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Buy your kid the pony for Christmas

Especially if you think he/she is on the fast track to becoming a little tart in the next few years. (Tart is British for skank, or as my grandmother called me a “run-around.”)

I asked for a pony year after year as a child. My dad always put it down to some sort of financial thing (I now know it’s not that we couldn’t afford it, it’s that he would have done a million other things with his money than light it on fire at a stable yard), even after I calculated that if he just quit smoking we could certainly afford a horse with those funds. That of course was a mistake…

 

Now that I have a horse, yes, it is a MASSIVE “waste” of money in comparison to the cost of other hobbies (although I’m sure if I took up yachting that would make horsing look quite affordable). I put waste in quotes because who can decide a waste? Owning my own horse has given me so much; it’s a dream realized, it builds my confidence, it gives me goals to work towards, it challenges me, it has given me a range of skills, it has opened the door to a community and friends that I feel a part of and am so glad to have these relationships…and it’s just something I enjoy. Even when I’m hating it, I’m loving it. I love, love, love my stupid, dirty, half polar bear, lazy-arsed, nipping horse.

Who me?!

And I promise that getting your kid a pony will provide your child all of those benefits as well (as long as they stay interested and are passionate). It will also teach them about commitment, delayed gratification, patience, being humble, and relationship building. But, as a dad at the barn said to me, “If that (having a horse) is the price of keeping her off the streets getting into trouble, its money well spent!”

 

That my friends, is the real reason getting your kid a pony isn’t a waste…it’s an investment in your child’s future! It keeps them from being a hoodlum with their friends, staying out drinking, getting knocked up!

I had my second dressage competition last Sunday. Know what I did Saturday night? Spent the evening cleaning my tack, cleaning my boots, and getting everything I would need together and sorted. I didn’t even have a glass of wine because I knew I had to get up early the next day!

And on Sunday I was up early, scrubbing my little fingers raw trying to get my shit-brown Irish bog pony to a gleaming white, handsome Irish Draft-cross dressage king. And then there’s the plaiting of his mane, the suiting him up to travel, the loading, the unloading, the warm up, the 5 min competition, and then back home, un-plaiting, cleaning out the trailer, turning him out….

Not to mention all the practice, lessons, and hours spent at the barn preparing for this outing.

That my friend, is why if your child has an interest in equines, buy ‘em the damn horse! They simply won’t have the time or the energy to act a fool and get into trouble.

If little Suzie’s dressing skanky, she’ll have to cover her ta-ta’s to ride. And even if they were out…there’s not a whole lot of boys at any yard- a safe zone for your daughter and her ta-tas! And she’ll figure out real soon that it’s hard enough to balance on a moving ton of beast when sober, best not to try it drunk or hung-over. And obviously, she’d have to kiss her Badminton dreams goodbye if she were to get knocked up. Trust me parents, the safest place for little Suzie to be is on the back of a horse…so make sure Santa ponies up (quite literally) this year.

Afterword: Little Suzie might still get knocked up or start skanking around with her hoodlum friends. In which case, selling her beloved first pony seems to be just about the best punishment I can image.

A Horsey Update & Request

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted (I have started my Indonesia recap I swear!) but nothing like some time sensitive material to push me on a typing frenzy. I wanted to do a horsey update…because behind the scenes it’s been a hell of a journey. If you follow me on Instagram you’d be at least somewhat aware that Hamish got injured. In fact, he got injured the day after I posted my last horse post (Finding the Perfect Horse). Reiterating there is no perfect horse, all horses are stupid, and save yourself the heartache and trouble and just light a wad of £5 notes on fire anytime you’re yearning for a beast of the equine variety.

On May 20, the night before I was leaving to my girls trip to Portugal (recapped here), I was called out of my manicure appointment as I was walking into it, that Hamish was cut and bleeding, it looked quite deep, and the vet was called out. By the time I made it there, the staff was already doing a trot-up with the vet (of course he gets hurt the one time I’m in town with 5pm rush-hour traffic). The vet was hopefully at first that since he didn’t seem too lame, that perhaps it was just a cut. But because the cut did go all the way to the bone, she wanted to follow up the next week with X-rays.

horse fractured cannon splint bone

After unsuccessful attempts at giving him stitches (regardless of the amount of drugs we pumped into him, he wouldn’t keep his leg still) we did what we could with staples, and wrapped him up. This starting the first of twice weekly vet callouts to check on Hamish’s leg, and redress it. Not to mention the 3 (or was it 4?) rounds of X-rays and the taking out and putting back in of staples for said x-rays and 6 weeks of box rest. Box rest that was supposed to go on another 2 weeks but by this point, my newly turned 6 year old was doing more damage to himself by absolutely losing his shit, trying to canter and buck in his stable, kicking doors, and scalping himself along the top of the stable door. Truth be told, I was elated he was deemed too crazy for more box rest because by this point, I had become terrified of my horse.

“Why would you be scared of little ole me?” This was within the first week of box rest when he was slightly amused with being an inside pony.

So what happened? It seems he was kicked in the field by one of his mates at such a force his two leg bones (the cannon and splint) knocked together and chunks of bone fractured off of each. There were 3 little chunks, and one big one. Over time the little chunks absorbed and bone re-grew where the biggest chunk was taken out, but the biggest chunk that came out wouldn’t absorb. Last we saw, it had floated around to the side of the cannon bone and calcified itself onto that. Visually, he has a lump and would never win an in-hand show. But somehow, after 2 months off, and then a slow 3-4 weeks of building him back up and into fitness, he’s better than ever!

“Of course I am better than ever, I am SUPER HAMISH!” Seriously though, this was his get up on competition morning to keep his corn rows in place, his legs not bloodied, and his body kept overall white-ish.

And why was I scared of him? To be fair, Hamish was a star at box-rest…especially considering he just turned 6 in his 2nd week of box rest. I did my best to keep him amused. I used a treat ball for him to kick around and get treats out of (may or may not have been the reason that large chunk of bone moved), I hid carrots in his hay nets, I put apples in his water bucket, I gave him a saltlick…. but my normally cheeky wee chap became a bit of an angry, aggressive, lunatic by the end. In the second week when we realized it would be awhile, we took his shoes off…but I still needed to pick out his feet because he’s standing in wet bedding. (He got mucked out 2-3x a day, but he’s still going to be standing in wet bedding a large amount of the time in box rest.) The last 2 weeks, that didn’t happen at all because he would try to slam me into a corner and was threatening to kick. I couldn’t even turn my back on him mucking out the last 2 weeks because he would put his head down, shake it from side to side like a wild man, and start “skipping” (to me it was less skip, more bull charge) towards me to “play” (kill me.)   It doesn’t take a genius to see that this would knock a first time horse owner’s confidence. I was convinced he’d never be the same again and all the hard work of the past few months were lost.

Pissed off, over box rest, and really over people messing with his leg despite pretty bandages.

It also didn’t help, that I rode the first 2 weeks he was injured, than took a month off riding. I was too tired from being a slave to his box rest and vet appointments…then when I started riding again (on school ponies) I was a timid, weak, pathetic, ragdoll…. a passenger my instructor would say. Poor guy- it took some deep talks to get my head out of my ass, grit my teeth, and man up.

But after all that…. Hamish and I competed in our first dressage test! We didn’t even get last!! When I got a horse, I didn’t really have competing on my mind…I just didn’t think it was something I’d ever be good enough to do. Let alone the logistics… but low and behold, we entered the lowest level (Intro Dressage) which is just walk and trot (good thing because I actually wasn’t cantering on him at that point) and we get a 62.17%. I know if you’re not horsey, that sounds awful…but Charlotte Dujardin won gold at the Olympics with 93.857% and silver was 89.071%…no one is batting 100’s.

A brief glimpse into why I didn’t score better- Hamish decided he was a giraffe with his head.

We certainly do look the part at least.

The day after my dressage competition we’ve started cracking on cantering, and are looking at the next level up tests- Prelim. Not sure when I’ll have the confidence to compete but I like having a goal and working towards it. It’s definitely filling the void marathon training has left.

Supper chuffed with my boy!

So that’s my horsey update….now for the request. I have been nominated as one of 3 female finalists to be the Brand Ambassador for Country Ways. Country Ways is a country/equestrian store in Aberdeen Scotland.   The final decision is based on votes though- so I need your help. All you have to do is a) Have a facebook account and b) Like my picture from the following link: CLICK HERE

This is the picture that you need to like on facebook!! Photo by: Christine Jackson Photography

 

You don’t even have to like the store Country Ways! Easy peasy. If you could help me out and like the picture of me & Stella…and even share the post if you can, encouraging others to vote for me- I’d really appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

Girls weekend in Porto

Man, it’s tough committing to blogging. I’ve got an injured pony (more on that in another post), an injured body (damn my chronically dislocating shoulder) and a lot going on…but damn it, I’m going to keep trying. If not for anyone else but my mother who persistently asks me where’s my next post.  So here it is…which is some text, yes, but a whole lot of pictures.  That’s what happens when you go on a girls trip with a bunch of photogenic gals, one of which is an actual photographer (Check out Christine Jackson Photography HERE and get excited because we’re having a family shoot in the fall with her).  Needless to say, she wasn’t in most pictures but taking them…but if it’s just a shitty iphone pic it’s mine.  I tried not to steal her gorgeous normal pictures but just ones of me cheesin’.

Yes, these is me cheesin’…but aren’t we adorbs?

 

Can you believe this was my first ever girls trip? If you know me well, that’s actually not too surprising. I’ve never rolled deep with a posse of ladies but rather like to keep my friends separate (I’m an extroverted introvert and groups of people make me feel like I need to perform). We had a group of 6 ladies for a short weekend trip (though slightly adjusted a day because of flights) flying out of Edinburgh to Porto directly on Saturday evening, and getting back late Tuesday night (11pm arrival, and then the 2 hour+ ride home to Aberdeen). It was a good mix of ladies, 3 moms and 3 unspoiled by motherhood (ha!).

This was my second time to Portugal (see first time recap HERE) and I was excited to see another part of the country. I’m actually going for my 3rd trip to Portugal this fall with E and my mother back to Lisbon…there’s just a lot of love about this country so I’m not minding the duplicate trips at all! Porto as a city is just as hilly as Lisbon, and like Lisbon is against water (though the River Douro, not the Atlantic) and maintains a quaint feel with pedestrian only streets and tiled buildings.

 

This trip we had a secret weapon…Lillian, you might know her from The Smalls Abroad, who is actually Portuguese. Born in Canada, but her extended family is in Portugal she holds dual citizenship, and her parents still own a house there, and her fluency was so helpful! It’s just nice to feel like you aren’t getting ripped off for being a tourist when you have a native speaker with you. Which reminds me that this is actually the 2nd time I traveled with a secret weapon native speaker…but the last time I have YET to write about (2 years post)…our trip to Croatia. Alas…

The Smalls Abroad and Hot Dogs to Haggis

 

Porto is obviously known for making Port wine. And while the port wine is made a bit further away from the city centre of Porto, planning in some winery tours is a must. We booked a private tour through EcoTours Portugal for 71 euros a person, which had one poor man drive our gaggle around, hitting up two wineries with lunch in between (lunch wasn’t included in the price but tours and tasting were).  Even if you don’t like Port…you’ll learn a lot and the views are amazing.

Our very lucky tour guide!

 

What a view, huh?

we cheese so well!

I have to say, I wasn’t ever a fan of port before, but the trip changed my mind a bit. I think a combination of trying new things as well as a phenomenal dessert pairing helped. In the end, here’s what port I found I liked.

  • Rose’ port – because I’m totally a #basicbitch. Rose’ and Slay all day!
  • P&T – I’ll never abandon gin, but a white port and tonic is a refreshing drink.
  • Graham’s 20-year port – Was it the dessert I had with it? Was it the 7 bottles of wine before it? We’ll never be sure, but I thought it was delicious.

Diane was also quite fond of Graham’s 20 year

Unfortunately for our little jaunt, we got in late Saturday night and because we didn’t know when we’d be checked in and all that, didn’t have a dinner reservation so unfortunately had to wind up eating at such a tourist trap of a place…. the food wasn’t awful but it was just meat and cheese and over priced sangria. Tip: If you’re in Porto, when go down to the main square on the river, while looking at the river, the places to your right tend to be more authentic (They are up on a ledge from the river) while to the left with their seating at river level are more touristy. Portugal has a great food culture but our only two dinners being on a Sunday and Monday night really limited where we could go eat, as those are the days most restaurants are closed. We even had a difficult time finding a little grocery store that was open on Sunday to get our breakfast essentials.

Even though it was over priced, they lit our sausage on fire so points for that.

We ended up eating at Vinhas d’alhos on Sunday night after we had walked past it on Saturday night trying to find anywhere that would take us. Most nights (perhaps every) they do a live Fado. Now what’s Fado? The google tells me it’s popular folk music originated in Portugal. It’s included as a UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Fado comes from the Latin word fatum (fate in English). It is most commonly performed over dinner and bounces between love and death and sadness…with silly little songs. A great experience to say the least.

Another reason I would recommend Vinhas d’alhos (specifically if you’re a group of ladies) is it seems they only hire cute male servers. I mean, they’re little men (I am a strict 6’3” or above type of gal) but when you’re sitting down you can’t really tell their height and they are all just so charming and cute. The food was good, not mind blowing, but they made great wine recommendations, you have a view of the river, and we got a welcome drink of Port and tonic.

Our last night we went across the river, which actually isn’t in Porto, but across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. In this area there are a lot of Port Cellars and while we originally planned a tour + tasting…bagged it and just went for the meal. It’s kind of like whisky distillery tours…once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen em all. I have to say, the food here is amazing, and the view is even better as you’re looking over Porto from high above. There is a big patio that hosts some couches for pre-dinner drinks, as well as has a glassed in section with tables for dinner. It got a bit cool at night, but I believe you could open up the doors/windows on a nice night and be practically eating al fresco. And to be fair, the interior it top notch…but since we’re stuck inside Aberdonians, we wanted out! This was a pricey (for Portugal) meal but I thought it was excellent…and even with about 5 bottles of wine, an appetizer, main and dessert (2 desserts for some as previously mentioned), AND port pairing with dessert, AND tip (which isn’t necessary in Portugal but for such good service we went with it) it was £70 a person.

We had perfect weather.

View from Graham’s/Vinum

A much better than my shitty iphone camera skills shot by Christine

And on the subject of food…make sure you try pasteis de nata for breakfast…or snack…or anytime you see them. A flakey shell with a sort of vanilla custard inside…drool.Other traditional foods to try:

Grilled Octopus

Bacalhau (salted cod fish – can be served a 1,000 different ways)

Alheira – a smoked bread and meat sausage, when asked what kind of meats? The response was, “all”

Maybe not traditional, but have you ever seen me so happy? Ice cream for the win!

To me the allure of Portugal is friendly people, warm climate, pretty cities built into hills against bodies of water, good food and wine…. and all that for SUPER CHEAP. I mean, I think I ate more on this trip than any other holiday (some people in our group might have even ordered two desserts on multiple occasions…) and we averaged 7 bottles of wine a day…. AND IT WAS CHEAP AF. And just reiterating, it was really good, fresh, seafood and yummy, local wines. What’s not to like? I’m already looking forward to my next trip.

One more selfie before I go…

Finding the Perfect Horse…

Is a bunch of bullshit. How else do you think I’d wind up with this beast?!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Hamish…. most of the time.   Well, those first 3 months I didn’t. It was a combination of he was is a bit of an asshole and the fact that I didn’t want get too attached in case it was to be determined his asshole-ness was too much for me to handle that we weren’t a good fit and I’d have to sell him on. If horses were like clothes I’d be wearing him with the price tag tucked in just in case. I’ve finally moved on from that point, but sometimes I still have my doubts.

Originally, I was looking for something older. A “schoolmaster” as they say. Maybe around 11 years old, but considered all the way up to an 18 year old. Something who can do a course of wee jumps and show me the ropes. Something kind and forgiving that will take care of their rider. And what I got was a cheeky, green 5 year old that’s a real “chancer” as they say. To be fair, Hamish does seem to be a pretty honest boy and quite forgiving of me which is really impressive…I digress.

My last horse post was about how deciding to get a horse wasn’t a decision I took lightly and why/how I decided to get that horse. This post will go a bit more in depth on just how much of a process it was to get a horse. And even after this wordy post (really should get an editor) you’ll most likely have no idea of the HOURS spent weekly on: trolling horse sale pages, reaching out to sellers, chasing down videos, emailing my livery yard manager potential ponies, driving across Scotland, and crying (so. many. tears.) that was done in the horse search process.

I started horse shopping July 19th, 2016. I got Hamish November 24, 2016. 4 months doesn’t sound like that long of a time…but it was. Facebook sale pages don’t sort by date added, so I was literally spending 3-4 hours a day combing through the various Scotland horses for sale pages and reaching out to sellers to get answers to my initial questions. My full kind of list of questions was as follows:

  • How long have they had horse?
  • Why selling?
  • Does it have a birth passport or is age estimated on passport?
  • Does the horse live in or out?
  • How is it to hack on own/in company?
  • Did they vet it when they bought it?
  • Does it come with tack?
  • Does it travel in trailer/lorry or both?
  • Who are the horses farrier and vet?
  • Is the owner a member of a pony club/riding club?
  • Does the horse have any insurance exclusions?
  • Has it competed, if so in which disciplines?
  • What name does it compete under?
  • Is it shod all round?
  • What type of bit is it ridden in?
  • Has it carried a variety of riders before?
  • How does it behave in group situations – lessons/hacks

If it seems like the horse would be at least kind of a potential fit (doesn’t need to live in, okay to shoe/vet, doesn’t need a Dutch gag bit), I would then ask for some videos of it on the flat, and hopefully jumping. I would then assemble the answers and the videos to send on to my yard manager (YM) to look over and tell me what she thought.

I found 28 different facebook conversations when I searched “bit ridden” as it was one of the most basic questions I was guaranteed to ask. And a couple of those conversation threads were dealers so I had contacted them about multiple horses over the months. I’d guestimate at least 5-7 others wanted to speak on the phone so no record of that conversation.

In the next step of sending videos on to be judged by someone who knows just a bit more than my, “Yep, has four legs and a tail” I see that I sent YM 23 videos of different ponies. Most of these videos came back with a reason why the horse wasn’t a good fit for me. For example:

  • Too buzzy
  • Too small
  • Too big
  • Too green
  • Too on the forehand
  • Too short of neck with too long of back

The list could go on…. I wish I could I explain to you why the short neck with long back is a no go…but alas, I can’t. And to be honest Hamish has a short neck! But I’ll just trust the expert. Some of the 23 ponies that got a video sent were ones that I did end up riding. In some situations they sounded good enough on paper or others were last minute and convenient to where I was to crack on and get my own video (you’d be amazing how many sellers refuse to send you a video for some reason), or if I hadn’t heard back from YM but was feeling cheeky and just went for it.  Because that’s a risk in itself.

Here’s just a sampling of ponies I looked at…you have no idea…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within that grouping of 23 ponies that got video emails, twice I got rejected! As in the owner told me no. As if finding a horse wasn’t stressful and upsetting enough…throw in a little rejection for good measure. One horse that seemed a real school master, ex competition horse that was looking for a quieter life and was ideal on paper – the owner demanded to see a video of me riding (after multiple emails and phone calls) before she’d arrange me to come up. After I sent my video she iced me out and didn’t reply to my emails or answer my calls. To be fair, I’m a shit rider. But in my defense, I wasn’t going into this alone. Sucks for her though as I saw her horse listed for months and months after I was rejected. Beggars can’t be choosers hoe!

I got one other solid rejection, I mean really solid. I went out to see him with one of my instructors. Horse was a lot bigger than I anticipated and I had to ride him in a field (which I’m not used to). Now is the time to note just how nervous I am trying out horses. SO NERVOUS. As a shit rider normally, even my instructor commented just how extra shit and nervous I was when we were driving back. I didn’t love the horse but was tired of searching and when it was decided he was quite sensible, but YM wanted to see him inside a school (as he was pretty big and stuffy) I reached out to see if it was possible to arrange him to come visit the riding school. This time I at least got a response…and it was something along the lines of they didn’t think I was experienced enough for him. Even though I told them how much help I’d be getting, lessons on him, support, and brought an instructor for god’s sake.

There was one more rejection when I said it was a livery yard and riding club. I guess sometimes there is “working livery” where your horse is used in lessons as a school horse to get discounted/free livery. And this girl refused to believe that I would be the only one riding him…oh well.

Also in those 4 months the YM also put an appeal out on all her facebook pages to find a horse for me, as well as on a trip to the Ireland/Cavan Auctions where she was horse shopping for a lot of horses, but also keeping an eye out for a horse for me. Still nothing.

Then there was the time I thought I found my horse- She’s a Lady. I saw her on a facebook group page. The guy that was selling her was a right dodger….but I decided I was just being a snob. For the first time in test-driving horses I jumped on and did a little walk, trot, and even stepped it up to a canter. I could have easily gotten on this horse and started popping jumps. She was a schoolmaster. I showed YM the videos, told her I was pretty smitten and she agreed that she looked like a nice type and the price was fair. I did mention that she seemed a little girth shy…so it was determined that I should set up a vetting, go down and ride her again, groom her, tack her up, watch her alone in a stable to see how she acts, make sure the girth thing isn’t a issue, hack her away from the stable alone…spend some real time with her.

Well to start, after my 3 hour drive I got there to find out she had lost a shoe which means I was unable to do the vetting (the imbalance would throw her off and make her seem lame even if she was sound). So I was pretty pissed off. That’s when the dodger got even dodgier. Because of course then he insisted I didn’t need the vetting. And that’s when I learned just how girth shy she was…. when I went near her girth area to groom her she started stomping her feet and twisting around to bite me. I realized I wasn’t fully confident in tacking her up so asked the seller to do it and I’d watch. He first tried insisting we tie her up first, but I didn’t want a horse that HAD to be tied up to tack. He then suggested she get tacked up outside the stabl for some reason. We went back and forth. Needless to say, as soon as he reached under to get her girth she kicked out and became a monster. As a wanna-be first time horse owner, her behavior terrified me. I called the YM to give an update of how my morning was going and it was decided that a) this guy was dodgy AF and b) She’s a Lady is extremely girth shy and unpredictable and she might become She’s a Monster if forced into box rest for a few weeks. It was the right decision, but sometimes even now I think back a little sad I didn’t get her just for the been there, done that part of her.

So, the next trip to Ireland for a sales auction (with a list of about 5 horses to look for already) I went too. I’m really not sure if I was invited, invited myself or told I was going. Whatever the case, the morning we flew out I had serious regrets. I had gotten back from 3 weeks in the US (which was my MIL’s death, running a marathon, playing nurse for my mother’s hip surgery, and the Saturday before leaving- my MIL’s funeral) on Monday and flew out to Ireland on Tuesday. With 3 people I barely knew (despite the 23 videos sent to my yard manager I really didn’t know her too well). I was honestly exhausted and sick to my stomach with nerves. Probably not a great start.

First ones in both mornings….we won’t miss a horse!

I’m told an obligatory photo…

We got in on Tuesday afternoon and would be at the auctions all day Wednesday and Thursday, flying back Friday early afternoon. It’s crazy, fun experience that I recommend to anyone…and there’s horses for all abilities. Ponies in my budget, but I also saw a bid win at £20k only for the reserve not to be met. But don’t be fooled, it’s wicked hard work. Being new to horsing in general I was pretty overwhelmed with about 250-300 horses to look at, with 3 different arenas they travel through and then the auction ring right next to the jumping arena with auctions going all day long. Not to mention it was freezing cold and you’re on your feet from about 8am-5pm, running up to the stables, back down to the arenas. Trying to follow a horse you’re interested in, but also wanting to see if you can meet it in the stable beforehand or chat with the owner when all the horses arrive at different times. We had gone through the catalog and starred quite a few that sounded good…but you quickly go through that list. Maybe the horse is a jerk in the stable, maybe his conformation is shite and prone to injury, maybe it’s jump is massive, maybe it’s canter is too difficult to sit to, maybe the dealer lies and tells you the horse has been out and jumped around the arenas when you know for a fact that the horse has sat in the stable all day. It’s a total crapshoot. I don’t know if any of the 3 I was prepared to bid on were ones initially starred from the book.

Horse #1 was a slow moving gal from a private seller. Definitely something that I could be riding away on immediately. The opposite of buzzy. Problem was, she looked like hell. Definitely had worms, no condition, they didn’t clip her, a mangy beast. I wasn’t excited about her but knew I needed to be rational and she would be a safe bet for a first pony. The YM thought her worth to about £2,500 TOPS. So we bid on her and had a £2,000 winning bid didn’t meet the reserve. We found them afterward and they wanted £3k. We tried to negotiate and give them £2,500, but they weren’t having it so we let them walk away.

Horse #2 I really liked. Probably because he wasn’t a damn grey! We were all set that we were going to bid on him and I was stoked. But the owner was a friend of a friend and we told him how novice I was and he discouraged me from bidding because he thought the horse would be too green for me. Funny enough he claimed he had the perfect horse for me and then I saw the freaking thing and was terrified of it- a massive horse with a MASSIVE jump…. that ended up going for over £8k anyway (WAY out of budget!)

Horse #3 is Hamish. Actually, his official name is Corker Creppello and he had no barn name. Yeah, that’s right, I named that damn grey Irish horse a Scottish name. It was near the end of the last day and he was a bit of a last ditch, hail mary effort. He was in my budget and he’s a nice type. Being only 5 he is VERY green, and to be honest, I’m not really even cantering on him yet. But the nice thing about a young, green horse is that there is LOADS of growth potential. And honestly, he’s made such a better rider of me and given me so much more confidence already (not without knocking it down frequently as well). It’s a bit backwards that we have to stumble in the dark (okay, not totally dark, I take about 3 lessons on him a week, get him schooled by my instructor, and get loads of help from staff…so maybe stumble through poor lighting is a better description) and learn from each other what works and what feels nice.

It’s funny how things changed. I started with a budget of £2K to MAYBE £2,500. That went up to £3,000 – which Hamish just snuck under (and to be honest I would have gone £3,500 because at this point I was so exhausted I just wanted to move on from horse shopping). But my budget wasn’t ever including things like vetting, sales tax (in the case of the auction), transportation home (more expensive when he is coming from Ireland of course), personal transportation to see horse (again, more expensive involving flights and hotel rooms).   It makes me wonder, what if I just had a £4-£5k budget from the start?! Ah well….I did learn a lot in the process! (I am learning that horse people are fantastic and finding some sort of positive out of horse shit and are exemplerary at ignoring blaring truths, most commonly: horses are stupid money pits).

And then beyond budget, Hamish is definitely not an easy schoolmaster. And he is a stupid (but totally handsome) grey. And I know we’re not riding off into the sunset or anything. And though my confidence is up he is a total bloody chancer and every month or so tests the boundaries that unfortunately, sometimes still results in me being a bit scared of him. But almost every horse would do that. Schoolmaster or not…horses aren’t perfect. And I appreciate Hamish’s cheek…He’s got personality and it’s never almost never mean spirited. And maybe it’s my complete naive-ness talking (or just ignoring the blaring turhts), but I’m super hopeful of the future I have with Hamish. Actually, I was just told given a little encouragement to sign up for our first Intro Dressage test to give us something to work towards. Which is a whole new level of terrifying exciting…

Don’t worry, I can’t imagine there won’t be an epic blog post on how right before Hamish and I fell into a pile of shit and then went into the arena where he spooked at a funny looking plant and took off across the highlands dismounting me with a broken rib…or something like that. High hopes right?

 

 

 

 

The princess, the pea, and long haul flights

I have become one of those people who I used to make fun of. In some sort of defense for myself (that perhaps is actually just stupidity) it took a lot of years. I first traveled abroad at 16 and from 22-29 took yearly trips abroad. But in these last 2 and half years I’ve been flying…a lot. And while not every flight is a long haul over night flight, they are becoming more frequently…several times a year. And with that, I’ve become a princess when I fly.

Well maybe not a princess. That assumes some great amount of privilege/wealth/respect/authority that I don’t have at all. So scratch princess…just a particular bag lady of air travel.

I don’t like flying. I love when I encourage someone to come visit or see a part of the world and they tell me they don’t like flying. Honestly? Does anyone like flying? I mean I know we’re supposed to enjoy the journey and all, but I don’t think they literally mean enjoy being crammed into a flying tin can with 1,000 strangers, confined to a foot-by-foot amount of space, being fed shitty food. And while I’m sure those in first class don’t mind traveling as much as us in steerage… I’m pretty sure there’s about a million things they’d rather be doing. Flying sucks. It it’s a means to an end. And I have finally stopped fighting against an unspoken rule I have in my head that there’s no difference in being utterly miserable and just kinda miserable in air travel.

So here are the changes I’ve made that are making my air travel better.

Headphones – really nice headphones. They were a birthday present and they have now made traveling so much better. I admit I was coming from the ear bud world so there was a lot of room for growth. But now I have Bose Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones. THEY ARE AMAZING. First, my ears don’t hurt from wearing them. Second, they really do cancel out ALL the noise. Third, they have Bluetooth and thus can be wireless. They also do have a cord for watching back-of-the-seat movies…. but it’s great to be wireless when I want to just listen to my peaceful piano playlist and try to go to sleep. But really…the noise cancelling is phenomenal! I wouldn’t wear these running, or walking…but for flights (or drowning out a snoring husband) they are amazing.

Eye mask – I’m not picky here. Fancy satin or a cheapie the airline gives you…essential. Because there’s always that one asshole that leaves his window open just sliver on the other side of the plane that lets in a laser beam of sun right into your pupil an hour before you needed to get up. I hate that asshole. Last year E (without eye mask) asked a flight attendant to get said asshole to close his shade, and she came back to say that unfortunately he was sleeping. I wanted to tell her to wake his ass up. Because there were at least 6 other people suffering for his asshole careless slumber…I digress…

Toothbrush – I rarely brush my teeth inside the plane because the tap water is gross and any water I have on hand I think the priority is to drink it. But it’s so nice to be able to brush my teeth right when I get off the plane. Or if it’s a super late one before I get on (extra bonus I’m deterred from eating gummy bears)

Motion Sickness Wristbands – I don’t get “sea sick” in the air very often at all. But when it comes on, it’s terrible. And it’s always the last 10 mins before landing when we’ve needed to circle around the airport before landing. On the plus side, I normally start yawning immensely right before I get nauseous and these are a serious relief. First string of ridiculous yawns they go on and while it doesn’t totally halt feeling crummy, but it really, really prevents it from making me horrendously ill. Bonus – I carry these in my purse at all times because on Scotland roads…. travel sickness sneaks up on you a lot.

Upgraded class – I can’t afford first class…or even business class. But on any flight over 5 hours, I have made the decision I can definitely afford the extra $100-$150 to upgrade to economy plus. A little more legroom goes a long freaking way. And if you are a frequent flier with an airline, you’re more likely to get bumped up to that new level that floats between economy plus and business…where you don’t get to lie down to sleep but you do get champagne. SCORE!

Lounge Access – You’d think we fly enough to be whatever level needed for lounge access right? We don’t because we use so many different airlines. E has a petroleum card for Air France that let’s us cut in line for security and boarding, but he doesn’t get a guest in the lounge with paying extra. Because we always have at least one 4-hour layover in a flight, we have made the decision to get a CC that gives us lounge access. That’s right…we now have the Case Sapphire Preferred. I haven’t been able to utilize this lounge access yet…but I will be very soon. E has though and he loves it.

 

 

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Butt pillow – Not for the every man, but for me. I cracked my tailbone in high school (official x-rays not taken as my parents were away and we didn’t have health insurance and since there’s nothing you can do about a broken tailbone it didn’t really matter) playing soccer. I did sit on a donut at school and I couldn’t play for weeks. Since then my tailbone would act up maybe before a big storm (my butt could tell when it would rain, ha!) but was fine for about 15 years until last year. I know the exact trip home my tailbone started acting up…I’m blaming long flights, hospital chairs, and I’m sure horseback riding doesn’t always help (especially since I really have worked how to sit the canter well or come down lightly over a jump all the time). Anyway, I carry a butt pillow. I don’t care if it’s embarrassing. Ass pain is no joke.

Spotify Premium – In total transparency what I am insisting you have to make your travel more enjoyable, I no longer have. But if you have Spotify premium and can download playlists so you can listen to them without wifi…most importantly, said Peaceful Piano playlist, life is so much more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s a Home Coming playlist that you like to hear to get you in the mood to that beautiful Chicago skyline as you land…I did have premium for 5 months of so…but then I got a horse and E said we needed to cut costs. So my great sacrifice was Spotify Premium…my friends think this is a very funny exchange but shhhh, it seems E hasn’t run the numbers yet.

Neck pillow – I don’t always carry this. To be honest, the ass pillow takes up a lot of space. And if for whatever reason it’s a packed flight and I can’t get a window seat I don’t bring it. And if I am flying with Stella…no way. Because airlines do provide you with a little pillow…but bliss is a neck pillow with the addition of leaning into the little window nook. But to be honest, I brought a neck pillow ONCE last year. Though now I judge less when I see people with them.

So that’s my list of the little things that make a flight that much more enjoyable tolerable. As I stated, I don’t have all the things on the list for every hour flight down to London. It depends on the time I’m traveling, duration of flight, where I’m going, the company I’m with…. but I am over being embarrassed for being a bag lady if that’s what makes god awful air travel more tolerable.

What are your must haves for a long flight?

Behind the Scenes

Wanted to gloss over the bits of life that have taken place in the last 10 months or so (ha!) that won’t make it into a blog post.  Looking back…it seems I really fancy a costume/themed party.

End of June – one of my best friends Merima came to visit.  Expect to see more of Merima on my Croatia recap post.

 

July – We attended a surprise America themed 30th for her husband – hoodie hoo!

July 8 – My cousin and Uncle come to visit.

Have you noticed we take everyone to Dunnottar Castle?

August 28 – We had a Guns n’ Grilling party!  Had a whole mess of us (18?!) go to clay pigeon shooting and then back to our house for a lot of grilling and booze.  Unfortunately, didn’t take any pictures so these I stole from some of our friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 4 – Erik and Aaron ran their 2nd Inch by Inch Swim Run in Loch Lomond

November – Whilst home in November I spent some quality time with family and got to meet my new little niece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 10 – Made it to the last Aberdeen Perry’s Christmas Party. (They’re moving this summer.)

 

December – Goodbye Hussars.  Ah the downside of expat life.  This was our first friends we were reaaaaally close to that left.  I cried.  It sucked.

The longest, saddest brunch.

December – Enjoyed our time back in the states for Christmas.Dec 29 – Made the trek back to Scotland.

Dec 31 – NYE watching the fireballs in Stonehaven again (see previous year’s blog post here)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by: http://christinejacksonphotography.squarespace.com/

Photo by: http://christinejacksonphotography.squarespace.com/

Jan 27 – Burns night!

2nd year in a row for a monique lhuillier WITH POCKETS!

Some of the girls – we had 2 tables.

 

 

Feb 4 – AWA’s Mardi Gras Party – we were the pajama themed table.

 

March 4 – Our friends Lillian & David hosted an epic 80’s party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 24 – We celebrated our friend Seth’s birthday with Curling and Karaoke

Victory!

The person who fell the most was the Scotsman.

Didn’t fall at all this time!

My sweeping partner cared more about posing than sweeping!

 

March – I really started to learn why grey horses suck.

Spring – Lotta horse time.  Luckily, it’s not all lessons and hard work.  I’ve been super lucky to have some friends trust me with their ponies to go on hacks and enjoy the Scottish countryside.

Spud and I taking a break in the River Dee

 

The Posts Ahead

Even in my blogging hiatus I have thought often about writing, content, etc. And I do have some blog posts already written and ready to go (maybe should take the lapse in time to actually proof read something), as well as quite a few I have wanted to write for some time now. If only I was able to record my thoughts to writing when I was running.

  • A brief overview (mostly in pictures) of what we’ve been up to in the months without blogging.
  • A round up of my favorite cafes’ in Aberdeenshire
  • Carry On Travel Tips
  • Crisp way of life: the UK’s love of potato chips
  • My love-hate relationship with Air BnB
  • 2 Weeks in Croatia
  • Long weekend in Skye
  • A Weekend in Northern Ireland
  • The long horsey road that left me with Hamish
  • The expatriates: expectation vs reality
  • The trailing spouse’s need for an independent life
  • Being an Air BnB host– why not try to make up some of that lost horse money
  • Horsey posts….there’s bound to be loads more horsey posts.

Anyway, I wanted to give a little teaser on the posts that will be coming up in the next few weeks and months. Hopefully this gets you excited and tuned back into Hot Dogs to Haggis, hopefully I start to get some followers back that have forgotten about me, and of course, I hope to get some new followers.

Now those aforementioned are the posts I’ve already written, or are long over due. In addition to those…I have some fun times coming ahead this year and am sure more than a couple blog posts will be coming from them.  So am hoping these adventures on my calendar result in good times and entertaining blog posts if nothing else:

  • A girls long weekend in Porto, Portugal (3 moms + 3 non-breeders = how will our worlds collide)
  • A girls weekend in London (me + 2 single ladies…bound to get into trouble)
  • 2 weeks in Indonesia in August!!
  • My mom’s visit in June with a weekend in Glasgow
  • My father-in-law and brother-in-law visiting in July
  • Wedding in Copenhagen + a uni reunion
  • A weekend on the Isle of Eigg
  • My mom’s return visit in October with a trip to Lisbon
  • A possible weekend up north to Ullapool & John O’Groats
  • 3 Weeks home for Christmas & Megan’s wedding
  • Jumping Hamish – right now we are a LONG way out, but really just looking forward to growing and progressing with Hamish. And I think Jumping him in 2017 is a good, acceptable goal.

And I’m already looking forward to next year’s hols (British slang for holidays). In early chats with some stateside friends about a girls trip- location TBD but there is a lot of Switzerland chat. Along with a possible sailing adventure with other couples around Italy or Greece which is E’s dream. And a frosty trip up to the Shetlands in January for a fire festival. Wanting to come visit us? Time is running out and 2018 is already getting booked.

Anyway, I hope you see more of me and my writing, and I hope I hear from more of you. Let me know if you have an idea for a blog post you’d like to see, if you have any questions, or even some shady hate mail. I do love me some hate mail. Just kidding…well, kinda.

You bought a what?

A HORSE!

It’s time to address the elephant, errrr, horse in the room.  Okay he’s not really in the room, but it’s no secret my instagram is flooded with pictures of a certain mischievous, dirty, cheeky wee beastie.

I bought a horse. No seriously, I bought a horse with my Polish Christmas monies. (What you don’t celebrate Polish Christmas? You’re missing out!) Though to be fair, E was as supportive as a man could be letting his wife gallivant around the country trying out horses, obsessively stalking ads online, and making herself sick and hysterical over the thought of actually getting a horse. And ya know…staying supportive as every single horse owner we encountered made comments like:

“You know what’s easier, just dig a hole in your back garden and dump all your money into that. You’re less likely to get hurt at least.”

“You know they live like 25 years?”

“It’s not the horse that’s the problem, it’s all the shit you think you need for the horse.”

“You know what’ll be less hassle. Take all your money out of your bank accounts, put it in a wheelbarrow, and just light it on fire. There, done. One fell swoop instead of slowly bleeding you dry.”

“Hope you like the smell of horse-shit.”

“Say goodbye to a clean house, dinner on the table, or ever seeing your wife again.”

“I’m sorry mate.”

We already knew E was a hell of a guy, but just in case I had any doubts, he encouraged me to get a pony.

Happy wife, happy life

I know I had already teased that I got a horse, but I thought it deserved a proper post on my decision. Because, a lot of people think I’m crazy…and it’s not to say I’m not, but getting a horse wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I actually don’t take any decision lightly, I’m a bit of a head-case.  Even when we got Stella, on the 5-hour drive back to Chicago I cried and called my mom asking if we should turn around and give her back. I feel like taking on the responsibility of an animal is a very serious decision. You should provide the best life possible for that animal! And I was raised with a dog, cat, and rabbit…it’s not like I never had pets. I just don’t take the decision lightly…. probably a lot of insight on why I don’t have kids to be honest.

When I moved to Scotland I said I was going to start riding horses again. (It’s just a shame it got pushed back a year or so for marathon training.) I used to ride when I was young. Starting around 7 years old until about 15. I never had a horse, though I asked for one pretty much every Christmas in between those years. I would go away to Camp Tecumseh every year and be part of their horse program, my last year going on a horse packing trip in PA. So in preparation for summer camp my mom would let me do a package of lessons to get my muscles working again (PS – lessons are the most expensive part of horse-ing) and when I was little I would also insist on a lesson or trail ride (called a hack in Scotland) for my birthday. I loved ponies. Couldn’t get enough. But every year I asked for one, my dad asked with what money would we get a horse? And I would calculate how much he’d save if he quit smoking. It didn’t go over so well.

It’s a shame though really, because had I known that with hard work, I could have maybe bought my own horse, or at least part-leased one as a teenager, I would have put forth the effort. Because believe me, I was a hard worker. And of course, I would have needed some parental monetary support, but I tell you what, having a horse and working to have that horse would have probably kept me out of trouble!

So yeah, not all horses costs 20K it turns out. My horse certainly didn’t cost 20K.  And actually, it’s not THAT much money for livery. Okay, it’s definitely a figure that has to be evaluated and considered, but it’s not like you’re paying rent for another apartment. Hamish lives on a livery yard, which I guess would be called a boarding stable in America. Basically, I pay horse rent for Hamish to live on massive grounds (like 100 acres) and have access to on-site lessons, indoor riding schools, equipment like jumps, and mostly, help and experience from very dedicated and amazing staff. Now Hamish lives out in a field, all the time…which is cheaper than if he lived in a stable that needed to be mucked out, etc. So yeah, if it’s pouring down rain, Hamish lives outside. If it’s snowing, Hamish lives out. It’s not abuse, he’s a horse. He’s livestock. And I buy him really expensive rugs (called blankets in America) to keep him warm and toasty.

The most expensive part of horse ownership is insurance and injury. No doubt. Horses are stupid and built poorly. They tend to get hurt or break a lot so you need to be prepared for it. But I find that like human healthcare, veterinary care in the UK is LOADS more affordable than in the USA.

Then there is all the shit the horse “needs”. Like the aforementioned rugs. The sprays and potions in attempt to get him clean. The supplements. The saddle. The boots. The shoes (did you know horses need new shoes every 4-8 weeks?) The groomer because I pay to get my horse’s mane done and clip (shave) his coat in the winter. Which at current requires sedation because he’s terrified of the clippers. Terrified in a way that makes it dangerous for anyone to be in the stable with him. So the sedation costs more than the hair cut, but I’m hoping by the end of next winter he’s able to relax and not need sedation to be clipped- he’s just a baby! And then there’s paying for someone to ride/train your pony (especially necessary if you got a young/green horse). And lessons with you and your pony. And then there’s all the stuff you need as a rider…. which I’m still accumulating. Do you know a sexy riding helmet can cost like £600?!?!

Anyway…. I guess as the saying goes…. it all adds up. And so because of that, I need to re-state how lucky I am that my husband supports my childhood dream of getting a horse. Because it’s a monthly drain on his bank account, his time (he comes to the barn 1-2x a week), and his pleasant life because I am home so much less, thus making me an even worse house wife, and more so, I obsess over my horse. A bad day with him totally consumes my mood, I over analyze every thing my instructor tells me, I google horse related stuff non-stop…. it’s just all consuming. On the plus side…. I’m in love! Love, love, love. In fact, I have a shit-eating grin this whole time writing this post.

So I started this blog with the intent of writing about how I came to the decision to get a horse, and then the process that led me to my horse…HAMISH.   But as this is already pretty lengthy, I’ll just end up with why I did decide now was the right time to get a horse.

Well, there’s obviously more pros than cons….and we know which won. I got a horse! The biggest negative of my current situation is that we can’t live here forever which forces a decision sooner than most people who buy a horse expect. In anywhere from a month- to at most a couple years I will either have to sell my horse, or light a whole new wheelbarrow of money on fire to move him. I went in to this trying to hypnotize myself that horses are not pets, they are a leisure item. They are akin to a bicycle or boat. Not a dog. But I know (as does E) that I’m not always the most practical and the heart wants what it wants. So that being said, I cannot for sure say either way what will happen to my horse when we move. And to be honest, I would only be able to make a decision when the time comes because there are a variety of factors that will influence his future.

But the biggest persuasion of getting a horse now is that livery yard/support network I have here. I had been riding at Aberdeen Riding Club for over a year and a half and working there Friday mornings for a year. I had made horsey friends who would help, the manager of the livery yard was helping me find the right horse for me so I didn’t die, and everyone was there to guide me in the right direction. I’d never have more help getting a horse for the first time. And since one of my biggest fears is killing the damn thing (maybe a little dramatic, but that’s me), I knew the yard wouldn’t let that happen. My horse and I would be in good hands.

That Time I Ran the NYC Marathon

It’s been a long time…but I actually have not forgotten about my blog. I think maybe I was purposefully avoiding it…. really avoiding this race recap. But here goes nothing…5 months later, in very broad terms about the race, and very specific terms about what I was going through, here is my recap of the NYC Marathon. Why? Because I blogged about all the training, and it needs a conclusion.  The NYC Marathon, and the Marathon Chapter of my life needs a final end.

I was originally set to fly into NYC on Wednesday, Nov 2 (before the Sunday, November 6 marathon) to get settled in American time, be early for packet pick up, relax with my friends, and be an utterly calm Zen Buddha master of life before race day. That didn’t happen. My MIL was moved to hospice the previous week so I changed my flight to half a week early (from Nov. 2 to October 28) and changed to fly into Chicago rather than NYC. (My return flight had always been from Chicago as I had plans to help my mother rehab hip surgery and spend time with my MIL post marathon.) I then spent the week in my hometown’s hospice, trying to support my husband and his family, trying to stay strong and sane while watching a loved one slip away, and selfishly, stressing about the marathon. I snuck away for a few runs but really wasn’t sure if I’d be running the NYC marathon or not. It wasn’t until Thursday evening that I bought a flight to NYC for the next evening (Friday). Sometime in the night Thursday, my MIL passed away.

 

My only picture at the expo.

I tried to support my in-laws the best I could on Friday and then got on a plane to NYC alone.   E had to return to Scotland for work as the funeral wasn’t going to be for another 2 weeks, and he hadn’t been home to Scotland in over 5 weeks (with work trips, a wedding, and being with his mother). It was a whirlwind of feelings I couldn’t process and I just trudged through like a zombie. I got to my brother’s Friday night, utterly exhausted, stressed, anxious. On Saturday morning I got up and got the bus to packet pick up. I had never been to a race expo alone (E has always been my rock…. I’ve never run a race without him cheering me on…ever). It was strange and exciting, but I was lonely and sad. I tried to put on a brave face and enjoy the experience, but I was numb.

 

That night my brother asked if I wanted to go out or pick up pizza- I opted for some chicken and boxed Mac n cheese. I talked to my brother about the schedule for Sunday, where he would be during the race, where I would meet him after. I texted my friends and cousin to arrange seeing them along my route. I stretched, and rolled, and hydrated. I took a xanex and went off to sleep at about 9pm.

I’m trying to remember the timeline of events of the morning of race day. Let me just tell you…. it was a long hucking day. My start time was 10:40am (I ended up missing my corral just by one so I think I started actually at 10:50 or 11). My ferry time was 8am. I think I left Hoboken to train to the World Trade Center stop at 6:40am. I then walked to the ferry…and almost missed it! Oppps! Once you depart from the ferry you are in line, standing, to get on busses that bus you to the start for over an hour. Probably closer to an hour and a half. Then once on a bus…. you are in the bus for about 30 minutes. Made only more excruciating if you have to pee. Which I did. And I mean, I REALLY had to pee. I almost bailed out on the bus. I was rocking back and forth and just trying not to piss my pants because that would make the upcoming 26.2 miles so very uncomfortable.

On the ferry, headed to Staten huckin’ Island

I made my way through this mob of people after about an hour and a half…it was miserable.

It takes so long on the bus (in part) because each bus needs to pull up at a specific spot where a mini police security team is set up. You exit the bus and immediately get metal detected, your bag searched, and possibly a small pat down. Once I get out of this I immediately darted behind a tree (honestly, about 6 yards from the bus door) and peed in someone’s yard. I had TP in my bag because it’ not my first rodeo. Thank god I managed to evade the police because after I did this…I watched another man try to do this and he was practically tackled by police mid-whipping out his junk because they want you to stay on the designated path in case he was going to pick up guns/bombs/heroine or whatever.

Let’s do this!

I then ran into my old co-worker from Qdoba. Who would’ve guessed the largest race in the world and I run into him. Admittedly, he was in a terrible mood. And I was super anxious. And we didn’t even get a picture. Nor did I get a picture when he passed me in Brooklyn ha! So I missed my corral, which was fine, just delayed the inevitable. And so there was some standing at the start of the Verrazano bridge, then there was the star spangled banner, and BOOM. Cannon fire and New York, New York streaming over the loud speakers.

Now my coach came up with very specific pacing for each mile. I created an AMAZING pace band from FindMyMarathon.com. Too bad it doesn’t do much good when your watch loses signal. But what’s worse is when you watch loses signal but you don’t know it and you’re sprinting to get your time knowing you are going way too fast but it’s too late and you want to hit that time on your watch. And then you get to mile 3 and your watch is saying you’re at about 2.3 miles. PROBLEMS. Math is not my strong suit either. So I knew I was too fast, but with all these different paces, there’s no way I could figure out and adjust as precisely. So I tried to stick to around 10:18 mile pace…and I did (even though I knew I was a few minutes early to every mile marker) until I couldn’t. Until I couldn’t push any more, and mentally and physically went from walking and running, from hysterically not being able to breath to solemn faced as I realized I missed my goal time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Highs and the Lows

So happy and naive….

  • Going over the Verrazano Bridge was exciting, sunny, and a bit windy. I tossed my gloves immediately. My first mile was a slower pace up the bridge and I was enjoying it, but when I was supposed to up my pace on the downhill my watch lost signal without telling me and I ended up sprinting ridiculously downhill until I get into Brooklyn and the crowds. I saw my mile marker was WAY off…and spent about 5 minutes stressing over it before decided to just try and maintain a 10:18 pace.
  • Brooklyn was amazing. So many people! This is the closest you’ll get to feeling like a professional athlete with hundreds of people yelling your name. My name was written on duct tape and I highly recommend you do the same. If I didn’t have my name on my shirt, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have finished.
  • Around mile 5 my headphones break. Just one of them. No sound comes out except crackling. So I am left running with one headphone in. Thank god there are 2 million spectators screaming my name because if there was a rural marathon I would have quit right then. Even that being said, there are a lot of points in the marathon that would have gone a lot better had I working headphones. I nearly always run with headphones…. especially mentally tough runs. My marathon playlist is an exact science to me. It takes weeks to perfect. I include motivational speeches at difficult parts (when I estimate I’d be on bridges, that last 3 miles). And with only one headphone, the NYC noise coming into my other ear is really too great for me to get an assist from my music.
  • I had most of my friends waiting for me in Brooklyn and they seriously made my day. I mean, I don’t even live in this city; I came to the race alone, and had 4 separate groups of people cheering me on. And can we talk about their enthusiasm and signage?

Mile 7 – On my right hand side was Katie Ly and her fiancé Jonathan

 

 Mile 8 – On my left hand side, my cousin Dylan and his girlfriend I basically ran straight across the road to see them as you can tell by my angle.

 

Mile 11 1/2 – My girlfriend Merima, who actually lives in San Fran, came into NYC to see me and a few of her friends who live there.

Miles 18 ½ and 23 – My brother and sister-in-law! My brother doesn’t do signs but he did suffer through the most crowded points of the marathon, see me at 2 different points, and then find me after the race…. which is no easy feat when there are 50K runners, 2 million spectators, and I am barely moving.

  • Pulaski Bridge into Long Island – Everyone talks about the Queensboro Bridge. How it’s the most soul crushing experience of the marathon. Too bad I had pretty much hit empty on the Pulaski Bridge – THAT I deliriously THOUGHT was the QUEENSBORO BRIDGE. What did that mean?   That I had a lot more race to run, and a hell of a lot of more hilly hardships than I anticipated ahead. I had to stop and walk for the first time on the Pulaski Bridge. But I kept my walk speedy and stayed optimistic because once I got through it, was giving myself a pat on the back that the Queensboro Bridge wasn’t too hard. A mile later I realize that I hadn’t yet met the Queensboro Bridge and doom and panic hit me.

    Over one of those damn bridges.

  • Queensboro Bridge – Eff this bridge. I walked lots.
  • Manhattan – The finish line is in Manhattan but don’t be fooled. You are nowhere near the end. You still have to head up to the Boogie Down after all.   And 10 miles.   I am disheartened trying to return to a jog/run I can maintain. I don’t think I can hit my goal time but there’s still a small chance. The crowds are mental but I’m really down on myself. Can’t let my brother and SIL see me walk though so I pick up a run again. I see them and hug them and they are super encouraging and enthusiastic…. I try and maintain my slow run up to the Willis Avenue Bridge.
  • The Willis Avenue Bridge is a baby bridge (in comparison) into the Bronx. The Bronx actually wasn’t as desolate as I thought it’d be. But by this point there was a lot of walking. It was realized my goal time had slipped away and I just wanted to sit and have myself a pity party.
  • Back into Manhattan and here is the worst part. Worse than that stupid Queensboro Bridge. You’re running down 5th Avenue for the next 3 or so miles at an incline. Sure, it’s not a huge incline, but it’s enough of an incline to break you. I am walking tons. I see my brother and Carly again before I head into Central Park. Of course I make sure they see me “running” but I don’t think anyone would really call it that. They later tell me how they thought I had looked good the first time they saw me around mile 18, but when they saw me now around mile 23 I looked pretty broken. Hey, I’m just surprised they thought I looked good at mile 18. I have lost my goal time, and now I am just trying to pick my sorry self up the ground and beat my Paris Marathon time.
  • Central Park – is a lot of uphill, but some rolling hills and with that at least means some downhill. The park doesn’t have a load of spectators but the ones that do save me.   There is one man on my right, he’s a few yards in front of me and he sees me struggling. He’s looking me right in my eyes as he’s yelling, “Come on Lauren! This is what you trained for! You know you got this! You’re almost home Lauren. Think of your training!! You can do this!” For a moment, I thought this man must know me. He did not.
  • Central Park South – a wee stretch of road where the spectators are mental and you’re almost home free. I’m really trying to turn it up here.

  • Finish line – eerily quiet. They charge money to sit here and watch the elites finish so by the time I finish it’s totally empty. Sucks a bit.

I cross the finish line and everything I’ve tried to mentally muscle through for the last 5 hours, no 36 hours, actually 4 months takes over. I am at a point of hysterical crying that a volunteer grabs me, takes me to the side and hugs me telling me, “You did great Lauren, you did it.” I am so thankful for this volunteer but at the same time thinking, “Man, if you only knew.”

Done whimpering….I have survived.

I zombie shuffle through the maze to exit the marathon. I have a calm, collected weep going on, I’m tired but know if I stop I’ll never move again, I’m cold and I’m hungry. The sun is almost all the way gone. I talk to Daniel and when he finds out I’m not through the maze yet we change our meet up location to one closer to me. I get to the road and am looking for whatever street. I can’t function so I ask a police officer if I’m headed in the right direction. He says yes…but then asks, “Are you alright miss? Do you want me to come with you? Is someone meeting you?”

We end up taking the subway all the way back to Hoboken…the Uber fees are sky high and hey, what’s another couple miles of walking. Crammed in like sardines with a load of other runners crinkling in our foil blankets. Daniel thinks he’s funny complaining about how his feet hurt from spectate-ing, probably because he knows all the runners are too tired to punch him in his smug face haha.

I’m actually feeling better. Get home, shower, put some mousse in my hair and we all head out the door again back to the city for a dinner with my cheering section. Daniel can’t believe I am making it out the door again, but what’s the point of running 26.2 if you can’t celebrate. It ends up being a perfect night…everyone drinks too much, the food is amazing, we’re the loudest table in the place, and I’m pretty sure everyone of had tears in their eyes at one point from laughing so hard. It was definitely what I needed.

Given the fact I had just run a marathon and hadn’t actually sat down since 8 am….I look pretty good!

 

Just last week I had a friend ask me about the NYC Marathon because they were offered a charity spot to run it. It’s really hard for me to separate all the personal shit I was going through, and that affected my race from the race itself. I think the NYC Marathon was the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in my life. I was 48 hours out from my MIL dying, I didn’t have my husband by my side, I was emotionally and physically exhausted from international fights and hospital chairs, the torn labrum in my hip had caused me terrible discomfort throughout training and I knew that this had to be my last marathon. My headphones broke, I missed my goal time, and I walked. On top of what everyone experiences there- it’s ONE TOUGH COURSE! But hey, not only did I finish…I beat my Paris Marathon time.

NYC: 4:48:58

Paris: 4:54:38

Overweight Baggage Check: Guilt

Wow, a lot can happen in a month. A lot has happened in my last month. My mother in law passed away, I met my new niece, I ran the NYC Marathon, I’ve been to 3 countries, and I bought a horse. In my husband’s last month he probably spent the equivalent of 5 days worth of air travel time. We’re all exhausted. But I wrote this post on my flight back to Scotland the day after my MIL’s funeral (when I was utterly exhausted but couldn’t sleep). I’ll do my best to get fill in the big gap of how the NYC marathon went and how did I think now was a good time to buy my first horse. Spoiler alert: his name is Hamish, he currently has a cut above his eye, and he really fancies a fur trim hood.15259712_10108084046792289_7333331409225187347_o

When looking to title this post, I found this WSJ article that makes me feel a bit better…that I’m not alone in this.

Although it may be difficult for others to understand or agree with our choices, and we expats may feel guilty at times for missing out on important events back home, the decision to return can only be made by us, those living this unique lifestyle. As Ms. Clark says, “Guilt is a natural part of life, a result of making decisions that are best for you but cannot please everyone. As an expat, this guilt may be heightened because we already get a sense from some people that living away from home is in itself a selfish choice. But you can’t please everyone, so I try not to dwell on the guilt.”

It isn’t the long flights (and accompanying jetlag and dry skin), it isn’t the different time zones with late night and early morning calls (and accompanying bags under the eyes), it isn’t the weakness of the dollar compared to the pound (and accompanying credit card bills), and it isn’t saying goodbye to friends at a summer camp rate (and accompanying hangovers, heartbreak, and tears).

By far, the worst part about being an expat is the guilt. The guilt of leaving your family.

I can only speak from my experience. And my experience is that I lived roughly an hour away from my parents for the better part of my (albeit short thus far) adult life. And my experience is that my father passed away leaving my mother living alone. And my experience is that they found a tumor in my mother in law a few months before we were set to move, and the subsequent 2 years or so she fought, and eventually lost a battle with cancer. And my experience is that if I hadn’t had become an expat there’s a possibility that I would be living an hour away from my little niece and nephew. And my experience is that although both E and I have some years, miles, political views, and lifestyle choices between our families… we are very close to them.

And that’s why in my experience, the hardest part of being an expat is the guilt. Whether or not that’s all self imposed or there’s influencing factors, it’s there and it’s hard. It’s hard when someone tells me they could never be abroad because they’re close to their family (as if I’m not.) It’s hard every time we say goodbye (even if I’ll be seeing them in less than a month). It’s hard when we miss important days or can’t be there where someone needs us (it’s not FOMO, it’s wanting to be there for those I love to celebrate the good and comfort in the bad). It’s hard being happy and loving life abroad (because it feels as though it diminishes our longing for and missing of those we love). It’s just hard.

Expat life seems like a dream. The possibilities of great travel, new and interesting friends, changes in finances, sabbaticals from work, finding yourself. But there’s a price to pay. And although I can only speak from my experience…I don’t know anyone that isn’t a little sad when they say goodbye.