to her. Understand the rape for the felony event that it is. Don't downplay it to yourself or the victim.

Why didn't the woman from UVa press charges? My guess is that she didn't know how much more she could bear to lose. She lost a lot the night she was raped, but she lost more the next morning, when people were more concerned about gossip than her physical well-being. She lost more when the university discounted her story--more later, when other students wondered why she hadn't yet gotten over it. She lost something at every step. I understand.

Why didn't she say anything? That's the wrong question.
Why weren't people listening?

My attacker told me that if I ever told anyone what he did to me I'd be taken into foster care and never see my parents or brother again. I was five years old and I believed him.

I was seven and a half, and the attacks were becoming unbearable. I told my best friend as we were walking home in knee-deep snow. Horrified, she called me a liar and ran home. For days I hoped she would tell her mother, whom I liked, but I guess she never did.

By fourth grade my attacker was gone from my life. I developed behavior problems in school. My parents switched me into a private school. No one asked me what was wrong.

I finally told my parents when I was sixteen. They believed me and loved me, but they also told me not to tell anyone else, ever, not even my brother. However, they told my high school principal, for reasons I've never understood.

The counselor I saw in high school, before asking me what had happened, told me my parents would forgive me for what I'd done.

My high school best friend, on hearing the story, looked me in the eye and said we could only stay friends if I never mentioned the subject again.

In college I went to a counselor reporting recurrent episodes of dissociation, flashbacks, and nightmares. Without asking any questions he assured me that "sexual assault was not that big of a deal."

I got very very lucky. My high school boyfriend, skinny, anxious, and shy, turned out to be the most courageous, honest person I've ever known. He heard me; he saw me; he loved me. When I finally fell to pieces he picked all the pieces up and held them together until I could remake myself, whole.

Saying the truth, living your truth, has a marvelous freeing power. It took me a long time to discover this power; I pray that all abuse survivors find it. I've come to believe that silence is another assailant. If rape is something we must be hide, must be ashamed to have suffered, then we stay vulnerable, trapped by lies. Instead we must give our children words: rape is unacceptable. You can survive it. It was not your fault; the person who did it carries the blame. You've been attacked, you need care. The person who did it should suffer serious consequences. You probably will, too, but you can heal. He committed a crime. You did not. He should feel shame. You should not.

Tell our daughters the truth.
Tell our sons the truth.
Tell our colleges the truth.
Tell the world.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Getting My Act Together--Someday?

I have this persistent fantasy in which I get my shit together.

In which my office desk is not one great sliding pile of very important papers, in which my stack of books to read immediately numbers less than 100, in which the laundry is done, folded and put away all on the same day, the barn is pristine and I don't ignore my home improvement projects in favor of my to-read pile.

My husband thinks many of these problems would solve themselves if only someone could block my access to But I digress.

Yesterday I coped with the weight of my responsibilities by taking the day off to go foxhunting. Even there it was obvious to the casual observer that I am not quite all together.

To start with: the time schedule. Hounds would be cast at 10 am. I would need to be mounted by 9:45. It should take me 15 minutes to unload my horse, put my boots and jacket on, and tack the horse. It should take one hour and ten minutes for me to drive to the venue.

I pulled out of the driveway at 8:23 am.

Astute mathematical minds will note that I was already 3 minutes behind. Horsepeople will note that I was in trouble: either I'd not given myself any extra time, or I'd already used it up before pulling out of the driveway.

With horses, you have to allow extra time. Things go wrong. The horse decides it would be very amusing to run from you in the pasture. The horse decides it would be very amusing to roll in mud. The horse steps on its own lead and breaks its halter, and you have to find another halter that fits the horse--it will of course be the oddest-sized horse in the barn--before you load. The horse decides it would be very amusing to refuse to get onto the trailer.

Not that any of those have ever happened to me.

Anyway, the biggest problem with yesterday morning was that I didn't pack the trailer the night before. Every horse person knows to do this, but still I didn't. I merrily threw a bunch of tack and my mare--both clean enough for a Thursday--onto the trailer and set out late because I'd wanted another cup of coffee.

I drove fast and got there mostly on time, unloaded the horse, tied her to the trailer, and put my boots and jacket on. (I was already wearing the rest of my gear, stock tie, pin, etc.) My hunting license was in my jacket pocket, as was my plastic dinosaur, talisman of our hunt, so I felt pretty good. I'd remembered my hair nets, too.

I began tacking up. Unfortunately, my daughter and I both have the same brand of girth for our jumping saddles. The difference is that hers is 3" shorter. You can guess which one I had with me. I tugged and pulled and Sarah rolled her eyes and snorted. In desperation I removed the riser pad, and then, in further desperation, took off my fluffy fitted foxhunting saddle pad and rootled in the trailer for something thinner.  I ended up with a square white baby pad with logos embroidered on both sides.

This is not foxhunting appropriate. On the other hand, neither is riding without a girth.

Then it turned out the flash noseband had fallen off my bridle. Flash nosebands aren't really hunt appropriate either, but I still wasn't happy to have lost mine. Then I reached into the trailer tack room to grab my hunt whip, and it wasn't hanging in its spot. I belatedly recalled that I'd moved it into the barn before our final horse trial.

In our hunt you are permitted to ride without a hunt whip, which has a crooked handle and a four-foot long leather lash, because those suckers are expensive, but you are not permitted to hunt without something with which to whack an animal that needs whackin.' I rootled through the trailer tack room again and came up with one of my daughter's eventing crops, fortunately her black one and not the one striped in her colors, lime green and yellow.

By now I was late to mount up, but you could see that coming. I joined the field and murmured apologies to the master for the advertising on my wholly incorrect saddle pad. She graciously forgave me. We cast hounds, and then spent the next three hours wandering around corn fields in a howling wind. The wind dried up all the scent and we didn't chase a thing; Sarah did well until we got back to the trailer, when she snorted, "That's IT?" and proceeded to kick up a fuss.

I went home and did the barn chores thoroughly and well. Then I retired to the house, thumbed through the mail, and thought about the paperwork and housework and laundry. Then I poured myself a glass of wine, got a novel, and took a long hot bath.

Maybe today I'll get my shit together. On the other hand, today was a pretty good day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Of Deer Meat and New York City

Monday my friend Mike brought me a lovely piece of backstrap venison. Last night I cooked it in a manner befitting his generosity--beautifully roasted wrapped in bacon, with a side sauce of mushrooms and garlic and cream. To go with it I roasted some brussel sprouts (I love 'em, much to my family's dismay) and made homemade sweet potato gnocchi. A nice cabernet sauvignon topped off a wonderful meal.

Mike brought the meat just before I went online for my Early Word practice, so I was a minute late to my computer. I apologized, saying (typing, we were online), "my friend just brought me some venison!"

Well. From the reaction of one of those New York City editors, you'd think Mike had dragged a dead deer into my living room and commenced skinning it on the rug. Of course if you went to some swank restaurant in New York--Daniel, say, or Per Se--you'd find venison on the menu, at a pretty hefty price.

Mike's deer was a Kentucky deer, he told me, bigger and wilder than their Tennessee counterparts. He's probably right about the wilder part. On Monday evening we counted seventeen deer in my hayfield, just across the creek from the middle pasture. All does or youngsters, or so Mike said--I don't have as good an eye for antlers as he does. I could have gotten one of those deer with a shotgun from my front porch, not that I own a shotgun.

I do own some moonshine, though. Three glass Mason jars of it, in fact. At least one of those was given to me by the man who mows for me, and at least one by my farrier, but I don't recall the details because those jars are old. I'm frankly afraid to try the stuff, though I've been told flat that the whole thing about moonshine containing methanol is a lie. Apparently you don't actually get much methanol off a proper still, it was just that some moonshiners doctored their brew with methanol to make it more alcoholic.

The things I know. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

EarlyWord Gets The Cat

On Wednesday I'm doing a Live Chat on, which is a website that connects librarians and publishers. I'd never heard of it before I was asked to be on it, but then, I've never heard of a lot of things. It looks very very cool, the sort of site I'd be drawn to by myself: it includes a button where bloggers can request free advance review copies. Oh, my. Because I AM a blogger! (If you could see my office right now you would not think I need more books. On the contrary. One always needs more books.)

Yesterday afternoon I had a practice Live Chat with the three coordinators of the program. We went through how the technology works and ran through some practice questions. One of them was "How many cats do you have?"

I replied honestly: "I have one three-legged cat and one evil cat. I don't really like cats." Then, to demonstrate that I understood how the private message button worked (that means the comments won't air live on the web but can only be seen by the producers), I added a private slur about cats.

One producer told me primly, "Remember, librarians love cats." Then all three posted photos of their cats.

I posted back a photo of my horse Sarah, but was told that for Wednesday I was expected to produce photos of both of my cats.

That might be interesting. Hazel, the evil cat, shows up for food but regards me with extreme skepticism and a healthy dose of aggressive self-defense. (Scout, the three-legged cat, is snuggly. But she sheds like a banshee and I'm allergic to her.)

Please do not bombard me with criticisms about my poor cats. My children love them, so they get plenty of affection. (Ok, so Hazel gets her affection from afar. Trust me, Hazel does not want actual physical affection. This is the cat that when I told the vet I would no longer be bringing her in for vaccinations because it was not worth the injuries I received when trying to stuff her in a cat carry was told by the vet, "Good.") The cats are well cared for, and Hazel is pushing 13 years old, which is pretty good for a barn cat found as a kitten abandoned in a dumpster.

Scout was found in our bushes. My daughter, then around 6 years old, came inside and said, "Mom, Dad, one of the bushes is meowing. What do you think it is?" Scout was born three-legged, and gets around very well.

If you have a question you'd like me to answer on Wednesday's Live Chat, do join in, or ask me now. I'll do my best to answer it, and I promise not to further slander cats.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Holy Day Giving

Yesterday, when I had a little down time at Faith in Action, I went back to our small food pantry and unpacked a recent donation. Now, I'm not calling this donor out, because I understand that s/he was simply clearing out a deceased relative's pantry, but there was some gnarly stuff in those bags. A can of tomatoes with mold on the label. Mayonnaise two years past its expiration date. And, saving the best for last, a jar of marshmallow creme that had separated into two layers, one white and spongelike, the other dark yellow and undeniably solid, with a "use by" date of March 13, 2005.

Meanwhile, over at, it was Holiday Hearts match day. Glennon Doyle, the force behind Momastery, and her group called Together Rising, do charitable stuff all year long, but Holiday Hearts is the biggest. People email requests for Christmas help, none costing more than $100, those requests are vetted, and then, yesterday, they were put up online. Other people then offer to personally fulfill the requests. I kept trying to match myself with a Holiday Hearts request yesterday, but I couldn't do it--every time I tried to post a comment, the listing would change to TAKEN, meaning someone else had got there first.

Momastery put up over 400 requests, and they were all matched in less than 4 hours.

I imagine most of you reading this are going to get lots of holiday giving requests this year. I know for me the flood has already started. Now that crowdfunding is a thing, I've even been getting emails from specific students at my and my husband's alma maters: a Notre Dame student wants to take a medical mission trip, and a Smith student wants to attend a writing conference. Both of these seem more legit than the recent appeal from a 12-year-old who wanted a pony. (You know what? When I was 12, I wanted a pony, too. But I didn't ask the neighbors to buy me one.) Some of you reading this are also needing help. What I hope is that all of us can remember the origin of the word holiday: Holy Day.

This year is a good one for making our giving or getting Holy. For giving with abundance and gratitude, and receiving with abundance and gratitude, the way the Holiday Hearts people seem to have done. (The stories are still up. You can go over to Momastery and read them. Bring Kleenex for the tears you'll shed.) Once upon a time, when we as a family were trying to help some people and an annoying relative kept referring to those people as "the poor," my son, then 13, turned and said, "Please quit calling them the poor. We really don't know whether or not they are poor. All we know is that they're having some trouble, and they need help."

If you're having some trouble this year, accept help. If you're doing better, give help. Be holy and whole, and whatever you do, don't foist your 10-year-old marshmallows on somebody else.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The End Is Near

Yesterday I hit a very exciting point in the first draft of my new novel. It's the opposite of my page-80 doldrums. I've come to the place where the end is near.

It's not here yet, but I can see it from my desk chair. It's wonderfully, terribly exciting. You'll excuse me for not writing a longer blog post; I have limited time this morning and have to pull for the shore.

Meanwhile, another quote from Joanna Bourne's Rogue Spy--this is just a phrase--"close as inkle weavers." I swooned. It's perfect, and it's a tricky little bit of historical knowledge, and how does she know it?

Meanwhile also, I at last have a tentative title for this new book that might actually work. It's the sequel to The War That Saved My Life, and right now I'm calling it The War I Finally Won. Keep in mind that many--nay, most--of my novels go off to my publisher wearing titles such as Kim's New Book That Needs a Title. Progress, baby.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Best Pony Clubbers in the Whole Wide World

I'm still trying to figure out if my pony club members are exceptional, or if I just see them that way.

A year ago I stood up at the USEA Meeting in defense of my kids. Somehow the open town hall meeting on the future of eventing had turned into a slog against kids-these-days, and pony club kids were singled out as being lazy, disinterested, and mounted on very expensive horses they were unable to ride. This went so against my experiences, against my children, that I got up and made some sort of speech. Looking back, I don't remember precisely what I said or exactly why I felt compelled to say it, except that keeping my mouth shut has never been one of my virtues. I do remember saying that based on my experience, if we want kids to be part of the eventing community, we have to offer them community. That what my pony clubbers have right now is each other, and that that has been the strongest force for good in our club.

Last year, a private donation let us bring the phenomenal Cathy Wieschhoff to our summer camp. Our camp is already the single favorite event on our calendar. The kids keep their ponies on my farm and sleep in my basement. In the evenings I show them where the showers are, feed them, and leave them alone. The first night they goof off. The second night they work. We hold our spring rating on the third day of camp, so the second night is one giant member-directed ratings prep, with everyone not rating either quizzing or cleaning tack for those who are. Moving the rating to camp may be the single best thing we've ever done, because it invests the entire club in the success of the tests. Each kid that passes is cheered and high-fived and group-hugged--and, because of that, we now have non-rating members showing up at our fall rating, too, just to pay back the love and the tack cleaning.

Anyway, here in the sticks we don't get a lot of world-class instruction, so when Cathy came to camp my kids were on point. They were neat and prepared and respectful, and they rode hard. They loved Cathy and she loved them. At the end of camp I told them if we wanted her back we'd have to raise a bunch of money. They got busy and raised it.

Our annual fun show, which we had a couple of weeks ago, usually gives us most of our operating funds for the year. This year, the entire membership worked as one--parents, too--from the 8-year-old who spent a long hot day resetting the trail class after each competitor to the grad student who came back just to work registration, from every single family pitching in for the concessions to the former club member who judged the show for free. We didn't make our operating funds for the year. We made our operating funds plus Cathy Wieschhoff returning plus repaying the testing fees for our new HA and HB members. Then we sold Yankee Candles so we'd be able to do even more fun things.

A couple of my older members came to me with a plan to revamp our unmounted meetings. One of my C2s has an idea about how to best prepare our C2s, all seven of them, for the C3 rating.

Oh, and last year my club worked Rolex. Only two of them had ever been to Rolex before. Most didn't really know what Rolex was. They do now. William Fox-Pitt tipped his hat to one of our younger members, who'd had a really crummy year up until then. He thanked her for her work and she'll never forget that, not as long as she lives. She went on to win her division at the D event rally. She has eventing stars in her eyes.

Best of all, as we were cleaning up from the horse show, I saw two little girls struggling to carry a heavy box between them. One of them was our newest member, just joined; the other, a child I didn't really know. "Thank you for helping," I said to her.

"Oh, I have to help," she said, earnestly. "I have to work. I'm gonna be in Pony Club."

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Little Riff on the Fourth Chapter of John

Jesus left Judea and went back to Galilee. The easy way to do that was to cut through Samaria, but Jews never cut through Samaria, they went around it. They hated Samaritans. Really, really despised them. Still, Jesus walked right through Samaria, making his disciples come along. They stopped in a city and the disciples went to find food. Jesus, alone, sat by a well. He was thirsty but didn't have a bucket. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, he asked her for a drink. She was shocked that he would even talk to her, much less ask her for a favor. They talked for awhile, and then Jesus said this:
"...a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit,and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
That's pretty significant, as there are very few places in the Bible where Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah. Usually it's important to look at the person to whom he is revealing himself. The disciples come back, surprised that Jesus is talking to this woman, but by now they've learned to keep their mouths shut at least some of the time. She goes and gathers all the village together, telling them about this person, this Messiah, and they go to Jesus and ask him to stay with them. So he stayed in their village for two days.

It's hard for us to really understand this in modern times, because Samaritan doesn't really resonate with us the way it would have with the ancient Jews and first Christians. But sometimes I see the antipathy many Christians have toward our gay brothers and sisters, and I wonder if the story couldn't be retold like this:

Jesus, walking from one side of New York City to another, chose to walk through a part of town where lots and lots of gay people lived. The disciples were a little wary--they'd been taught all their lives to despise gay people. Jesus stopped at a street corner. The disciples went into a little bodega to get some sandwiches. A woman came walking down the street, drinking water from a bottle. She had short spiked hair and a big GAY PRIDE button on her label; she looked like a lesbian. Jesus asked her for a drink.

The gay woman looked at him in shock and said, "You want a drink?" Then she noticed the cross around his neck, and the little fish pin on his lapel. She said, "But aren't you a Christian? I'm gay, I'm married to another woman, you're supposed to hate me. Won't you die of cooties or something if you drink out of my bottl?."

Jesus said, "Not only will I drink from your bottle, I want you to drink from mine. I'm here to bring salvation to everyone, even the people my disciples, in their ignorance and prejudice, despise. I'm here for all humanity. I'm God."

The gay woman went and found a bunch of her friends. She told them that it turned out they had a place in Christianity after all. The friends, grateful, asked Jesus to come and stay in their homes, meet their families, eat their food. Jesus did. And he brought his disciples along with Him, whether they liked it or not. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Passionate Love for Joanna Bourne

Since I went on at some length about why I couldn't get past page 2 of a historical fiction romance the other day, I thought I'd show the flip side (that's this week's theme) by going on at length about some historical fiction romances I love.

Anything and everything written by Joanna Bourne.

Her books have the cheesiest covers and the tackiest titles--well, not all, but really? My Lord and Spymaster? Blech. The Forbidden Rose? Okay, after that they're not so bad. The Spymaster's Lady. The Black Hawk. And, released on Tuesday, Rogue Spy.

I was so impatient for the release of Rogue Spy that not only did I buy it on Kindle (so I could get it immediately upon release day, and not have to wait for pesky mail delivery) but I was tempted to set my alarm for midnight just to read the first few pages. I didn't, because I know myself: I would have kept reading, straight through, and been a wreck the whole day. (Ask me about Harry Potter #7.) Then I had to drive to Knoxville on Tuesday with the horse--it took the whole day, my Kindle sitting in my purse just waiting for a moment when I had nothing to do--alas. In the evening, though, I dove into that book like you'd dive into a swimming pool on a sultry August day, with a run and a jump, deep and clean.

All of her books are set during the Napoleonic Wars, featuring at their core a group of British spies. The five books so far are not sequential--they weave in and out of the same time period so that the main character in one shows up as a side character in another. They're romances in that they feature adults in relationships, but they're character-driven with wildly intricate plots, crisp writing, and very solid history. (Not only can I not find mistakes, I usually learn something.)

It's not just me that thinks so. The Black Hawk won a passel of awards, and Rogue Spy has a star from Kirkus and a spot of the 2014 BBoTY list.

Here's just a bit. It's a senior spy talking to the two elderly aunts, themselves codebreakers, of our heroine, Cami, who's actually an imposter possibly working for the French:

Galba set his hands on the desk, making two temples of them. "Vi, much as I might like to hand her over to you and return to the status quo, you can't simply take her back to Brodemere in a handbasket. There are serious matters at stake. And a major complication."

"Which is?" Lily raised eyebrows.
"She has attacked and seduced one of my agents."
"Has she?" Lily said.
"It can't be much of an attack if he was in any state to be seduced afterward," Violet observed.
Lily murmured, "It seems so unlike her."
"The attacking or the seducing?" Violet asked.

"Neither." Lily frowned. "But doing it to an agent. So odd of her to become involved with a Service agent while she's fleeing...whatever it is she's fleeing. One does not seduce agents in the middle of a desperate enterprise. I don't understand at all." She turned to Galba. "Which agent? Not Hawker, surely. I would regret doing something violent to Hawker."

Galba said, "Paxton."
Lily exchanged glances with Violet. "Matters are a bit more serious,then."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Flip Side.

Up until yesterday, in the two years that I've owned Sarah, my big grey horse, I had never been grateful that she did not have EPM. (For the Muggles: Equine Protozoal Myelitis, a very serious neurological disease spread by, of all things, possum poop.) That changed yesterday, when we concluded a four-hour examination at the University of Tennessee Equine Rehabilitation Center by injecting her hocks. (For the Muggles: treating a problem that's both very common and very likely to go away.) I spent the whole rest of the night feeling ambivalent about the election returns (I regard most politicians the way I do most possums, not bothering me in any personal way but somewhat icky all the same.) and very, very grateful that Sarah did not have EPM. We are all grateful today. Even the neurologists at UT were practically giddy when then turned Sarah over to the lameness crew.

So then I decided to look at the flip side of my year:

I was down in Florida in February, riding for two weeks in beautiful weather on beautiful farms, and being trained by two of the best eventers in the business, and that I have the opportunity to do that is nothing short of amazing. When Sarah showed slight--very slight--signs of lameness, some of the best equine vets in the country happened to be right there on the farm at the time, and did a full workup, and we found the problem right away. We were able to start treatment immediately. She immediately responded. Wow. My daughter got to join me for a few days, too, and we sang karaoke, and my daughter did not put the video on Facebook. I'm grateful for all of that.

My daughter acquitted herself well at the Pony Club National Championships. She has the quirkiest little horse in the world, and somehow they suit each other perfectly, and I'm still not sure how that happened. When I got knocked out, my daughter stepped up like a hero, keeping me from moving and also preventing the EMTs from cutting my safety vest off by showing them how it could be undone at the shoulders.

My parents were on hand, since they'd come to watch their granddaughter ride, and that meant that my mom rode in the ambulance with me, where she got to answer two questions (What happened? and Where's Sarah?) three thousand times. My dad brought my daughter once she'd taken care of the horses (with help from one of the HM judges, whose name we never knew). I've sometimes had a rocky relationship with my dad, and now I have the sweet memory of him getting a warm washcloth and washing the blood off my face while I was still semi-conscious. My mom and daughter alerted our network of family and friends, and the resulting outpouring of love was a huge comfort to me. My nephews insisted on Facetiming me so they could see I was really okay. Our lovely pony club friends took care of all of our tack and then left a soft comfort-food dinner for us in our hotel room (Soft for my injured mouth.). (My poor husband and son landed from an international flight, learned that I was in an ambulance en route to the hospital, and then had to turn off their phones for two hours while they went through customs, which was agony for them, but I'm always very grateful to them, too.)

I recovered from my head injury without incident. I had been wearing a helmet. My horse was fine.

My Holston Pony Club team was bloody brilliant at their event rally; I was so, so proud.

At this most recent horse trials, it was not snowing, as it was on our farm at home. My daughter had to ride on the first anniversary of a tragedy that shook her high school community to pieces, and it was very hard, and she persevered. Her dressage sucked, but her jumping was beautiful. Not adequate--beautiful.

Best of all, I listened to my horse. She was telling me she wasn't right, and I heard her, and I got off and called it quits. And then I was able to get help, good help, immediately. I live in the sticks, in the middle of nowhere, and it still amazes me that I can get to a nationally-ranked equine center in two hours. Sarah's the fourth horse I've taken to UT (seizures, suspensory surgery, eye ulcer) and every time I've come away grateful for the combination of veterinary knowledge and horse love shown by the staff there. For Sarah it was like a day at the spa. She was surrounded by people who pet her and loved her and gave her cookies, and only occasionally made her trot or poked her with needles.

I am grateful for my big grey horse and her goofy charm. I am immeasurably thankful for my family and friends. When you look at the flip side, 2014 was actually a pretty good year.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Vet, Ambulance, Vet: My Eventing Season in a Nutshell

To recap: I went down to Florida last February, and discovered that Sarah had injured her right hind annular ligament. Ultrasounded it 3 times, spent spring doing rehab. Recovered fully. Registered to compete at River Glen, but first took advantage of my daughter's attendance at USPC Championships/Festival to ride in some clinics myself. Got popped out of the tack, inconveniently landed head first, and spent over six times as much money on the ambulance ride to the hospital as I did on the CT scan once I got there. Sidelined for River Glen. Recovered. Went to the VA Starter Trials/Old Dominion Regional Event Rally, where in addition to being co-host of the rally, DC of a competing club, coach of a rider, driver and chaperone of a second rider, and mother of a third, I bopped around Beginner Novice because I was a little desperate to get back in the saddle/start box.

I had Book Stuff to do on other weekends this fall when I might have evented, so it came down to last weekend, the Virginia Horse Trials, to put some sort of pleasant ending to the season. My daughter was also competing, my husband came and brought out dog, and my friend Michelle had paid for a party tack stall, so it was all looking pretty fun, until Thursday, when Sarah threw one of her semiannual fits about hating dressage, or hating me being the boss of her, or both--whatever. She does have temper tantrums occasionally but they aren't that hard to weather.

Saturday, though--Saturday she didn't feel tantrummy as much as she felt unyielding. She was NOT going to be round, she would not relax. Our dressage has vastly improved since spring and I'd had pretty good hopes for our test, until about fifteen minutes beforehand when we were getting absolutely nowhere in the warmup. My coach thought her back end looked stiff. My husband said she wasn't steering correctly. I couldn't fix it, so I gritted my teeth and did the best I could, which was really stinking lousy. Bad enough that I got sympathy from the dressage judge. Her comments were, "Capable horse not on aids today. Nice effort. Good luck." If she'd been from the South she would have added, "Bless your heart."

I was pretty angry for a few minutes. I fumed and made faces and used bad words. But I had to show jump in an hour, so mostly I just changed tack and snuck out to watch my daughter ride her test. Then we went into show jumping warmup.

Now Sarah is a big part-draft grey mare, and she is more than capable of throwing a large-scale hissy fit. Some days when she gets mad, she actually stomps her feet. But she loves to jump, and she knows the Virginia Horse Park, and she loves to jump--show jumping wasn't going to be dressage, for sure, and it wasn't in that I felt how hard she was trying in warm up, but she was still tight through the jaw, neck, and back, and  she wasn't quite steering well through the turns, and her back end wasn't quite right and her jumps were off too. It was all subtle--no TD would have eliminated me--but it was wrong. I pulled up, concerned, and saw the same concern on my coach's face. She said, "She didn't look like this at the starter trials." I said, "She didn't feel like this at the pony club show last week." We looked at each other for another moment, and then I dismounted and ran up the irons. I thought maybe I was making something out of nothing, finding a problem when there was only a bad attitude, but I've been mistaken the other direction before and I won't do that again. I'd rather be cautious than stupid.

My trainer repeated that Sarah's back end looked funky. I had a chiropractor already scheduled for today, Monday. We came home. My chiropractor is also a vet, and he's convinced that Sarah's problems are neurological, not skeletal. We're drawing blood to test for EPM tomorrow.

So that was 2014: vet, ambulance, vet. I'll pin my hopes on 2015. I know it could be worse, but I'm hoping that it's better.