Way Off Track – The Luckiest Unlucky Horse

First off, let me say that I am terrible at consistently updating this blog. It can be hard to find time to write between my insanely busy job and actually riding and taking care of my horses. All you other adult ammys out there know what I mean!

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So…I’ve had Chief for almost six months. Crazy!! He’s improved so much that I am honestly stunned. Especially considering how many injuries he’s had during that time. To be blunt, he is accident-prone—unlucky in the extreme. But the craziest thing about these injuries is that they were all freak things, all totally terrifying, and in the end, all totally fine. Lucky even. Here’s a list (because I like lists):

  • Laceration to his left hind. He did this 5 days after he arrived. It swelled up pretty fierce, but he was never lame, and it resolved quickly.
  • Laceration to his right front, just above the heel. I saw him do this one. We had tried (and failed) to introduce him into one pasture. The second pasture (with the two year-olds) was going great. Until Chief had a playful fight with a gelding on the other side of the fence. He reared up and got his foot hooked on the wire running along the top of the fence! I thought I was going to watch my beautiful horse break his leg. But he pulled free, fell down, stood up, and…was fine. I had the vet out, but probably needlessly. He never took a lame step and I was riding him again within the week.

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[photo: ouch, but miraculously superficial]

  • Chief had some small hives when he got off the trailer in June. Thinking they were from stress, I left them alone. MISTAKE. By the time I had the vet check him out they had become calcified granulomas. They are purely cosmetic. I told myself that looks aren’t everything and he’s still a great horse. But still, I was sad. Thankfully they responded well to direct injection of steroids. So it looks like we might eventually get rid of them after all.

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[photo: granulomas all over his right side]

  • Puncture wound to the right stifle. My trainer and I decided to take Chief to a schooling show in September just to hang out. I went to get him out of the pasture at 5 AM and he could barely walk. I got him up to the cross ties in the light and found the puncture. It was tense until the vet arrived, took some x-rays, and determined that the joint was not penetrated. He was sound again within the week.
  • Potential neck abscess scare. Chief was on IM injections of antibiotics for two weeks after the puncture wound. One day, his neck swelled up at the injection site. I immediately feared an abscess from the caustic gentamycin we had been injecting. I spent a few days waiting and dreading for his skin to peel away. But NOPE. Turns out another horse had bit him on the neck. No abscess. We put him right back to work.

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[photo: the “not-an-abscess”]

Chief has been quite rough on my bank account and quite good for my fabulous vet’s retirement! After the stifle wound, his pasture living rights were revoked. He’s doing great in his double-sized stall with daily turnouts (alone!). When I got him at the beginning of June, he had NO training away from the racetrack. He could barely steer, couldn’t pick up the right lead canter, wouldn’t accept my weight in the saddle, and had no idea how to jump or even go over a pole.

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[photo: all by himself…he’s gotta be…all by himseeeelllfff]

He has come so unbelievably far since that day. Here’s another list:

  • Chief consistently picks up both canter leads now with no fuss, and even does it from the walk.
  • He jumps 2’-2’3” courses of jumps, including straight and bending lines, scary boxes, and oxers.
  • He jumps grids!! Seriously. Full grids.
  • He does beautiful simple changes on figure eights and is learning flying changes over poles.
  • We almost never lunge him, even after he has had a few days off.
  • He lets me pull the blanket on and off over his head, stands quietly in the cross ties, does neck stretches for cookies, and can very nearly perform a circus bow.
  • He can do leg yields at the walk and trot and is learning collection.
  • I can trail ride him all over the property, even out in the back field, without a buddy.
[video: a few months old now, Chief jumps his first line]

Annnndddd…druuuum roooooolllll…

WE ARE GOING TO OUR FIRST HORSE SHOW IN TWO WEEKS!!

Yep, that’s right. Six weeks almost to the day of him stepping off the trailer from Kentucky, Chief will make his hunter debut.

He might be the luckiest of unlucky, accident-prone horses, but he’s worth it.

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[photo: the cutest of faces]

Way Off Track – A Horse Has A Name

What’s in a name?

When I bought Chief, I was simply happy that his Jockey Club registered name wasn’t terrible. Seriously, some of the names people choose for thoroughbreds are heinous (my friend owned a horse whose registered name was “JakeAndJudy” . . . yuck)! Double Halo is actually quite pretty. I like it enough that I’m planning to keep it as his future show name.

During the last two weeks, Chief has lived up to his name and then some. My trainer and I suspected that his initial calmness might wear off as he recovered from his long trailer ride. But it hasn’t, and we feel pretty confident that it won’t. I can lead Chief all over the property with no stud chain, even to the tack room in the pitch black of night where he lets me tie him and pull his mane. I can ride him without lunging him first, trot through poles, and canter quietly under saddle.

That’s not to say he has no vices. He is a little gate sour and a little herd bound. And he doesn’t understand how to canter to the right (a typical OTTB problem, since they run left on the track). But my rides are enjoyable. He wants to please and he learns fast. He’s three, and better behaved than most five year-old warmbloods I’ve ridden. In other words, he is an angel. Double Halo indeed.*

[Just hanging out late at night, no big deal; his first time under saddle since being off the track]

But it wasn’t until the last few days that it occurred to me that his name has another, deeper meaning. Today is Father’s Day, and while I will celebrate with my dad later today, I want to take a moment to talk about my grandfathers. Sadly, neither of them are with us any longer. My Papa, my mom’s dad, died of complications from a stroke when I was nine. My Grandpa Ken, my dad’s dad, died peacefully asleep in his armchair during finals week of my 1L year of law school.

What does this have to do with Chief? Well, horses are in my blood.

My Papa was raised in Kentucky, the thoroughbred capital of the world. He used to go to the track and saddle-break the two year-olds. This consisted of hopping on board a horse that had never even had a saddle on (much less a person) and literally hanging on for dear life until the horse got used to it. He got a quarter for each horse he broke this way. He never got the chance to watch me ride. At least not during the years he spent on Earth. If he had lived long enough, I’m sure he would have been at every horse show with me.

My Grandpa Ken was a farmer and a rancher, so he spent every day with horses. But even better than that, he was also a jokey for a time. That’s right, I’ve got racehorses in my blood on both sides. While my Grandpa Ken and I shared many long hours trading horse stories, I have a favorite. In one of his races, while he was galloping down the backstretch, his horse’s girth snapped. Now, jockeys balance entirely in the stirrups. Without the girth to keep the saddle in place, staying put on the horse’s back is essentially impossible. My Grandpa knew that falling off in the middle of a pack of galloping thoroughbreds was essentially a death sentence. Somehow, probably through a combination of skill and sheer determination, he hung on long enough to guide his horse to the rail. He then let go and rolled to safety under the guardrail and into the infield. To think a horse race was almost responsible for me never being born…that’s just mind-boggling!

Back to present day now. I buy a horse from the internet on a word and a prayer. He could have been crazy, or lame, or downright dangerous. Instead he is sweet, and sound, and incredibly gentle. Almost like he’s been blessed or something. Almost like a guardian angel sent him to me. Or perhaps two guardian angels who understand my passion for horses and my particular love of thoroughbreds. I think my horse got double halos, one from each of the horsemen up there that want to see me safe and happy.

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Thank you Papa. Thank you Grandpa Ken. I feel you with me every time I get to ride my Double Halo.

 

*Fun fact: Chief’s dam’s sire’s sire is the infamous stallion Halo. Rather than live up to his name, Halo had an ironic streak of humor and instead was known as one of the most ill-tempered thoroughbred stallions ever. Thankfully, Chief’s grand-sire, Saint Ballado, didn’t inherent this nasty streak. Whew!

Way Off Track – Beginnings

Entry 1 – June 2, 2016

Last month I did a crazy thing and bought a horse on the Internet. Not just any horse either, but a three year-old off the track thoroughbred colt from Kentucky. I did not get to ride or even handle him before purchasing him. He got gelded, in Kentucky, the day I bought him. Chief, I called my new horse, after the main character in the videogame “Halo,” a riff on his registered name, Double Halo (which I’ll keep for shows).

You might suspect that I had some form of buyer’s remorse or hesitation in the three weeks I had to wait for him to heal so that he could safely trailer to California. I didn’t. Meister Eckhart once said, “And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” When I saw Chief’s sweet face on my computer screen, I knew the time had come for a magical beginning.

13237782_10104450102440863_4176562090549336599_n.jpg[Double Halo “Chief” at Thoroughbred Sport Horses in Kentucky, photo credit TBSH]

My first horse, Austin, also a thoroughbred, is 23 years-old now. I love him dearly, but he’s earned his retirement and all the red vines he can eat (they’re his favorite treat). Our relationship is magical in its own way now, full of peaceful evening rides and gentle grooming sessions. But there is a different kind of magic found in training a young horse, in developing his potential, in seeing how far you can go together. It is a riskier magic, to be sure. More volatile, but also more exciting.

[Me and Austin in the USEF Medal in 2004; retired in 2014; going for a hack in 2012]

I finally got to meet Chief as the sun rose this morning. One look in his soft, brown eyes and I felt the magic. Chief is sweet and gentle. He settled into his new home right away, eating and drinking, not pacing or pawing. He let me lead him around the round pen over some poles and past the (very scary!) mounting block. He didn’t pull his head away when I put his fly mask on, even though I am pretty certain he has never seen one before. To my dismay, he would not eat treats. He had never been fed by hand before today! So we already have one goal to work towards.

[Chief arrives in Northern California, settles in, doesn’t like cookies, and gets groomed]

It will be a while before I climb onto his back. His feet are torn up pretty badly from his long journey and he will need shoes before he does anything other than walk in soft sand. But we have plenty of time.

I’ve learned, after decades of horse ownership and after training many horses and riders, that Chief and I will inevitably hit bumps along our way. He will misbehave. I will fall off. He might get injured or sick. Or I might. But today, none of that mattered. Today, we basked in our potential and the very promising start to our partnership. Today, we had a great beginning.

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*This is the first of a weekly blog series, Way Off Track, which follows Chief’s transition from racehorse to sport horse.

**As an extra side-note, Chief is eligible to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover this October.  I have decided that I want to take his training nice and slow, so we won’t be competing.

Friday at the Movies – Barbarella

So, after reading all the funny Tweets authored by people watching Star Wars for the first time, my husband and I decided it would be hilarious to blog our reactions to movies as we watched them for the first time.  Off we went to Netflix for some good material.  We found this gem – a famous science fiction movie from the 1960s starring Jane Fonda – Barbarella.  Below is a transcript with our in-the-moment comments.  I’m not sure if it will be funnier to people who have seen the movie and know what scenes we are reacting to or people who haven’t seen it and have no idea what is happening.  Leave a comment and let me know!  Without further adieu…

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Friday at the Movies with J & T – Episode 1: Barbarella (this blog is rated R)

Find the preview for Barbarella here. I highly suggest watching it for some context.

[Movie starts]

J (me): This has to be porn.

T (my husband): I don’t think so.

J: She is taking off her pants now, its definitely porn.

T: [hysterical laughter] Apparently the letters float around to try to cover up her nudity.

J: Well they aren’t trying very hard.

T: Well, what do you expect? It’s the 60s.

 

J: Wait, did the president just say the scientist’s name was “Duran Duran”?

T: um…

J: So this is the 80s!

T: Nope, movie came out in 1968.

J: OMG this is what Duran Duran named their band after! [checks Wikipedia] I WAS RIGHT IT TOTALLY IS!!

 

T: You know, I think if this had been done a little better it could have been a good feminist movie.

J: um…

T: But it wasn’t done better.

J: Good thing she has fur carpet to cushion the falls she takes every 5 seconds.

T: Go home Alfie [ship’s computer], you’re drunk.

J: That’s some swanky music.

T: Definitely a porno.

J: Can she not walk now? Why is she always on her knees?

 

J: Those girls look like the creepy ones from The Shining.

T: “tongue box”…definitely a porno.

J: An S&M porno apparently…she is unconscious and they are tying her up.

T: It’s a smiling, unicorn stingray!!!!

J: Pulling a sled!!!

 

J: That does NOT look like Duran Duran…

T: That looks like something made by Dr. Seuss.

 

J: Oh shit! Creepy Chucky dolls!

T: Creepy dolls!

J: [screams]

T: Creepy vampire dolls!

J: [screams again]

T: Straight for the crotch!!

J: [more screaming]

J: Wait, now there are people with whips?

T: I have no idea what’s going on.

 

[guy dressed in fur gropes unconscious Barbarella]

T: I take back that thing I said about feminism.

J: She really does fall down and faint a lot.

T: Did he just blatantly stare at her chest?

J: Who the fuck is screaming all the time?

 

J: NOW IT’S A PORNO!!

T: What?

J: He just said she should make love to him in exchange for him rescuing her.

T: Apparently in the future you have sex by holding hands.

J: This is the worst porno ever.

T: She seems less than enthusiastic about it [real sex].

J: OMG he’s hairy underneath the fur!

T [at the same time as J above]: He’s hairer underneath the fur!

T: “…and I thought they smelled bad on the outside…” ~ Han Solo.

J: So they just drive around in a circle? I can’t believe it doesn’t even show them doing it! Some porno…

T: The ice penises just went limp…

J: Wham, bam, thank you fur man.

 

J: Why is everyone so obsessed with fur?

T: If it’s so cold, why didn’t she cover her legs or arms or head?

T: This is a terrible portrayal of women.

J: You think?

T: I don’t even…I don’t even want to know what that was.

J: A “terra-screw!” Seriously?

T: Yup.

 

J: Did she change clothes again?

T: She fell down AGAIN. And passed out AGAIN. This is the third time she’s passed out?

J: Yep, and now a caveman is feeling her up.

T: No it’s an angel apparently. A blind angel?

J: Nice one Barbarella, telling the blind guy to “look at it”…RUDE!

 

T: There’s another naked woman.

J: What even is happening??  These weird rock people are creepy.

T: I’m pretty sure she just mouthed, “what the fuck?” to herself.

J: She is still asking everyone if they’ve seen Duran Duran…I’m pretty sure this is the 80s.

T: Her hair looks like it.

 

J: Woman, if you’re going to own a spaceship, learn how to fix it. Stop asking random men to do it for you!

T: Seriously.

 

T: HOLY SHIT!

J: OMG THEY DID IT [Barbarella and the angel]

T: She literally can’t do anything for herself, she just sleeps with men to get them to do shit for her. I totally reverse what I said about feminism at the beginning of this movie.

J: And now she asked him to fly her to the city…you’re right, she just sleeps with them to get stuff.

T: I don’t think he has enough wing area to be carrying himself and, like, 140 pounds of woman. Unrealistic!

J: Why did he widen his eyes in surprise? He can’t see anything…he’s blind!

T: Apparently these guards are blind as well. They can’t hit shit.

J: “To the right. A little more to the right. Now faster! Up!” (quoting Barbarella).

T: Well, you might have gotten killed, but at least you got laid first. Wait…he’s not dead. Just another easy fainter.

J: I think this movie is actually lowering my IQ. I’m not even able to make good jokes anymore.

T: She just stuffed a gun down the front of his pants! Doesn’t she know anything about gun safety?

J: Every time they say his name it makes me want pie…[his name is Piegar or something like that]

 

T: When did that outfit become a bikini?

J: Did she change clothes again??

T: What is over her crotch?

J: Why is there plexi-glass literally everywhere?

J: WHAT is going on??

T: I have no idea hun.

J: Wait, “take the chance”? (quoting Barbarella). She just told you that every choice is death!

T: “So my choice is… ‘or death?’” ~ Eddie Izzard.

T: Oh look, another man to save her…[rolls eyes].

J: Pie-guy has a very high-waisted loincloth. I am only just now noticing.

 

J: Again with the screaming whips.

T: It’s an orgy. Drunken orgy. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t even know what to say.

J: The women sound like the whiny girls in the Castle Anthrax in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

J: …and more bondage.

T: I don’t even know what to say.

J: So THAT’s why she hid the gun in his crotch!

T: “De-crucify the angel or I’ll melt your face” (quoting Barbarella).

T: Piegar is like the most worthless person. Next to Barbarella.

J: Wait…are they saying “meth” moss?

T: Maybe…

T: …close enough, meth moss it is.

 

J: She’s gonna faint again.

T: Death by parakeets and zebra finches.

J: They are eating her clothes…again.

T: Apparently she can’t stay clothed for very long in this movie.

J: OMG best line ever “really this is too poetic a way to die” (quoting Barbarella). I want that on my headstone.

 

T: Did he just call himself “Dildano”?

J: Yep…

J: Lots of talk about packages, but no one is delivering.

J: Stop saying “recompense” (quoting Barbarella). No one talks like that!

J: Not again with the sex as payment…oh, but he wants to do it with the pill and the hand-holding…boring…

T: At least he gloved it.

J: [dies].

T: You don’t want to get hand herpes.

J: [comes back to life and dies again].

T: It curled her hair.

J: Why did she apologize?

T: He wasn’t done yet.

J: Oh…

T: His hand is smoking. I think there might some holes in his glove.

J: Hope she doesn’t get pregnant.

 

T: Another costume change.

J: OMG it’s a one-sided, cone bra, corset.

T: It has a nipple on it.

J: More fur!

T: More plexi-glass.

T: *facepalms [at the loss of the invisible key].

J: Did they just, like, completely run out of money for special effects at this point? Were they too cheap to buy a prop key?

 

J: um, he’s literally playing her like an instrument.

T: The machine is undressing her.

J: Well, she was due for another costume change.

T: He basically just said he is going to pleasure her to death…

J: I think his toupee is coming loose. Sexy.

T: da fuq…

J: And now she’s burning to death?

T: That thing right there…does that look like a pair of woman’s legs with a…

J: WAIT! That’s Duran Duran!? She is pretty forgiving considering that he just piano raped her and then threatened to kill her.

T: It’s amazing, every random garment she finds laying around fits her skin-tight and perfectly.

J: And has no pants.

T: And has no pants.

J: Seriously, why did such a great band name themselves after this dick?

 

T: That bed looks like a woman laying spread-eagle…and that other woman is sleeping in it.

J: I think the producers were high when they made this part.

T: I think they were high the entire time.

T: [redacted]

J: I’m leaving that out.

J: Lens flares! Do you think JJ Abrams made this movie?

T: Definitely.

J: Why didn’t the positronic ray teleport the rock along with the people?

T: I don’t know. I fell asleep during that lecture in college.

 

J: Seriously, is she saying “math” or “meth”? Based on context, I think meth. Meth moss.

T: They are totally going to have a threesome…

 

THE END

Studying for the California Bar (in memes)

OK! So I’ve been under a rock for the last three months studying for the California Bar Exam. So if you wondered where I was or what studying for the bar exam is like, take a look.

Studying for the California Bar Exam (in memes):

Graduating law school on a Saturday in May, but then on Monday…

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And at first you are kind of pumped. Its just another test and you are almost a lawyer.

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But things get pretty dull pretty darn fast.

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You study all day every day. Literally.

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You get a little sick of people asking about it.

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Because every night, you and your friends are like…

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Your days are filled with obscure legal doctrines that no one but other bar-takers care about.

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And you start to get a little mad about how dumb some of this stuff is.

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The only people that really get it are your fellow bar-takers and all the attorneys you know that keep asking you about your “little quiz” at the end of July.

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Pretty soon it is the end of June.

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You still can’t manage to regurgitate all the rules of law you are supposed to know on all the practice essays.

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You see other people posting about the fun things they are doing this summer, and you’re just like…

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You start to overreact when non-law friends and family try to get in touch.

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Barbri lectures end but then the daily workload of practice essays increases and you realize you will never keep pace with this program.

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Then it is suddenly the middle of July.

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So you crack down even harder. Every minute counts.

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You blink and the exam is now a week away and you STILL don’t know everything. Uh-oh.

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When Tuesday of exam week finally arrives you look something like this:

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But you push through. At the end of Day 1, you have never been so tired.

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Heading over on Wednesday morning for the MBE everyone looks like:

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When the multiple-choice questions are even harder than you expected, you realize that Barbri has betrayed you.

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And on Wednesday night, when the rest of the country is celebrating being finished with the exam, you are cursing the California committee of bar examiners.

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By Thursday, you are so tired that you just don’t care anymore. You turn in the test like:

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And then you sit there for like FOREVER while they collect the exams. TORTURE.

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And then…at last…the proctor says:

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You realize

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Time to celebrate with your friends

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After three years of law school and the worst summer of your lives, you are more than friends now. You are FAMILY.

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For one night you are happy and free.

caption: "Purple Giraffe" --   Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders,  Josh Radnor, Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan, from the new CBS series HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER.   Photo: Ron P. Jaffe/ CBS  ©2005 CBS BROADCASTING INC.  All Rights Reserved.  Season 1  Production 1ALH  copyright:

But then people start asking you if you passed and you have to keep explaining that results take FOUR MONTHS.

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In the end though, you are relieved to be done and looking forward to reconnecting with all the people you neglected during bar prep.

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Time to start counting the days until you can actually say…

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If you’ve put up with me this summer, or if you’ve ever supported another bar examinee…THANK YOU. We know we are crazy. And we love you for sticking it out with us.

xoxo

Jack

Why I’m becoming *almost* a vegan…

I’ve always hated diets… Those dreaded things that make me hungry all the time and never last longer than a few months. But now I find myself in desperate need of one.

You may or may not have read my blog this summer about my illness (find it here if you want to look at it). But in short, I have some serious chronic conditions. I spend several weeks each month in rather intense pain. And then I spend another week just trying to recover my strength. Only to do it all over again. Well, I’ve had enough.

I’ve spent months reading up on my ailments and what others have done to relieve their endometriosis and adenomyosis symptoms. Many of them report a vegan diet helps, often completely eliminating their symptoms within a few months.

But, VEGAN?? A year ago, I would have laughed in the face of anyone who suggested that I try a vegan diet. I love steak. And cream cheese. And a ton of other stuff that vegans refuse to eat. Not worth it, I would have said (although at least wine is vegan).

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Would have. Now…

I want to live a life free of pain. I want to stop burning through a Costco sized bottle of ibuprofen every month. I want to get a good night’s sleep without the help of narcotic painkillers or sleeping pills. I want to have children.

So today I begin my new diet. Not for a week or a month. Not to lose weight. But so I can get healthy. And stay healthy for the rest of what I plan to be a long and happy life.

Today, I become an almost vegan.*

If you notice that my eating habits have radically changed or if I refuse to share your chicken nuggets with you, please don’t be sad or worried about me. Be excited for me. Hope (or pray if you’re the type) that this might actually make me better. Help me be strong enough to see this change through.

Much love for all of you. Even, no especially, for those of you that feel like this…

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xoxoxoxoxo

*I am keeping eggs and the occasional serving of fish in my diet for now. My research indicates that I need to eliminate all meat (non-fish) and all dairy to get the best results. I know I can get protein from peanut butter, soy beans, quinoa, and lots of other great foods, but I’m going to ease in by eating eggs for breakfast and some sushi once a week. Because I want to, that’s why.

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NEVER-lutions

I’ve never been into making New Years resolutions. I rarely keep them as my life changes a few weeks or a few months after January 1. And as soon as I skip a workout/miss a day of writing/eat a doughnut I give up. I failed.

So this year I am trying something else. I am making a list of negative behaviors that I will give up rather than a list of new positive behaviors that I will try to learn all at once. Why? Because it seems easier to me to eliminate negative behaviors then it does to all of a sudden adopt positive ones. So, without further ado…

In 2015:

1) I will NEVER get into an argument if my position lacks evidence and support outside of my own opinion. If I can’t find the evidence, then I should consider the possibility that I might be wrong.

2) I will NEVER let my ego be the reason for my words or actions.

3) I will NEVER agree to do something that I don’t want to do or something that makes me uncomfortable, no matter who asks me to do it. I will NEVER be bullied.

4) I will NEVER lose sight of how blessed I am. Life is unfair. But I am living some of my dreams and I am working toward the others. There are people out there that can’t even imagine what it is like to have the opportunities that I’ve had. I will NEVER forget that.

5) I will NEVER give up. On my dreams. On my family. On myself.

2015 is going to be a big year for me. The biggest yet. I will graduate from law school. I will survive Targe’s first deployment. I will take the bar exam (and pass)! I will start my new job. I will play with my dog and ride my horse and I will read for fun and I will write more. I will go hiking and swimming and on bike rides and out with my friends. I will really, really LIVE.

And because of my NEVER-lutions, I will live without ignorance, without arrogance, without shame, without entitlement, and without limits.

How will you live in 2015?