From the archives: Peanut

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Peanut and Deedee’s personalities captured in a picture, Aug. 2008.

Once upon a time, I had a blog over on blogspot.

I think I started this one just after I had began high school, and I’m now so glad I didn’t delete all my ramblings when I abandoned it sometime in 2011. They give me a lot of insight to myself, and I find them endearing/amusing to read. So, I’m going to share this post I made at 15 years of age in all of its unedited, naive, teenage glory, along with comments/questions from 23 year-old me in bold.

Well, this will probably be the start of a long list of posts about my little pony, but since I haven’t been to the barn for a few days, I’ll write about how/when I first got my first horse.

Spoiler: this was the only post I made about Peanut. Fail. BUT, I like 15 yo me’s ambition.

I’ve had Peanut, a grade Quarter Pony, since I was in 5th grade, which is hard to believe seeing as I’m now a freshman in high school. It was just after the barn I was at changed ownership, which is an entire story in itself, but I digress. Anyways, the stable had just changed ownership to one of the borders, and three other men. None of them were very horse savvy, and me and my father had the most experience of the lot, which is not saying much.

By experience, I mean at this point I was 11 and had been riding for all of two years, and my dad had worked at a horse farm in high school. The three men had all of zero experience, and the boarder’s experience was limited to about a year’s worth of her daughter’s riding lessons. But yes, you all hardly know each other so this is a great idea.

Anyways, the main owners, whom I shall call the Mainers, had a daughter, whom I shall call Little Mainer.

My creativity is off the charts. Mainers, because, they are the main owners. Also, prepare yourself for an over-embellished story of a tween rescuing a pony from certain death.

Little Mainer had just gotten back the first pony she had ever had; Peanut.

The majestic beast herself circa 2007

The Mainers had given Peanut to the previous owners of the barn who had neglected her and thrown her out in the back fifteen acre pasture that was entirely brambles and weeds. I saw her once in the pasture, and though her feet were overgrown, I was of course none the wiser and saw nothing wrong. She was fat enough, at least. Fast forward from that time to then, when they brought Peanut in from that pasture. She had lost quite a bit of weight, and her hooves were horrid! (this is not overly embellished – all of the horses left looked like shit, and leading up to the owners skipping town, two or three horses had died on the property) She looked around with big eyes, she hadn’t seen this barn in months. The last time she was inside was sometime the last winter when Little Mainer had owned her and convinced me to get on her and try to make her go forward, because she couldn’t get her to. I did succeed in getting the ornery little pony to move around the arena one lap, and then they promptly told me that that was enough. And so she went into that pasture… Look at me talking like some all knowing horse-whisperer. More likely than not, I was watching my peer longingly and they took pity on me and allowed me a few minutes of saddle time.

So now, as Little Mainer (who is two years younger than myself) stared in disgust (doubtful, remember this is embellished) at the pony she had thought was gone for good, she rolled her eyes to the right longingly so that she could see her new horses stall. The big, sixteen hand sorrel, registered, Quarter Horse. I don’t remember her registered name, but we called her Peachy. Her eyes then shifted with what seemed an internal sigh back to the problem in front of her, and she spoke to me in a bored voice, “Do you want her?”
Me: “Well… actually, I think I’m kind of looking for something I could event with later… and I’m not sure if I could afford her”
“She’ll jump. And you don’t have to pay board if you and your dad work. Otherwise we’ll probably take her to the auction since I’ve got Peachy”. This part actually happened, and I totally did think an auction was the worst possible fate ever (not 100% wrong there). In all reality, neither this 9 year old or myself had any control over this situation, but it all seemed very serious and weighty, and I totally believed that I was the only one capable of “saving” the derpy pony in front of me, despite her not being the “eventing” type I was looking for *eyeroll*.
This, somehow, sent off little bells in my head. Auction = slaughter. Auction = bad owner, which means another auction, which means slaughter. Auction = Baaaad.
Mother and Father = Don’t want a horse.

“I’ll take her.”

And so, I was a horse owner. (I was totally not a horse owner. Thanks for actually working that out later, Dad)  I had no clue about her age, or her breed, or her height, but I owned her. Yes, this seems like a great idea. Like a box of chocolates!!  As my dad came back in, sweaty from fixing a fence, I gloated to him; “Dad, we’ve got a horse! They gave me Peanut!” I think I saw him go a few shades paler from his current farmers tan, but maybe my minds playing tricks on me. Now, fully armed with a pony and tack also given to me, I was ready to ride… or so I thought.

Peanut was not to happy about leaving her semi-feral state. She wanted to play wild horses when I, being the scaredy cat rider I was, wanted to simply learn. Hah. Bet you can see where this is going! I didn’t ride nearly that entire summer. It took my dad going out to the pasture, grabbing her halter, and having her mighty 500 (probably like 800; I have no idea how she was skinny out in that pasture, unless it was literally weeds and dirt) pound self drag him up into the air and toss him like a rag doll for a few minutes to get her caught. I was terrified. Also happened – but, my dad is like 5’5″ and it wouldn’t really require much to get anyone in my family off the ground. This was not exactly an eventing horse here… sure she was the fastest horse on the property, outspeeding the ex-racehorse (that was a lumbering Standerbred trotter…), Quarter Horse, POA, and Paint horse when they went on their nightly laps around the pasture (competition was fierce y’all), but did she ever jump anything? Uh-uhhh. It also started to click in my head that there was no way she could be fourteen point two hands… although it took another year for me to actually measure her. I did believe Little Mainer when she said, quickly, that her age was “just 11”. When I did ride my pony, it was breifly. I was down-right scared of her. Though I managed to stick out a two minute bucking session on Peachy and nearly had made it through a bucking fit on their new Paint mare Abbey just a few minutes earlier, I was scared of a little pony. (almost I tell you, almost did I ride that mare through her bucks! I don’t think it was very good of them to put me on that Paint mare for her first time in the outdoor arena though… of course I couldn’t resist :) It didn’t matter that she had nearly ripped off Mrs. Mainers thumb when they had gone to trailer her her… but I digress again). Wow, I don’t sound conceited or patronizing at all. I had all the confidence in the world, except with my own little 13 hand pony. She was totally too much pony for me at the time, and for a while I resented her, and the barn owner’s daughter, who had not one, not two, but 5 decently trained horses to ride. Jealous tween probs.

Even though I didn’t ride her much, I watched her that entire summer, seeing as we went out there every single day for my dad to work, I had plenty of free time. Watching her was one of my favorite things to do. Still true; I would love to have another summer morning of opening the stall doors and watching the rag-tag herd high-tail it out the end of the barn and through our makeshift chute to their pasture where they all played with the sun coming up and dew still sparkling on the grass.

She was such a gorgeous little thing, with so much pride. She was the silent leader of their little band, and it was quite obvious. She was never truely mean except for the first week Lady, the ex-racehorse, came into the pasture, when she simply would not let her near her ‘herd’. Whenever that sixteen some hand tank tried to kreep up, she was run around the pasture for a good ten minutes to learn her lesson. After that, Lady, and the others, did not mess with Peanut. And, this entire time, I spoiled her. Spoiled her with treats, though she never did get greedy or nippy. She always, and still does, gently nibble it from your hands, keeping her teeth far from fingers even if they are stuck right up into her mouth. (Don’t ask.) Finally, that fall, I mustered up the courage to ride… really ride her. I was ready to go… and so was she.

That’s all for tonight, I’m tired :) AH THE ANTICIPATION!! What will happen next?!

reminder: I never wrote another post.

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What I take away from this? I totally had a mild savior complex at the time of writing this, and the people who bought this barn, while certainly inexperienced, were triers. They had good intentions and, unlike previous owner, actually cared for their horses. They wanted this place to return to its former glory that was chronicled in our local newspaper a few years before, but just didn’t have the experience and time to fully rehab and promote a 20-acre boarding facility. Nonetheless, the two summers I spent nearly 8 – 10 hours a day out at this place are special, full of lessons and stories that I can only appreciate after the memories themselves grow hazy.

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Some sass about disability

Doom and gloom seems to be the recent theme, so here is some sass that I wrote for my latest post on the Mighty:

How do you feel about disabilities? Because I have one.

Whether seeking employment or a date, if you have an illness, condition, or disability, there’s always the question of when you should “disclose” this information, or if you should at all. A quick Google search of the topic will summon thousands of hits trying to decipher this new art form. Among these results are people asking for help. Should you do this during the interview? After you’re hired? Later down the line? When it becomes a problem? Or with dating, what’s the time frame? Is it a third date topic? After you’re committed? On the first date? That seems too risky…

Advice ranges from the super-enlightening, “if you think it could help,” to, “Don’t. It’s only caused problems for me,” to the instruction manual in another language: “Well, if X, Y, Z has happened and A, B, C could happen, then maybe…”

instagram

I think you get the picture.

The point is, we shouldn’t have to deal with this pressure (example of someone ignoring this pressure [and promoting democracy!!] seen in the instagram to your right. Caption is more important than the selfie). Weighing whether a potential partner or position will be worth losing if you volunteer this information, or constantly analyzing situations and people to determine if, when, and how we “confess” this information is ridiculous. Because that’s what it’s turned into, a confession. While the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has brought positive change to multiple areas of life, there is still work to be done.

What has happened so far in my experience? Well, I’ve realized I’m not the only one feeling the pressure. I have seen panic (or at least some moderate anxiety) in the eyes of someone interviewing me if I go anywhere near “accommodations” or “chronic illness.” On at least four separate occasions I’ve been cut off, told hurriedly “that’s something you’ll have to talk to HR about” or “OK, that’s good, that’s all we need to know!” The subject is quickly changed, and as I rejoin the conversation, I observe the person (or persons) opposite me slowly relax after averting certain crisis. As of yet, I still haven’t disclosed I have narcolepsy with cataplexy in an interview because I haven’t had the opportunity.*

*Side note: As far as I can tell, there’s been no ADA violations because 1) I don’t push the subject, 2) I get where they’re coming from and 3) typically, I’ve either ended up with the position or there’s an unrelated reason as to why the position won’t work for the company or myself.

This is wrong. People with disabilities won’t disclose because they don’t want to be discriminated against, and I think some employers avoid the topic like the plague in an interview because of possible legal repercussions if they don’t end up hiring this person. To me, narcolepsy is just another fact. It’s not necessarily something I want in bold on my resume, but due to its good-day/bad-day fluctuation while I figure out which concoction of treatment best appeases my particular set of symptoms, I want you to know I have narcolepsy so there’s a plan already in place.

We need another perspective change. The most recent trend has been the idea that people with disabilities are these magical creatures of strength and resilience here for inspiration, the proof “it could always be worse!”

My disability is “invisible,” so my experience is limited here. Imagine though, being someone in a wheelchair, with an amputation, or someone with Down syndrome, and being told the following on a possibly regular basis:

1. “You are so brave.” (not included: – “for being here, in a wheelchair. How do you do it?”)
2. “It must be so terrible; I can’t imagine.” (not included: – “life without your arm. At least I don’t have to deal with that…”)
3. “She can do that?!” (not included: – “this completely normal task, since ya know, she’s got Down syndrome and I can’t address her myself.”)

It would get real old, real quick.

What do I want? To go into an interview and discuss my qualifications, experience, etc., etc., and when the interviewer asks me for a bit more about myself or if I have questions, I can say “Well, Mr. Supervisor, one thing I like to note is I have narcolepsy, which just means I typically ask for a little more flexible schedule to allow me a couple naps during the day and to go to medical appointments as needed. This worked well in my last position, and I’d like to know what the company’s experience accommodating employees with disabilities is and if accommodations could be put in place prior to any start dates.” The supervisor, completely at ease, would be able to tell me the company has hired people with disabilities in the past and has a few “standard” accommodation plans already in place but that they always have a conversation with new employees before their first day.

Pipe dream? Having a go at those with an implicit bias or stereotype, asking them flat out how they feel about disabilities before any of this disclosure took place, with an honest answer from them. I don’t look like someone who would have a disability, so I relish the opportunity to try and challenge perceptions, even if it doesn’t seem to work. I know I’ve got a better-than-average resume, and that’s not just “better than average for someone with a disability” – I worked my ass off for it, like anybody else. My secret? I sometimes have had to go about getting my experiences in different ways. This, right here, would be my point. If I can accomplish the same quality, why does it matter if my, or anyone else’s methods, are different from “normal”?

I’ve already experimented to see what would happen in a real-world situation, just not in an interview (yet). I decided to test out how a stranger would react to the knowledge of my disability in the most neutral, welcoming, and non-judgmental forum I could think of: Tinder.

I can see the eye-roll emojis and “that actually sounds like a terrible idea” thoughts. But… Surprise! It went well. Better than expected. On separate occasions, several months apart, I told roughly four or five of my matches I have narcolepsy. Caveat: this is not a line-opener. Just like an interview, it would be after we’d at least formed some type of conversation. This isn’t the most important thing in my life or in this situation, so it doesn’t get to be the first thing I talk about.

Now, back to the guys.

Whether it was a “fun fact about me? I’ve got narcolepsy!” “one thing you should know is I’ve got a chronic illness, it just makes life more interesting,” or the time I actually did say, “So how do you feel about disabilities? Because I have one haha,” I was met each time with genuine curiosity, questions, and respect for throwing it out there, and not once did I regret telling someone. That last one actually resulted in meeting the person and subsequently going on several dates, but even the ones I didn’t meet were consistently polite (shocker) and interested in learning at least a little bit more, so I consider this a success and promising for future research.

The lesson? Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t hide about yourself. If the situation is appropriate, ask more people how they feel about disabilities, honestly, and challenge (but don’t force) their thinking with how amazing you are. It’s true, right now you still typically need to be tactful with this information and you may have to hold back. However, the more brazen people there are who bring this into standard conversation, the more likely it will start to become standard conversation. And the asshats who continue to ignore these efforts or say “so sorry, it just isn’t a good fit” (and you know there’s more to it), are truly not worth all of the amazing things you have to offer. Don’t settle in any area of your life just “because you have one.”

Growth is pain and confusion.

I have about 10 different drafts that I’ve tried flushing out over the past month.

Each time, I come back to the confusion in my life. Have you ever had one of those moments where, as time slows down and pauses around you, you’re watching what’s happening instead of experiencing it? And as you’re watching yourself, you already know that the person before this moment, their book, is finished. Not just a chapter, because that would imply a continuation of the same story. Although maybe it is, you can’t really tell because it doesn’t feel like you’re the author at the moment. You just know this is important, for better and for worse.

And then you’re back in yourself, you walk out of the moment, and continue on. I feel like this would be an understandable experience to have when I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, but this is different.

Am I being dramatic? Probably. Maybe. No? When you realize there are large gaps in your memories, and you find yourself desperately trying to remember details that prove something, but come up blank… You’re confused.

Worse, you can’t place names, or even general references. You can’t research or ask others’ opinions, because nobody else was there. I started a blog for writing practice, for fun, and it’s given me the opportunity to be a contributor for The Mighty, which has been empowering and something I’ve enjoyed after the two articles I’ve submitted so far.

For the past month though, all of my energy has focused on this. People write vague things about their struggles on the internet all the time, whether alluding to it or calling it outright for what it is. I could imagine why people would do it before, but now I understand it. You just need something to be outside of your head and a notebook. I can’t write about anything else until I do this, annoying as it is, because I know how much I’ve changed recently. My perspectives are different, my trust is certainly being held close at the moment, and I’m hyper-vigilant to seemingly everything (hello exhausting). I’m in flux about my values, my goals, my identity (guess this is a premature quarter-life crisis), trying to piece together my past to better understand the present, and mostly avoiding the future right now.

But, here’s what I’ve learned so far…

  1. I am so, so much stronger than I have ever given myself credit for.
  2. I am incredibly intelligent (and have undermined this my whole life).
  3. My ways of adapting to my circumstances has resulted in some residual problems I now have to deal with, but I don’t regret what helped me cope.
  4. My life events are the same, but my experience for so many of these events is in question. I’m still me, but my perception of myself is unsettled and changing, and I’ve got to spend time with and learn who this new perception is.
  5. There are still some really damn amazing people in my life, and I’m more thankful for them than ever.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if you would have asked me if I thought a, b, c, or d would be in my future 1 year, 2 years, 5 or 10 years ago, I would have said “nah.” Here I am, and here I go. And it feels so good to write that.