Season’s Greetings: Squeaking in under the wire

Merry Yulesolsticeweenmas!

A lot has happened these past two years while also not much has happened these past two years. I keep drafting and nothing feels right or complete, even as it expands far beyond its scope and the attention span of any reasonable human being, boiling ever outward but largely full of nothing, like a universe but comprised of navel-gazy pessimistic ill-informed bullshit. Or as Yoast SEO calls it, “unreadable.” Like this one is, two paragraphs from now!

What has there been to write about, when I’m largely either at home or a barn? The pandemic? Travel? The business I started? More horse stuff? Regular life stuff?

The Pandemic?

No one in my household has caught it, which is no small feat given that some half of Americans have had it at least once. We’ve had both the privilege which allows caution and the human hardship of living in isolation in a world that is determined to move on despite experts warning that we are not yet in the endemic stage. Particularly now, given the “tripledemic” going on this winter and what appears to be humanity’s total exhaustion with safety precautions. At Fred Meyer yesterday, nearly every elderly person I saw had their fingers in their nose, on their mouths, or were just open mouth coughing into the air because??

I’d experienced a brush with covid very shortly after it first emerged in the US: at first, it felt like a timely subject about which to write, but as “fifteen days to stop the spread” expanded into months and then years of fighting over masks and vaccines, with communities of color suffering and healthcare workers pushed to their limits, who cares about the two weeks I spent in my house, running on my mini elliptical and focusing on the day I could again go outside? I didn’t even get sick! The biggest hardship was underdeveloped grocery delivery infrastructure–the horrors of eating expired food from the pantry!! Riveting.


I’ve got a backlog of trips with photos that I could write about but my type of travelogue hits different in the context of the pandemic. Everywhere has changed. I’ve changed. How do I write about being a shit at a hotel at the grand canyon now?

Yes, for the record, my room did smell like Mark Twain died in there, but I dunno, everyone is trying their best and the desk employees certainly can’t help it if the room’s outlets zapped me when I tried to plug something in and that the in-room coffeemaker didn’t work or that my parking lot view afforded me the natural serenity of an intermittent stream of car headlights sweeping through the room and the sounds of engines all night or even that the deathbed smell is proving impossible to remove. People are dying, our systems collapsing and I’m taking this time to write about how I took this trip and stayed at this place mere steps from the Grand Canyon and my big problem was hearing everyone’s bathroom noises in a way which suggested they’d designed the bathrooms for that purpose? (I said I’d changed, not that I’d matured beyond all pettiness.)

I’ve also been feeling weirder about travel in other contexts and pursuing notoriety or success or whatever with it as a primary component. When emissions from one flight can rival many people’s output over the course of an entire year, is a lifestyle of extensive travel ethical? Does the purpose matter (traveling to well/unwell family, for a much-needed vacation, or for a meeting that could’ve been a zoom call?) or does therein lie the means for self-deception and exoneration as “not part of the problem”? In an interconnected world in which people are very capable of telling their own stories, has travel writing become another act of colonialism? Does the world really need another privileged white woman’s snarky, petty screeds, posing as reviews? Is there something so special about me that I deserve to see everything in the world personally regardless of its indirect, cumulative toll on others? Have the travel, travel publishing, influencer, inspiration curation, and review compiling industries unwittingly forced a form of colonialized homogeny everywhere, making lots of places feel kind of the same?

I flew to my brother’s wedding this year, and I’m still riding the high. I’m so happy for him. It was wonderful to finally meet his beautiful wife and it seems like they have a great partnership. I hope they have a lifetime of happiness. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be there for his special day, celebrate with so many awesome new-to-me family members, and reconnect with my family. The ceremony was beautiful and the food was so delicious and the music kept me dancing so hard that my knees ached while climbing stairs for a solid month afterward. Worth it!

Shaun T taught me how to dance like a hot mess in 2021 and I fully embraced it so I guess we’ll see if anyone still wants to admit to a relation with me by blood or marriage.

The business I started?

At the very beginning of 2020, I started my business with the goal of making high quality pet accessories, starting with a line of dog waste bag dispensers painted with a portrait of the purchaser’s dog. I wanted to be certain I did it right and legally and as ethically as possible as well as creating a shipping and product experience which feel in line with the price. As it turns out, all of the everything involved takes a lot of time. I wanted to launch in April 2020, and had my website up and running December 31st 2021. So, you know, close.

I also wanted to make it as difficult as possible for a business with less ethics to rip off my products and manufacture them cheaply, like a certain Seattle-based retailer of cheap plastic trash and intentionally disgusting “food” did with my handmade ornaments, undercutting my prices and wiping me out of the market entirely. The customization aspect stands in the way of mass-production, but it’s also made things harder for me–I can’t sell my products at a craft fair or maker’s market or try to stock them in stores because there are hours of portrait painting and finishing work for me to do between the point of purchase decision and delivery, and shows are huge financial and time investment to only put the product in front of people.

Your dog here.

Sales and fulfillment (the fun part) are slow.

The ongoing tedium/confusion/frustration/anxiety/”what in dog’s name am I supposed to be posting on social media” paralysis of the administrative side continues like clockwork along with their respective bills: shop hosting and accounting software and the second phone line and email forwarding and licensing so people can look at my website for an average of thirty seconds apiece.

Well, not JUST for that, it also inspires within me a deep desire to walk into the sea come tax time.

I know I need to keep grinding if I’m ever going to find my customers, I just really did not think it was going to be this hard. So now I get to throw some extra shade at myself for being too slow at launching my business to capture the time period when people were at home with extra spending money *and* when the instagram algorithm still allowed businesses a chance of reaching a new audience without spending money.

It feels extra bad to be unsuccessful to the point of losing money every month when Jason has been out of work for so long and things are getting scary financially–not only am I not helping to support my family with this, I’m making the situation worse.

More Horse Stuff?

This year I started working part time at a nearby sport horse farm which I will not name, photograph, nor specify the sport because I enjoy this job, I want to keep it, and I definitely can’t afford to lose it. I take satisfaction in the immediate impact of the work I perform and knowing that I’m doing my utmost to ensure that each animal in my care is as happy and healthy as possible. The physical nature of the work helps me sleep well and stay fit, its outdoorsiness keeps me in tune with the cycles of nature, and horses are wonderful coworkers. This year I learned to drive a tractor and spent several afternoons in the late summer sun, mowing pastures and hauling wood chips.

Navi is doing well both physically and emotionally. Thanks to the generosity of another boarder at my barn, she’s able to be in shared pasture turnout with another horse, which, as herd animals, is important for them but difficult to find in a boarding situation because (surprise!) people are wary about allowing their valuable animals into a group situation where anything at all could happen, from disputes leading to minor injuries to manes and tails eaten off to serious injuries or even death. Navi and Tina are close enough in temperament that the pairing works without violence or crushing codependence. They’re close enough in appearance that the staff needed to label one of them, but when they’re side by side it’s quite clear who is who.

For one thing, she and I make the same face while exercising.

I’ve continued to work with her using positive reinforcement training, and she enjoys it so much that she is now annoyed with me if I’ve come to visit her and do anything else. Essentially, I’m a stupid human slot machine who refuses to pay out despite knowing where the hay pellets are stored and possessing the requisite opposable thumbs to access them. RUDE.

Here we are in our halloween costume: evil witch who dragged her faithful horse to this dumb loud party and kept her away from dinner so long she skeletonized.

Regular Life Stuff?

There’s not much else going on. We adopted Teddy Bear as an official member of the family this year when it became clear he wasn’t ever going to be able to reintegrate with his family of origin, due to his bitey jealousies about no longer being the baby. We’ve successfully trained him with positive reinforcement to the point where he no longer needs to wear a diaper inside, demonstrating that his issue wasn’t so much incontinence as it was him feeling like it was not worth his while to tell us that he had to go. I’ve had less success with his on-leash reactivity but we’re making progress there, too.

When we started fostering him after his post-baby freakout, he’d lost most of his fur and was an anxious mess, constantly asking Jason or myself to hold him up on one shoulder like a baby being burped. Since then, his coat has grown back entirely, and he’s confident enough in us and this as his home that he’s not nearly as needy. He promptly got himself banned from Petco grooming because of his loud, bitey, goblinish behavior so I’ve started trimming him at home (which, I’d like to add, is not the same reason I started cutting my own hair at home). His vision is starting to go, his hearing is starting to go (silver lining: fewer shrill barking sessions at neighbors who had the absolute audacity to walk past our house on public sidewalks, minding their own business), his teeth are mostly gone, his kidneys are starting to go and I love him so much I’d fight an actual bear to keep him safe.
His little “shake and yank” maneuver is the cutest thing I have ever captured in any medium.

I started and made excellent progress on what began as a Halloween costume, took too long, didn’t have Halloween plans outside of the barn party anyway, and it’s shaping up into a pretty cool cosplay but I’ve run into a few issues and haven’t had the time, know-how, or energy to finish it, so maybe it’ll show up in 2023? And then, of course, it begins the transition.

Love to you and yours and a happy, healthy new year,