Writing From the Right Side of the Stall

Carefully curated musings about the writing life, horses, bitterness and crushing career disappointment. Fun, right?

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How Do You Miss Someone Who Was Never There?

So there was this pandemic. Maybe you’ve heard.

And also, there was the abrupt end of a teaching job I loved (even if it gave me massive intestinal upset, no time or energy to ride my horses, and eventually ran my poor old truck into the ground). I’m still incandescently furious about it. I was bloody good, dammit, and Ridgetown College, in its infinite wisdom, had the temerity to suggest that because I had not managed to relocate to a farm in the hinterlands of Huron County, that I somehow lacked commitment to a contract job which was never going to commit to me.

Dunno … I think commuting two hours each way on a daily basis for eight months demonstrates some level of commitment. Without even pointing out that a good four months of that were in the hellish depths of winter, when it was rarely just two hours each way. I drove through some storms that a bloody herd of magical musk-oxen would not have gotten through. Seriously, I still get night terrors about white-knuckle driving on endless stretches of white-outs.

It ain’t a view from the Millenium Falcon, my friend.

Suffice to say, I busted my ass for that job, for those kids, for that Equine Care and Management program, and only now, two years on, can I make myself write even this bit of bitter vitriol about it. But hey, I am at least in possession of some killer Powerpoint lectures about equine nutrition, stable management, conformation, equine behaviour … and how to write a resume <insert uber-ironic eyeroll here>. You know. If anyone’s interested.

So also, there was the Landlord From Hell. Who had been an LFH pretty much from Day One, but went nuclear on me when he ignored all the public health recommendations at the beginning of the pandemic and moved onto the farm I was renting. Previous to Covid, he had treated the place like a cottage and had only turned up two or three weekends a year. He would wreak a little random havoc and then fuck off again for a few months. Once installed full-time, he decided he didn’t want a tenant anymore — but having no legal basis to evict me, decided to just make my life a vortex of terror, hostility, and fear until I left. Essentially, I’ve felt under siege for a year and a half — and without going into too much detail (because you bet your ass I am pursuing legal action against him) — I have not felt safe, nor felt that my horses were safe. (And yes, I was in contact with law enforcement on several occasions, and they were beyond useless. Sadly, I would not recommend that anyone in a precarious living situation put their faith in the Ontario Provincial Police.)

Basically humans suck, and I have a rare and exemplary talent for finding the ones who suck the worst.

On the up side, hiding in my little shoebox of a house and not doing terribly much in the way of working thanks to Covid lockdowns, I got my ass on my treadmill and managed to (slowly and laboriously) lose 20 pounds. I have also (so far) failed to contract Covid. I’ve only really had one confirmed exposure/test incident, back last December, and I was negative. I’m now fully vaxxed, and grateful both for that and for having been able to live off the generosity of Justin Trudeau for the past 18 months while my income was next to bugger-all. Seriously, the feds in my country handled the pandemic pretty fucking well, all things considered, and after the past four years of watching insanity, lies, hatred, conspiracy theories, propaganda, and disaster reign in the US, anyone who finds anything significant to bitch about re: the Canadian government needs to give their fricking head a shake. Shut up and be grateful for the stability and safety you’ve got, you craven idiots.

So anyway. I managed, in August, to relocate my horses and myself, though my current situation is temporary and less than ideal in many respects. (Just tonight, my roommate blew up at me without warning because apparently she was unaware that cats shed. So that’s awesome …) It’s a port in a storm, and the larger problem of somewhere solid to live remains to be solved.

Dumpster fire, squared.

I do kind of wonder how the manufacturers of Christmas ornaments will top last year’s “2020 Dumpster Fire” rendered in blown glass and sparkles, for 2021. I am eager to see, even if the likelihood of my breaking out any ornaments this coming holiday season is next to zero, given that most of my belongings are in storage indefinitely. Because somewhere in the middle of my personal pandemic shitstorm, my Significant Other of 18 years decided I wasn’t worth the effort anymore.

When my landlord served me with a bunch of bogus eviction documents last December, among the falsehoods and threats contained therein was an utter fabrication about said SO having brandished a shotgun in the vicinity of my landlord. This never happened. It’s not just a fabrication, it’s a felony if it were true, which it categorically is not. So the accusation is serious, but utterly bogus because there is no police report to produce. But my SO took this accusation as the final proof that I am a hot mess and he no longer wanted to be involved. And so he basically cancelled Christmas and left me alone.

It was at this point that most of my friends started saying variations on, “I never really understood what you saw in him anyway.”

Do you even dressage in that thing??

The weird thing (well, one of the weird things) was that he didn’t see this as abandonment. Still doesn’t. Because, I guess, he still called me on occasion to see if I was alive … or more accurately, to rant about what a miserable time he was having at his job, and maintain that he was protecting me — by only calling once in a while — from how vexed it was making him. It was about as supportive as one of those laughably flimsy “yoga bras” that I see being sold in (seriously??) tack shops, of all places. Who are the women for whom these are appropriate garments for sitting trot? But I digress.

As far as he was concerned, we were still a Thing — whatever anemic, circling-the-drain version of Thing that might be. Me? After 18 years of being with a man who had always had one foot out the door (because see above, I am a liability and a Hot Mess, but I do come with several pairs of rather sexy footwear and I’m nice to his mother), somewhere along the line I got fucking sick and tired of disappointment. I finally called it quits after he refused to even consider for a fraction of a second, attending my parents’ 60th anniversary dinner, but wanted me to attend a family function of his. I was in the middle of moving (needless to say, with zero help from him) but made a herculean effort to be there for him. Christ alone knows why. We hadn’t seen each other in the flesh for at least eight weeks. When I arrived, he glared at me, said I was late and we needed to get on the road. That was my greeting. I blinked, and retreated to the loo, where I took several long, even breaths, and then I emerged and asked him whether he might want to re-think his greeting. He doubled down. And I knew I had finally, finally reached the limit I should have recognized years ago.

I left … but he left me first.

I only wish it was this cool.

So how do you miss someone who was never there? In 18 years together (for a given value of ‘together’), we never lived in the same building. Most of the time we weren’t even in the same area code. I had to be where my horses could be accommodated, and my SO had his little house that he inhabited sort of like a hermit crab. He never had any intention of committing to my lifestyle, and his certainly didn’t have any room for me. In fact, other than a dressing gown, there wasn’t even anything of mine to retrieve from his house, in the end. I stopped in one day in September, when I had to be in his town for a mammogram, and left him his key and a packet of Maltesers to soften the blow. Who the hell knows if it was actually a blow to him.

For over a decade, we talked every day — but I can count on one hand the number of times he was in a room with my parents. When it came to the stuff guys are useful for — helping fix a fence, change the oil in my truck, or getting something from the top shelf — he was 99.9% absent. When my aged cat, Moxie, disappeared (presumably to hide and die on her own), he mocked me for being devastated. He spent a lot of time criticizing his older brother for being emotionally stunted, but honestly, he wasn’t much better. And when he’s cruel, he’s bloody well surgical about it.

It’s easy to dump on an ex, of course. We were sympatico on a number of fairly important things, including Hawaiian pizza, Amanda Marshall, art galleries, and hating most televised sports. He gave me a few very nice gifts over the years, though his choices were heavily weighted towards electronics. (I do love my electric keyboard, and the pearls he begrudgingly bought me months after I ooh’ed and aah’ed over some in a store in Quebec City. He was usually crushingly dismissive of the gifts I gave him, always chosen with great effort and thought.) We’re both cheap dates, generally limiting ourselves to one glass of wine per evening — so I never had to deal with him drunk. But getting him to go anywhere or do anything was like pulling teeth. I was so very weary of the automatic ‘no’ that just sucked all the joy out of everything. Most activities I was interested in, I did alone — so nothing’s really changed there.

Would it kill you to go on a dirty weekend with me, just ONCE?

I naively once thought Marshall’s song, “Marry Me” would be our wedding song — yes, friends will be shocked that I even mentioned marriage and me in the same paragraph, but I really would not object to having a spouse who was actually invested in me. (Even if in my advanced state of decrepitude, I would be frankly ridiculous in a white dress.) I’m loyal AF (maybe that’s my problem), and I would like someone to invest my emotional energy in too. My SO squelched that when he admitted that his interpretation of the song’s final line, “So baby, if you’re free, marry me” was an indication that the whole song was just a come-on to someone who was cheating. Wait, what?

So here you go: the soundtrack of a failed relationship. Ugh. At least I’m accustomed to solo Xmases. My apologies for the pity party, gentle readers. I’ll be fine once we get past the fucking holidays. And how the hell have YOU been weathering the pandemic?

A Short History of Certain Western Men Attempting To Explain Why Women Love Horses

So short version: not dead yet. Have serious plans to revitalize the poor pathetic moribund blog, and the way things are going, I’ll have plenty of time in January to do so. (Sigh.) Meanwhile, however, have a lovely dash of snark.

Susanna Forrest

Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, March, 1866. Archive.org via WikiCommons.

“Women are already a bad cocktail unto themselves. Unchecked and untempered they’ll run feral and ruin the best of men, but you combine them with horses and John Freaking Wayne would have difficulty in taming them. I cannot pin it down, nor do I wish to expend the calories of energy to figure out why women have such a psychological attachment to horses, but they do.”

Aaron Clarey on MRA blog, Return of Kings.

Poor Aaron. A certain kind of man will forever be mystified by women, largely because he won’t listen to what they actually have to say. Nowhere is that clearer than in the centuries-old subgenre of Men Attempting To Explain Why Women Love Horses, which is busting with theories about phallic symbolism, misplaced maternal instinct and women basically being oversexed animals anyway. I wrote my first book,

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The tediousness of food blogs.

Emily has a point. Even feminist-mindset women can fall into the trap of dismissing women’s voices, because society has taught us to. This is an interesting perspective on recipe blogs, from a writer/blogger I consistently enjoy.

well fed, flat broke

Image source: Flickr/Pierre Metivier

Every couple of days I notice someone on socialmedia complaining about the tediousness of food blogs. The just get to the recipe, I don’t need 900 words about your kids and cat and that one summer you spent in Alsace, Brenda sentiment is pervasive, and it’s true that the form is not always conducive to getting people from recipe to dinner in a timely fashion. Some people really do just want the recipes.

I don’t know if those people have heard of cookbooks.

If you do not have an extensive cookbook collection, or if you can’t find what you are looking for in the books you do have, there are some really great sites that post reliable, well-tested recipes that you can either read about in detail or just go on to make. There are also community recipe sites where recipes are…

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Ten Things That Seem to Inevitably Happen in Horse Books

Reblogged with permission, because it amused me.  Thanks to Kim Ablon Whitney.

By the authors of HorseBackReads

Between the seven of us, we’ve written a number of novels about horses.  And none of us can claim we managed to avoid all of these horse-book cliches!

1. The horse of uncertain breeding that becomes a national champion overnight.  Why aren’t you looking for your next winner in a dusty backyard or at the killers?  Apparently that’s where all the good ones are.

2. The heartless, tough-as-nails, evil trainer who basically abuses their students.  Okay, these really do exist in real life.

3. The barn fire or other horrid barn incident.  This is when everyone pulls together.  It’s awful and then it’s beautiful.

4. The tragic accident that scars the main character for life.  It could be the horse that died crashing into a huge oxer, the best friend that died crashing into a huge oxer, or the main character herself who nearly died crashing into a huge oxer.

5. The girl with Olympic dreams.  Does everyone have to dream of the Olympics these days?  Why not shoot for something more attainable?  They do know only five riders go every four years and one’s an alternate, right?

6. No trainer supervision.  Where’s the trainer?  Nowhere in sight.  These kids are on their own.  Because kids today are always schooling themselves for the junior jumpers.

7. The spoiled rich girl who everyone hates.  It. Never. Gets. Old.

8. The former Olympian who kindly decides to take the poor, talented girl under his wing.  Because every talented rider out there with little funds knows that amazing trainers are driving around to schooling shows in the middle of nowhere looking for their next working student.

9. The parent who can’t get it right.  Mom’s either a former rider who doesn’t want her daughter to ride, or Dad never rode and finally wants his daughter to succeed at something.  Either way, they’re unbalanced people.  Or they’re simply inexplicably MIA.

10. Sex in the hay loft.  Sex on itchy, rash-inducing hay — yeah, that sounds amazing!

Looking for your next horse book (with or without cliches)?  Check out www.horsebackreads.com.

Scoring an assignment from The Atlantic … freelance nirvana, right? Not so much, as it turns out.


A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013

Here is an exchange between the Global Editor of the Atlantic Magazine and myself this afternoon attempting to solicit my professional services for an article they sought to publish after reading my story “25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy: Rodman trip comes after 25 years of basketball diplomacy between U.S. and North Korea”   here http://www.nknews.org/2013/03/slam-dunk-diplomacy/ at NKNews.org

From the Atlantic Magazine:

On Mar 4, 2013 3:27 PM, “olga khazan” <okhazan@theatlantic.com> wrote:

Hi there — I’m the global editor for the Atlantic, and I’m trying to reach Nate Thayer to see if he’d be interested in repurposing his recent basketball diplomacy post on our site.

Could someone connect me with him, please?

Olga Khazan

 From the head of NK News, who originally published the piece this morning:

Hi that piece is copy right to NK News, so…

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2011 in review: Okay for a fledgling blog …

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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