Playing Catchup on Life

Jeepers crow you guys, I feel like I haven’t had a chance to breathe lately!

Frankie is doing just fine, getting loved on by our resident Talented Junior Rider(TM) and getting a bit of a break from the intense training we’ve been in. I’ll be out this week to ride, but there’s lots going on in the non-horse world that’s keeping me busy!

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Frankie LOVES his TJR. She makes him work hard, but loves on him and takes him for walks. He’s one happy boy.

First off- as I already mentioned, last week I came home to a new apartment! All my stuff is unpacked but it’s definitely still in transition as my dude moves his stuff in as well over the next few weeks. We also won’t have a couch for roughly a month (worth waiting to get one for free IMO). So it’s a bit chaotic and a bit unorganized but it’s also fantastic. I’m a 3 minute drive (or a 10 minute walk if I ever stop being a lazy butt) from work, we have tons of closet space, and are close to friends and family. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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All I wanted was a porch. And we got a porch. I’m so happy.

 

Nick and I also drove up to the Buffalo area this past weekend for a family reunion! His mom’s side of the family gets together every year and this was my first intro to most of them before the wedding. There’s nothing quite like meeting 40+ of your future in-laws in one go. It was a serious blast- we picked cherries, we played tug-of-war with the cousins, basked in the pool, ate TONS of good food, and generally enjoyed the summertime with family.

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We went for lots of golf cart rides around the farm because it was SUPER BEAUTIFUL
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This dog’s name was Buster and he was literally the best at being a dog. The happiest, friendliest, chillest black lab on the planet.

We also snuck by Niagara Falls for literally 90 seconds on our way home so I could see them while we were up there.

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SMILE OK GREAT NOW RUN BACK TO THE CAR BECAUSE THE FREE PARKING WAS ONLY 20 MINUTES

Between Lake Placid and this trip, I really don’t want to have to drive to upstate New York again for a little while. No more road trips pls.

And then things are moving forward on the wedding-planning front! All the big vendors have been booked, so we’re kinda in a lull. The big decisions are made, and it’s not reeeeally time for the detailed decisions yet. But I’ve got my checklists and timelines and spreadsheets (duh) so I think we’re still in great shape.

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Fun fact- Minted liked our save the date cards so much, they asked to use our picture. They changed the info obvi, but cool to see us in advertisements!

After a really intense few months in the thick of show season, it feels good to switch gears back to my “civilian life” for a little bit for a change of pace. I’m eager to settle into a new routine in the new place, and find a balance between training and progressing with Frankie in our off season and being a functioning adult.

Moving On: June Edition (Volume 2)

Alternate title: #Blessed

Other alternate title: Dear Lord I Have an Lovely Fiance

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Lovely on all levels

Do y’all remember just about a year ago, when Roomie and I moved? It was a wildly hectic time full of travel and job changes and Upperville. As a refresher: we had a hard move-out date for our apartment. The weekend of Upperville. While I was competing with the Frankenbean, ex-Manfriend basically did all the heavy lifting of moving all my stuff out. And by basically I mean entirely.

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Literally while I was in this specific round, he was loading all my crap into a truck

I’ve been with Roomie and her ManDude in our townhouse for the last year and it’s been awesome. But it’s also time for some changes.

First off, Roomie and ManDude eloped! They were already engaged and planning their wedding, but didn’t want to wait to be married. So they straight up just got married. Ya girl here showed up to take pics and 3rd-wheel their elopement brunch because I love them so much.

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So stunning and sweet and intimate and wonderful and check those shoes

It also means that I went from living with my best friend and her boyfriend (fairly normal) to living with my best friend and her fiance (pushing it a bit) to living with my best friend and her husband (full on You Me and Dupree).

The other change is that ex-Manfriend and I are also getting married soon (duh). And after close to two years of living 2+ hours apart, he just got a job offer back here so we can get our first place together! It’s been a whole long hiring process for him, so we’re beyond thrilled to have things moving forward.

So with all these big changes, the stars are aligning and we managed to find a really great place with a really lovely landlord (seriously, he’s just a delight) that’s in a great location for a great price. Our official move in date is at the end of June!

What else is going on at the end of June?

You guessed it.

Lake Placid.

So for the second year in a row, my dearest betrothed is tasked with moving for me because of a horse show. I want to promise him that this won’t become a pattern, but apparently we only move during peak show season…sooooo…????

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Frankie ships up on Monday, I’ll spend Tuesday driving up, and I’ll be returning Sunday.

I guess I’ll return home…to a different home?

BRB frantically trying to pack everything I own in one weekend before leaving.

I may be a little behind on the blogging front as I try to juggle packing, a week long horse show, and then arranging a new apartment and adjusting to living with my giant ManCreature while also keeping up with a busy season at work. But I pinky promise to take tons of pics and share all my adventures in Lake Placid, and I’ll pick it back up as soon as possible!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Some very exciting changes going on in my little corner of the universe!

First off- there was a bit of a re-org at work. Nothing dramatic and my job title didn’t change, but the focus of my work is shifting a bit to more organizational effectiveness and process streamlining. I. Am. Thrilled. It’s a much better fit for my experience, skills, and interests, and my new manager and I have already worked together multiple times to great success. I think this new little department of ours is going to be super helpful for the company as a whole, and it’s going to be superduperamazingfantastic for my own career growth.

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#professional

Also work related- my flex schedule was approved! One of my all-time favorite perks of my job is that they’re very willing to be flexible with my schedule (remember when I worked remotely from Ohio for 2 weeks so I could compete without using vacation time?). As long as the work gets done when it needs to be and I attend any meetings that require my presence, no one is too fussy about the specific hours and where I am. But even better than that is a formalized flex schedule! Starting next week, I’ll be in the office Mon-Thurs 7:30a-5p with a 30 min lunch break, WFH Friday morning for 4 hours, and then I have every Friday afternoon off. Entirely.

What does one do with a free Friday afternoon? One heads to the barn.

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DUHH

One of the big reasons I wanted to work on a flex schedule was to fit in a private lesson somewhere. Currently I’m really only available for a 7p lesson, or maaaaaybe 6p if I can rush out the door. You know who else is only available at 6p or 7p? Every single other person. So all lessons at those times have by necessity been group lessons. I knew that if I wanted to get an hour all to myself, I’d have to come up with a way to get to the barn at a different time. Which I now have every week!

Don’t get me wrong- my group lessons have been great. I love learning from watching other riders go, and hearing my trainer explain things in different ways to different learners has been enormously helpful. But I’m also now at the point where I’m hoping to get Frankie feeling great at 1.20m+, and there are few other riders at the barn with that ambition (at least in the near term). I think some individual attention will really help push us to the next level and get us focusing on tackling the skill sets we need to master. Our last spate of private lessons was totally transformative for us and I’m excited to keep transforming!

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Last time we did private lessons, it started out like this. I fully anticipate that I will be cursing this decision and become incredibly sore, but it’s gonna be awesome I swear.

This timing works out perfectly with Frankie’s maintenance- by the time next Friday rolls around, he will be ready to get back into full work after his series of SI and hock injections. He’ll be full of bouncy juice, has been adjusted by the chiro, has better saddle fit, is rocking his carrot stretches, and I just got him a shiny new BoT pad (in navy, duhhh). Because why not do everything we can while we’re at it, right? I have a feeling he’s going to be feeling fantastic, and I’m going to have to grab a lot more mane!

I also got his new 3-ring in and have been using a borrowed figure-8 to great success. I think we’ve really found a great balance of giving him something soft enough to move forward onto, while still giving me a clear enough line of communication to get his attention.

We had a lesson in it last night and I fell in love with my horse all over again. He was hunting down the jumps, had fire in his step but was tuned into me the whole time, and was straight up FUN. He’ll get a few more days off after his hock injections today and I seriously can’t wait. If he’s already going around so amazingly beforehand, I can only imagine how incredible he’ll be once everything is totally 100%.

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He seriously felt like this last night, he was springy as all getout

I also got to sit down with my trainer to talk about our show season coming up, and how best to prepare. Right now the tentative plan is to have AT hop on 2x a week leading up to Blue Rock in May, and then have her take him in a few 1.20m classes to see how he likes it. I’ll stick in the 1.10m Highs for now. We’ll plan on attending Upperville in early June (my favorite show of the year!) where I’ll do the 1.10m/1.15m Highs and she may take him in a 1.20m schooling round, and then late June at Lake Placid I’ll just take him in the 1.15m Highs. If all is going well at that point and we’re all comfortable with the moveup, I’ll take over the ride in the 1.20m Low AOs in August or September. It’s all very tentative and subject to change at any minute, but I’m very happy with this plan. We’re in no rush, so I’d rather Frankie build a lot of confidence and know-how at that height before his amateur mother steps in. As always, we’ll be paying very very close attention to see how he likes that job to make sure we’re not pushing him too much. Even if it doesn’t materialize the way we’re planning, the fact that my trainer has faith in us and Frankie’s abilities means the world to me.

It also turns out that I’m no longer busy during Team Finals (we’re only doing Lake Placid for one week instead of two) and I have enough points to qualify….so I may be looking at the finances to see if we could go from Lake Placid down to Tryon first week of July. I don’t have to decide for a while and it may end up being too much for the Frankfurter, but cool to have the option!

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EVERY SHOW JUST TAKE MY MONEY HERE YOU GO

Things are feeling really good right now. Exciting career changes, exciting progression in our training, and an exciting summer coming up. It’s all a little crazy but it’s the best kind of crazy.

Oh yeah, and I’m planning a wedding. Coolcoolcoolcoolcoolcool.

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What This Blog Means to Me

Both Emma and Jessica have posted recently about what blogging means to them (along with a bunch of people I’m sorry for not linking I promise I read them!!!). I really enjoyed both posts (and the new blogs I found because of them!), but had no plans to chime in.

But I’m a certified content stealer, and recently spent some time going through the archives as we approach 2 years with Frankie. And I had a lot of emotions about it. A LOT. Y’all know I get sappy REAL easy.

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Baby Olivia back when we kicked this shindig off in January 2015

 

Many of you have been here since the beginning of this blog 3 years ago. I had just gotten into the saddle after a multi-year hiatus from all things horses, was half-leasing the DragonMare, and was getting ready for my first show in 10 years.

Getting to share that journey back into the show ring was incredible. All of a sudden I had this community where I could dissect every nitty-gritty stride of a lesson, talk endlessly about grooming my horse, acknowledge my nerves and shortcomings in competition- and not once did anyone say, “enough is enough, can you talk about anything besides horses??” There was this whole world of people to cheer our successes, commiserate and comfort our setbacks, and who I could talk with about ponies nonstop.

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You guys have been here for it all!

In a huge way, discovering the blogging community developed my growing commitment to riding so much more quickly than it otherwise would have. You all were here to say, “we totally understand that this makes your soul happy. Go for it.” (I’m blaming y’all enablers for making me go broke, btw).

This blog has evolved a lot over the years- when I started, it was mainly lesson/show reviews. It hasn’t been intentional, but I’ve slowly moved away from that- when is the last time we saw a dedicated lesson review?? We still do show recaps, but the rest of my posts are now more big-picture about mine and Frankie’s path, and thoughts about the industry that I spend more and more of my time in.

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We’ve talked a ton about developing Frankie into the rockstar powerhouse he is today

This blog has chronicled every step of my journey, from a half-leaser in the 2’6″ local hunters, to chasing AO jumper dreams at the big shows with my very own unicorn. If you had told me when I started this blog that we would be here today, I would have laughed in your face. I still can’t really believe how fortunate I am to be able to do this.

So what does blogging mean to me? A whole heck of a lot. It’s been a diary to track my progress in lessons, shows, and other training opportunities- and somewhere for me to review for encouragement when I feel like the progress isn’t happening as fast as I’d like. It’s been a forum to connect with knowledgeable, supportive, incredible horsewomen. It’s been the way that I’ve met some of my closest friends. It’s been a way to ask for advice. It’s been a place for me to organize my scattered thoughts.

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And share the hundreds of Francis nap pics I take

Y’all are awesome, and I’m grateful for you every day. Cheers to this wonderful, weird, crazy amazing blogging community!

Engagement Photos!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled PonyProgramming to bring you engagement photos!

I’m beyond in love with all of them, and narrowing them down is HARD YO. Buddy Fianci and I had such a blast with our photographer and everything turned out even better than I could’ve hoped. For those of you in the New England area, I can’t say enough good things about Samantha Robshaw Photography. She was warm and funny and guided us when we didn’t know what to do, but let us be ourselves and just have fun with each other. Actually amazing.

But that’s enough of a prologue. Here are some of my favorite pics!!

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Real talk I was only barefoot because I couldn’t decide what shoes to wear
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Also it was so stupid windy. Like, tornado level windy.
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OH MY GAWD PUT US IN A MAGAZINE
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So. Windy.
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Also it was roughly 35F. I SUFFERED for these photos. There was much squawking and hopping in between the nice shots.
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Two words: worth it
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Awww he’s so giant and strong
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Comfy clothes made it moderately more bearable, but I still tried to sneak inside his coat at every chance.
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Don’t blame the photographer for this one, it was our idea. Prom pose, staring into middle distance. A true classic.
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Another classic. We were going for early-90s-Sears-photoshoot (how does he still look like a model doing this?!)
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COULD HE BE MORE HANDSOME?!
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The cute piggyback pics quickly morphed into him trying to Batista Bomb me.
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I knew he was about to pull something shady
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And I was right. Actually thought he was going to drop me in the water.
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My request to our photographer here: “So I want us to look like we’re climbing town hall, but casually. Not like we’re trying too hard.” I think she nailed it.
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I was so sick of staring into his stupid eyes.
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Like, so sick of it. If you look closely, you can see that one eye is crossed.
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She convinced me to pull myself together for a little while longer. UGH I GUESS IT LOOKS ADORABLE.
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Not pictured: both of us whispering a steady stream of trash-talking in each other’s ears
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“Quick look confused, but pretty about it”
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I’m smiling here because immediately before this shot, he whispered “I’m going to throw you in this pond”
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This was great because he pretended to drop me several times and I tensed up like you wouldn’t believe
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Again, don’t blame the photographer. She had to work with what she had.
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Turns out that our two defaults when we don’t know what to do are picking me up and smooching.
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We haven’t looked at each other since. We got our fill that day.
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Violently smashing our foreheads together
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“What if we lay on this log and stacked?”
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The behind-the-scenes of that photo
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Daring him to do pushups while precariously balanced on driftwood while I sit on top of him.

Clearly we had some fun with this. I can’t stop staring, it’s such a wonderful mix of gorgeous sweet moments while still having plenty of the fun goofy moments that are more “us.”

Now I’m even more excited for the wedding!!

30 Things

I promise I’m working on a write-up of WEC 9, but this hop was too fun not to join in! I’m a perpetual oversharer so maybe you know a lot of this, but here’s a bunch of things about me that don’t relate to horses:

1. I graduated from Cornell University with a degree in biological engineering, concentrating in biomedical engineering. I always look at people a little funny when they say how much fun college was- I had plenty of good times and wouldn’t change a thing, but it was not what I would call “fun.” It was the best education I could ask for, but it was hard.

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With our favorite prof on graduation day

2. I don’t do cold. I grew up in New England, went to school in NY, and promptly moved down to Virginia to escape the cold. I did my time, I have no interest in being cold ever again. One snow per year is enough for me.

3. I am a full on Northern Virginia convert. I love love love living here so much. It’s stupidly expensive and the traffic sucks, but it is beautiful and diverse and exciting and amazing. Like, I understand that people want to live other places, but pretty sure Nova is the best possible place.

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I can get pictures like this, and also have any cuisine I want within 5 minutes.

4. Cheese. I love cheese. All I ever want is cheese. Good day? Celebrate with cheese. Bad day? Drown my sorrows in cheese. Buddy Fianci is the best at arranging cheese plates and it’s a huge reason why we need to lock this thing down legally forever. Kidding. But it does help.

5. I love love love crossword puzzles. I do every one that I can get my hands on. Sometimes I struggle with TV or movie references since I don’t watch that much, but I can usually puzzle it out (ha) from the other clues.

6. Along the same lines, I love trivia games. I’m still in an online trivia group with my old coworkers and I play every day! I’m in a rivalry with my old CIO and send him snotty messages when I beat him. I think his ego needs it.

7. I have a really hard time doing just one thing, with few exceptions: reading an amazing book or riding my horse. Otherwise, I need to have music going, a crossword puzzle (see above), and three text conversations just to be able to watch a TV show.

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Probably the only time I’m ever completely focused (also I had to sneak more Francis in here somewhere)

8. My favorite genres to read are historical fiction and fantasy. I just really love reading about places and times and worlds that I can’t experience outside the book. The Wheel of Time series has been an incredibly huge presence in my life since I was young.

9. I dyed my hair all different colors when I was younger- every shade from platinum blonde to almost black, and even purple once. I was always a pretty conservative dresser and a good kid, so this was my way of branching out a bit. I’ve been my natural shade of mousy brunette for years now, but I still think of myself as blonde (I always use the blonde emojis).

10. I connect most with people over humor. You can be the nicest most interesting person in the world, but I’m not particularly interested in spending time together unless we can laugh. All my closest friends are sharp and witty and amazing people, and Buddy Fianci is hands down the funniest person I have ever met.

11. My heritage is 50% Greek from my mother, and 50% Scottish/Irish/English from my father. Basically, I have extremely pale olive-toned skin.

12. My mom and I traveled all over the world together just the two of us when I was younger- cruises, two trips to Italy, Mexico, etc. The most amazing trip was when I was in college, when we toured around Tuscany over spring break. I had just taken an Art History class, and she took me to see all the masterpieces in person. She’s the best travel buddy ever, and my best friend.

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Sunglasses twins.

13. My oldest brother is 10 years older, and he basically helped raise me. I went into engineering in large part because he went into engineering and I wanted to be just like him, and I lived with him and my sister-in-law for 6mo after graduating college. I’m incredibly close with both of them (I couldn’t be closer to my sister-in-law if we had actually shared a womb), and am godmother to their younger little girl!

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Living with them was the best ever

14. My other brother is 5 years older, and is so much cooler than all of us in every way. He is talented musically, artistically, financially, socially, and in any other area you can think of. He married an equally sparkling woman and between the two of them, they are probably the most-loved couple in RI. Not even exaggerating. Every single person that meets them loves them. I get it, they’re awesome.

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Totally candid normal picture, guys

15. To round out the immediate family, my dad is basically a superhuman. He’s a fetal surgeon, a professor at an Ivy League medical school, and a colonel in the Air National Guard, where he also serves as state air surgeon. He’s a true renaissance man- he loves history and reading poetry to us (and is an incredible reader), sails his boat all summer, and is beyond devoted to my mother. You can’t talk to him for 5 minutes without him mentioning how much he loves her. I talk to my father every single day, and he is the most supportive, encouraging, compassionate man on the planet.

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Best dad/person ever

16. I’m big into hydration. I drink tons and tons of water all day erry day. My Beloved Betrothed carries a Nalgene with him everywhere and I lovingly refer to him as my constant source of clean fresh drinking water.

17. I met my roommate on Craigslist several years ago, and now we are maids-of-honor in each other’s weddings. It was fate. We are polar opposites in every way, but that’s why it works (also she’s hilarious, see point #10).

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We’re gonna need to get a duplex because we need to live together forever

18. I don’t like icing, or plain sugary candies. Chocolate- yes. Sugar- no. I’ll scrape the icing off of cupcakes and cakes, and would much rather have some pie. We vetoed the wedding cake- we’re going with doughnuts instead (Dunkin 4 lyfe).

19. I have spreadsheets for my spreadsheets. Everything goes in a spreadsheet. All wedding planning is in spreadsheets. All budgeting for my life is in spreadsheets (I made a baller daily tracker). Google Sheets runs my life.

20. I grew up doing alllll sorts of different activities- I did ballet on a pre-professional track into my teens (I quit to pursue riding more); played tennis recreationally; spent most summers out on the water at sailing camp; took piano, violin, flute, and trumpet lessons (I ended up on the trumpet and was first chair in high school); ice skated often; practiced with the swim team despite never being on the team; and obviously rode ponies.

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Also went to zoo camp because I was very cool.

21. I hate loud noises and countdowns. I can be totally zen, but if someone starts saying “ten…nine…” I will FLIP OUT. Dearest Fiance thinks this is hysterical and threatens me with countdowns on the regular.

22. I don’t cook. I used to try and pretend that I would, but I’ve stopped lying to myself. I can cook, I just don’t. Baking is my fun rainy day activity, but Fiance is for sure the chef of the household- he enjoys it and is really good at putting meals together. Thank goodness, because I am queen of the microwave.

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Legit our third date he came and cooked for me. Also OMG what a baby he was.

23. I was raised in the Greek Orthodox church and my faith is very much a strong part of my identity. Getting married in the Greek church is hugely important to me, and I’m so so so grateful that Fiance is on board with that (it’s gonna be My Big Fat Greek Wedding WHATSUP).

24. If money was no object, I would probably go into tutoring full time. I love working with all ages to develop problem-solving skills. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher- I don’t do groups like that- but working one-on-one with people to learn together is one of the most satisfying feelings ever.

25. I’m a very outgoing introvert. I LOVE meeting new people and will strike up conversations with just about anyone (especially at a horse show), but at the end of the day I recharge best with some quiet time at home.

26. While most people call me Olivia, the people close to me call me Liv, and my family calls me Livy. I was Livy to everyone growing up- teachers, friends, friends’ parents, etc., but really only my parents and siblings call me that anymore.

27. I wear sunscreen on my face every day. My Nana always drilled sun safety into us and I think of her every morning when I put my sunscreen on.

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Also grew up going to the beach at every opportunity, so my fair skin has always needed lots of protection.

28. I’m a huge list person- probably why I wanted to join in this blog hop so badly! It’s why I gravitate towards spreadsheets so much- I make lists to organize my thoughts for work, personal life, etc. It’s just how my brain works.

29. I’ve only ever had one car- my Jeep, Benjamin. I’ve had him since I was 17 and now at 125k+ miles, he’s trying to die and I won’t let him. I’ll be driving that Jeep until it falls apart, which hopefully won’t be for another couple of years.

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Benjamin was there for the world’s best proposal

30. I’m not a big jewelry person except for two pieces- my engagement ring (duh), and my class ring. I feel naked without them.

I’ve loved reading all of yours, hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me!

Buying Pants: The Saga

Something you may know about me is that I have a pants obsession. A riding pants obsession. To the point where Assistant Trainer literally told me to stop buying pants. I have a problem.

My go-to has been the TS Trophy Hunters- the 26L fits like a glove and they’re super durable, so I haven’t felt any burning desire to change that up. Until now.

Partially because I really want to try some of the newer tech fabrics, partially because there are some really GORGEOUS options out there, partially because I’m a firm believer in voting with your wallet and I’m not super supportive of the TS brand ATM, and in large part because Amanda said she had breeches for sale.

It was a perfect storm to fuel my obsession.

It started simply: I asked for options in my size. She assured me that there would be plenty to choose from, and then convinced me that big sales mean the expense doesn’t actually count. I was willingly convinced.

She sent me picture after picture of high-end gorgeous pants. So so many. I was in heaven. Then she dropped the price bomb:

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In classic Olivia fashion, I quickly made a spreadsheet to keep track of all the beautiful pants under consideration (in case you were wondering, the columns were brand, color, how much I liked them from 1-5, and price). Despite wanting to take them all, I knew I couldn’t.

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I finally managed to narrow it down to the 3 top contenders. Despite originally being in the market for tan and white only, two of the three were colors. Womp womp. I have no willpower.

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My spreadsheet only took me so far. I started spiraling. How could I give up any of those pants? At those prices?! I begged for help and got only “BUY THEM ALL” back. Traitor.

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I continued spiraling. I continued making spreadsheets. I continued bombarding Amanda with a play-by-play into the workings of my brain.

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Clearly asking for help from a financial angle wasn’t working. I decided to go the emotion route, hoping that Amanda would be able to give me some clarity. No such luck. I eventually had to make the call myself.

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We both solidly threw Buddy Fianci under the bus (literally the day after he proposed, Trainer started talking to him about what a great wedding present an import would be. He is a very patient man). Buddy Fianci politely declined to buy me the pants. I’m still working on him.

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I bought the dang pants and called it a day. Then SPENDMYMONEY MCDEMONFACE started pushing SWEATERS OF ALL THINGS AS IF I HADN’T ALREADY BLOWN MY BUDGET ON BEAUTIFUL ITALIAN PANTS.

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I guess I can forgive her. After all, these gorgeous things are winging their way towards me:

Mmmmmmm pants.

And that, my friends, is how you buy pants in 34 easy steps when you’re a spreadsheet junkie, have no willpower, and have a friend with a bright future in sales.

A Case Study About Case Studies

Today, I want to talk to you about something completely not pony related. It’s work related. It’s about a fascinating session I was able to attend at this conference I’m attending for work, and what I observed.

This particular session was a discussion about female protagonists in case studies used in the classroom for graduate management education. Or more accurately, the lack of female protagonists. Graduate business programs often heavily utilize these cases to teach concepts across their curricula, but very few of them mention women at all- even if they are present, it’s even less likely that the woman is in a leadership position, and even LESS likely that they speak to another woman at any point. And it’s overwhelmingly likely that women are featured in “pink industries” such as cosmetics. So these programs are trying to teach their students how to be leaders, but 40% (roughly the percentage of women in many programs, which is rising) go through their classes without seeing anyone like them succeeding.

I don’t think any of this is really a surprise. Frustrating and disappointing, yes. A surprise, no. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about what I expected in the room, and what I observed.

First of all, I expected this session to be packed to the gills. Given the #MeToo visibility and current climate, I expected that anyone in a position to effect change would be desperate for information and the opportunity to brainstorm solutions. But that wasn’t the case at all. While there was a decent turnout, there were plenty of empty chairs in the moderately-sized room. I would argue (and have already spoken to some conference organizers about this) that this should not have been a breakout session- in the future it should be one of the main discussions held in the main ballroom, with everyone in attendance. This is a conversation that requires everyone’s participation. Cultures and climates cannot change in a vacuum.

I also expected there to be very few men in attendance. I was semi-right on this. I’d say about 25% of the room was male. Given that there were more men than women at this conference, this certainly was not a representative sample of the population- but not surprising. In fact, it was a little higher than I had expected.

When talking about goals for female representation in case studies, I expected the goal to be about 50%. After all, women are half the population and will (hopefully) make up half the classroom in the not-too-distant future. Not so. I heard 3 men say that 30% “would be hard enough to achieve.” I understand that change doesn’t happen overnight and there’s a considerable workload to updating course materials, but I was blown away that they so casually dismissed the possibility of even trying to achieve an equal balance.

I then observed the conversations taking place. I observed one of the co-panelists (a middle-aged white man) refer to complaining as “bitching,” I observed the same man share 3 stories on how supportive he is of these efforts, and I observed that 4 men spoke about 80% of the words spoken in total in that session.

So we have a session about the need for more equal female representation. And these guys were so busy telling us what allies they are that they left almost no time for the female co-panelist to actually share the results of the research her foundation has done.

I know these men had good intentions and do genuinely want to help make lasting changes in their programs. None of this was maliciously done. It was simply lacking in awareness that they had completely hijacked the conversation and proved the point of why exactly these changes are necessary. It was the most frustratingly ironic thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a perfect case study (about case studies).

The cure for this is increased awareness. It’s making sure that this conversation keeps happening and is visible and can grow and evolve. It’s getting people in positions of influence to join the conversation and then DOING something about it. I’m planning to be one of those influential people one day, and you can bet this will be top of mind.

A New Chapter

I’m going to need your help, everyone. We have to come up with a new name for Manfriend.

He’s decided that he’s sick of dating me. He no longer wants to be my Manfriend.

SO WE’RE GONNA BE PLANNING A WEDDING Y’ALL OMGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!

As a native Rhode Islander I’m strongly leaning towards Buddy Fianci, but that’s a bit of a mouthful. We’ll be taking suggestions. Hit us up.

We’d been talking about getting married for a while so I could put my Pinterest boards into practice we could take an exciting new step forward together. I knew it was coming soon. I knew that ex-Manfriend (which he will go by until we get something better into play so get your suggestions in soon) had talked to my parents for their blessing over Thanksgiving. Mostly because he is not subtle and I’m exceedingly nosy. We’re a fun couple. I’ve spent the last 3 months turning to him every time he tied his shoe and yelling, “Nicholas is this it?!”

Anyways, what I’m trying to get at is that I’m hard to surprise. ex-Manfriend gets a zillion bonus points for managing to COMPLETELY bamboozle me.

Because I honestly thought that he was visiting his grandma that morning, but would be meeting me at the barn afterwards to watch me ride. I honestly thought I had a lesson scheduled for 2, but would be going early to hang out. In case my trainer is reading this, you still owe me that lesson.

As I was getting ready to head to the barn, I got a call from my friend saying that she was taking Christmas pics of the horses because it was so nice out- we could take Frankie’s after my lesson, but could I come a little earlier to hold horses beforehand?

Here I am thinking I’m so slick, like HOLY CRAP THIS IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR HIM TO PROPOSE AFTER MY LESSON WHILE WE’RE TAKING PICS HE NEEDS TO CAPITALIZE ON THIS. So I picked my outfit with care. My favorite navy breeches. My favorite tech shirt. My Team Finals hat. Actual makeup. Like a real person.

I called ex-Manfriend as I was about to pull into the barn to ask him to grab a change of clothes for the pics- and being a skilled con-man, he said he would be there in 20 and probably had a blazer in the trunk or something. I was busy blasting some seasonal Mariah and in a fantastic mood, so I let the “probably” slide.

And then I pulled up to the barn and saw balloons.

Something you should know about me: I LOVE BALLOONS. Like, a lot. My dad always brings them to the airport when he picks me up because I always tell him that a reunion without balloons is just a meeting. Balloons are my favorite.

At this point, I’m thinking that someone has decided to take their Christmas pics with balloons. Because naturally, balloons are festive and lovely and who wouldn’t want that?! I’m ready to go help out this genius soul with their gorgeous balloon-inspired photoshoot.

And then I spot a bay horse. There’s plenty of bay horses at the barn, but this one looked pretty tall. And handsome. But it could still be any of the bays, really.

And then I turned the corner and realized that it was for sure my horse. And that standing in front of him was Manfriend in the blazer that he DEFINITELY HAD and holding roses.

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Which apparently Francis tried to eat
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My sweet sweet boys ❤
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As I was pulling up, they spotted me.

Being a rational human being, I completely froze and considered driving my car past them to park.

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I just sat in here completely frozen for what felt like a VERY long time.

Then I saw my friend frantically gesturing for me to get out of the car, so I stumbled my way out and said, “Nicholas you liar.”

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Nicholas you garbage liar man

Sweet words of love.

To be fair, he retorted by mockingly saying, “Nicholas is this it?!”

I feel like we’re even.

I side-eyed my way over to him to listen to what he had to say. But real talk, I was on a major adrenaline high and the phrases that I caught were “love you so so much” and “want to spend my life with you” and then he was on one knee and I pretty much dive bombed him and then took the ring before he could give it to me and got kinda aggressive about it.

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Step 1: say wonderful things and propose in an amazing way
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Step 2: Try to breathe around the leech on your face
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Step 3: Regain your footing

 

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Step 4: give me the ring before I can nab it with my grabby raccoon hands (side note: fav pic of the day. All adorable and sweet and then BAM FRANCIS LLAMA FACE)
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Step 5: omgomgomgomgomg

I swear I wasn’t crying, I was just…leaking. Mighta been sweat, mighta been tears, mighta been both. Francis joined in the celebration looking for scritches.

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The first true family portrait
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Frankie: “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD”

There were confetti poppers waiting for us.

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There was champagne.

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The balloon with words on it simply said, “You’re Special.”

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hahahahahahaha

Magical.

We went inside and shared some bubbly together with Francis and some of my closest friends, as we started to share the news with friends and family.

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In my favorite place with my favorite person
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My face is now stuck like this, sorry not sorry.

What does one do when freshly engaged? Clearly there’s only one right answer here.

You ride the horse. Without steering.

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Francis take the wheel
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GALLOP ON MIGHTY STEED
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Less than 10 seconds after he sneezed his brains out from allergies.
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brb obsessed with my new jewelry

Seriously, I could not have asked for a more magical day. I would’ve said yes no matter how he asked, but the fact that he came to my favorite place on the planet and involved my heart horse made it so far and beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of.

I’m so grateful for my friends who took all these wonderful pics to remember the occasion and helped Nicholas coordinate everything. I’m so lucky to have such generous, caring, hilarious, wonderful people to call my barn family!! My favorite little barn rat even captured the whole thing on video- including lots of her giggles.

Most of all, I’m grateful that I get to lock down this wonderful guy of mine. It’s gonna be a real awesome life together!!!

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Unintentional Hiatus

It’s been a quiet month around here, folks. Coming off of Zone Finals, I figured we would scale back to have a week or two of light work before ramping up for our new season.

Best laid plans, and all that.

First, I went to Florida with the gang. Which was awesome.

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Aw Manfriend real cute

Then I went home to Rhody for 9 days with Manfriend. Which was also awesome.

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I baptized my sweet niece which means I get complete dibs on her as my minion for shenanigans at all future family gatherings.

Then I had my friend’s wedding up in Jersey. Which was gorgeous and awesome.

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College roomies UNITE 

Then Manfriend and I decided to head into NYC to visit friends while we were in the area. Which continued to be awesome.

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100% sure he was singing along to the guy playing the accordion by listing different types of pasta

Then the cold I had been battling for a few days turned into a full-on illness that laid me out for a while longer. Way less awesome. (No pictures of this because I am a marsh creature at the moment)

So for one reason or another, Frankie has jumped approximately 2 times in the last month, and I’ve only ridden him myself a handful of times. He is currently super duper fuzzy- WE LEGIT JUST CLIPPED YOU DUDE- and he’s got a definite Dad-bod going at the moment. My favorite barn rat has been keeping him working and happy and clean (tho he still smells like pee, not her fault, he’s just disgusting) while I’ve  been traveling, but it’s been one of the lightest workloads he’s had since I brought him home.

While definitely not intentional, I think this may be a blessing in disguise. While we will certainly have to work a little harder to get in shape before our show season kicks off in January, a little physical and mental break for both of us is something we rarely do. I’m hoping it’ll help us attack our training program with renewed freshness and energy.

There’s at least one more disruption in our schedule for Christmas, but I’m excited to get back into a program with the Smelly Beast and get ready for 2018!