The Money Talk

Everyone says that if you want to keep the peace, avoid talking about politics or money.

You’re in luck for the first- I don’t plan to ever talk about politics on this blog beyond urging y’all to get involved in your state and local governments.

But screw it. I’m gonna talk about money.

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Frankie gets top notch care and we compete at some bigger shows, all of which comes with a price tag. One that I’ve always been willing to pay because I’m an idiot who can’t stay away from the barn, but one that I could only kinda afford to pay.

I don’t know how it comes across in this blog, but I was making a lot of sacrifices to make it work. A LOT. And it was only kiiiiinda working thanks entirely to the flexibility and understanding of my support network. The bills got paid every month. By a hair.

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Every month after bills

I started making a list of all the luxury items I would get down the road once I was able: underwear without holes in it. Makeup that isn’t just a sample I got from Birchbox in 2014. Windshield wipers for my car that actually, ya know, wipe the windshield. A damn haircut. The cheese I keep seeing at the grocery store that I’ve never actually tried but looks amazing.

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How I feel about the cheese aisle at Wegman’s

I’ll be honest: if I could go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t. Budgeting down to the nickel, being super disciplined with my spending, and maintaining that level of awareness of my finances were all skills that I needed to learn and carry forward. The opportunities I got to pursue were worth every moment of stress about how to pay for it, and there is a definite sense of pride that at the age of 25, I’m able to do what I love every day because I’ve worked hard for it.  

I don’t regret any of it- given the choice between anything else and doing another class at a show, I’d pick competing more every single time. As long as Frankie was getting what he needed to be solidly ready for his job, I was fine ignoring everything else.

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Right? RIGHT?!

But I did make a few big shifts lately- changed my budget, adjusted some spending, made some huge life changes (new job, new apartment), and took some steps to get into a healthier place financially.

I didn’t realize what a constant source of near-panic my finances were for me until they weren’t anymore. There was such a physical sense of relief from making these changes that I literally giggled out loud to myself.

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After a year-ish of stress (definitely a coincidence that I bought a horse a year-ish ago) I’m finally at a point where I’m able to do both- take care of Frankie AND myself. Nothing crazy, but I can now say yes to the occasional happy hour and have non-holey underwear and get the damn haircut. My life balance is shifting a little.

For my barn life, this will hopefully mean more horse shows next season (including a solid 2 weeks in the winter at Ocala or WEC), more frequent preventative vet visits for Frankie as I ask for harder work, more professional training rides for him, and more non-traditional care- I’m excited to see how he likes chiro/acupuncture/massage. He’s a sturdy dude and isn’t showing any signs of discomfort, but I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to get some extra pampering.

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I think the conventional takeaway from the past year would be “learn from your mistakes, don’t overextend!” But like I said, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Only other horse people can understand the near-compulsion to keep coming back to the barn and trying again no matter the cost.

I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but holy crap am I glad to have a break. Frankie’s earned a massage (and so have I).

Moving On: June Edition

I’ve kinda roundabout hinted at some exciting news to share, and I finally have the green light to make it public:

I have a new job!

After four great years with my current company, I decided it was time to move on to a different industry. I’ll have more of a business and strategy focus in my new role- I think it’ll be really challenging but equally rewarding. And don’t worry, I already asked about flex time for horse shows (literally mentioned horse shows in my first interview) and they assured me that they’re on board with show season. They already realize where the true priorities lie.

I’m lucky that everyone at my current company has been really supportive and encouraging about this move. I’ll definitely miss seeing my amazing coworkers every day, but so many of them have become like family to me at this point and I know we’ll still spend time together outside of work hours.

Along with moving jobs, I’m also moving houses! For those of you who have followed along for a while, you may remember that Roommate and I had to move suddenly due to our old apartment flooding last June. Well, a full year has passed and we opted not to renew our lease- cue Roommate taking charge (as usual) and making awesome things happen (as usual), and we will be inhabiting a much larger townhouse just 12 minutes away. We can’t wait for more space, more sunlight, more room for the dog to play, it’s going to be AMAZEBALLS.

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Derp dog just wants a comfy place to snooze

But here’s the extra fun part about moving: we don’t overlap at all with our current lease. In fact, we have to be out of our current place by a Tuesday and can’t move in until Friday. So really we have to move twice. Awesome.

June is shaping up to be wildly hectic:

Last day at new job on a Wednesday.
Two days in Richmond (Thurs-Fri) to celebrate Manfriend’s graduation.
Zooming back up north to Upperville for the weekend.
Moving out of our apartment (Monday) and couch surfing for the week.
Moving into our new townhouse (Friday).
Flying north to Rhody (Saturday) to visit family for a week.
Flying back to VA (Thursday) to celebrate Manfriend’s birthday (Friday).
Starting my new job at the end of June (Monday).

#PrayForMe #SleepWhenImDead #AlreadyExhausted

Luckily Francis continues to be an absolute rockstar despite my lack of consistent saddle time recently. We had a great lesson this week (that I need to write about because we had some fun breakthroughs) and we’re getting really excited for Upperville.

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Frankie’s instinct when I botch into the combo and have to boot out is to straight up levitate through because DAMMIT MOM STOP GUNKING UP THE WORKS. Yeah, we need a lesson recap to talk about this.

We’ve also had some time to chill together lately and enjoy the (rare) sunshine. Francis enjoys these relaxing hacks around the property and I love the break too!

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I will never be sick of this view.

The ring expansion is in the final stages, and Trainer shared some details for the final landscaping/fencing that I think will be incredibly cool. Once everything is final and I can snap some pics, I’d love to take you all on a virtual tour of our new outdoor.

So lots of things in the works for the month of June!! I’m so excited to share updates as we make some big life changes.

Not Dead Yet!

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Even though my body has been trying hard to kill  me- I was out of work almost every day this week with a KILLER sinus infection. Currently taking 4 different types of pills every day (most of them multiple times a day) and FINALLY I’m on the mend. After spending most of the week watching roughly forty million episodes of Forensic Files it’s really nice to get out of the house.

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Pretty sure I could solve any murder cases now tho

I’m super behind on responding to comments and I gotta be honest- my energy levels and breathing ability are telling me to just give up and start from scratch. So just know that I’ve read and appreciated all of your comments lately.

Not a ton to report, so I’ll just give a quick rundown on what’s been going on in the magical land of pressure headaches:

We have discovered that in the case of the torn-up blankets, Frankie is the culprit. I have failed as a mother. My low-maintenance, angel of a horse is a blanket shredder *sob*. One of these bad boys is currently being shipped to my place so my fellow boarders don’t have to keep buying new blankets (sorry guys!!!).

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Maybe Francis can be Bane for Halloween next year with this sucker
Assistant Trainer has been hopping on Frankie for me while I’ve been convalescing. Super duper grateful that she was able to make space in the rotation for an extra horse at very short notice, and very happy that he’s gotten some professional tuning up as we head into show season.

I spent some time scrubbing my tack HARD the other day and it was so beyond satisfying. I wipe down my tack regularly but this was a super intense cleaning. I also took the opportunity to switch out the nameplate on my saddle to one that, you know, has my own name on it (and by this I mean I hovered nearby while Assistant Trainer did it because she is actually the best). Womp womp. It only took over a year.

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I haven’t mentioned it lately, so friendly reminder that I am obsessed with my saddle in all ways. It is the light of my life.
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OH NO NOW YOU KNOW MY FULL NAME PLS DON’T USE THIS INFORMATION FOR EVIL

My brother and his wife came down for a visit recently and met the Frankfurter, and it was super fun getting to chill with them. My brother is way cooler than me in every way (unlike when he forced me to say this as a child, I actually mean it now) and his wife is even cooler than he is- combined, they are legit a mega awesome power couple.

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We look a lot alike. Especially when we both have luxurious long hair and matching bags under our eyes. He’s a beautiful woman.

Speaking of embarrassing pictures, this gem showed up in my memories on Facebook and I thought you might like a laugh. This was taken with a disposable camera at the sweet age of 13 during summer camp. I was clearly not a cute preteen, like, at ALL.

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Every time I look, I find something new to cringe at

I’ll be hopping on Frankie today to get my sea legs back, and we’re still planning on showing this Sunday! I am extremely eager to get out there and kick our show season off. I’ll need extra sustenance and rest to offset the sickness but GET AT ME.

And that concludes this episode of Random Stuff Happening Lately! More updates as events warrant.

 

Happy Blogiversary!

Somehow without realizing it, my second blogiversary came and went this past weekend! I’ll soon return to my lesson recaps and upcoming show schedule (spoiler alert, there are two on the near horizon), but here’s a fun little view of how Hellomylivia has grown over the past few years:

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As you may remember, I took a little hiatus in Dec/Jan of last year because I couldn’t handle living my life like a normal person needed to step back and slow down for a bit. Womp womp. But since then, we’ve been back and better than ever! We’ve managed to even out through the rest of 2016 and I’m hoping to keep up that momentum in the new year!

I started breaking things down further, getting all math-y and creating roughly 900 MILLION graphs. But you know what, guys? I live my life in numbers and spreadsheets. This blog is my escape from the constant number crunching. So you will take my lone graph and YOU WILL LIKE IT.

Or not. No skin off my nose.

We started when I was riding Addy in the 2’6″ Hunters

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And now we have our boy Francis prepping for the 1.10m Jumpers

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Clearly the quality of media has gone downhill

I’ve met some of my closest friends through this blog, learned new skills (website, social media, horsemanship, and myriad other areas), explored my creative side, and have gotten to join in with a community that I never even knew existed.

Thank you to all of you for following along (especially to my Superstar Commenters: Micaylah, Stacie, Carey, Monica, Heather, and Alli). I know that this blog provides no real benefit to anyone besides myself: I don’t have cool coupon codes, I rarely do meaningful product reviews, and I ask for advice constantly while giving little advice back. So the fact that you still join in for this journey just tickles me pink. It means the world to me to have you all coming along on these adventures with me.

Cheers to 2 years in Blogland!

THE BIG 2-5!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEEEEE

If you need me, I’ll be hugging my horse and thanking him for being the best goober in the world, eating brinner and drinking wine with my roommate, and telling every person I come in contact with that TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAYYYYYY AND I AM A BIRTHDAY PRINCESS. I’ll be the one in the tiara.

Cheers to the next quarter century!!!

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Still Alive

I’m still around, I promise! I’ve gotten to work on a big assignment at the office lately- super exciting stuff that will hopefully open some doors, but it also has meant some pretty late hours and weekends. Frankie has been getting some guest rides from some of the other ammies at the barn- I warn them all that he’s wIlD aNd CrAzY but they just laugh at me. I’ll be hopping on for my lesson tonight (if I can escape the office early enough) for my first ride in a week!

Once I have the chance to breath a bit and have some actual spare time to do laundry/grocery shop/do anything besides work and sleep I pinky promise I will have some fun stuff to share.

Until then, enjoy these self-indulgent pictures of Manfriend and myself at the Marine Corps Ball last weekend- my one escape from the office.

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Wearing actual makeup that I did myself! Nothing classier than a bathroom selfie.
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I did this! Doing updos on the prom circuit is my backup career for when this analysis stuff falls through.
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Wasn’t even an open bar. Jipped.
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What’s better looking than a Marine in dress blues? Trick question. Nothing. Literally nothing.
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Except maybe multiple Marines in dress blues.
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My new favorite picture of me and Manfriend, I just wish it was less grainy.

And just you wait until the professional picture comes in. I won’t share too much, but the aesthetic is “Early 90s rap album.” You’re gonna love it.

Updates on Frankie and the barn once I get those updates myself!

 

AHA: Ask Him Anything

Ok folks, here’s the deal. Manfriend is psyched to chime in again, but needs your help.

His fun idea is this: you ask anything in the comments on this post, and he promises to faithfully and fully answer all of them, no matter how ridiculous.

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Oldie but a goodie of this sweet goat-whispering nutcase

I will warn you that he is actually a lunatic. So bring on the crazy questions and you will get a crazy (and wildly entertaining) answer. Promise. Anything you’ve ever wanted to ask the allergic-to-horses SO of an insane horse girl, he will answer with hilarity and wisdom but mostly just hilarity.

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Ask him questions like one of your French girls

Please also remember that my parents read this blog (hi Mom and Dad!) , so lets keep this at least moderately appropriate. This is a family establishment, after all.

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Doing normal human adult things see?!?!11/1??

Get your questions in by the end of the week!

Speak Up and Ride Hard

I mentioned recently that public speaking is totally my jam. I love it, and I’m pretty confident up there! But this hasn’t always been the case- despite wanting to be good at public speaking, I wasn’t very strong at it.

I’d be so excited to get up to the podium, and I’d get up there smiling. And then my eyes would go wide and I’d get that wavery shaky voice we all get when we’re terrified. Cue the cold sweat.

I was able to speak in front of clients at a recent conference hosted my by company, and it was the first time I’ve ever gotten up there and jumped in without feeling like I needed my inhaler and a double dose of Xanax. I was able to pull up my slides, say good morning, and hop right into my topic.

And the more I think about it, the more similarities I see between public speaking and competing at a horse show of any level or discipline.

  • The preparation: you don’t present at a conference without thoroughly knowing and practicing your material. You go through your topic, update and refine your slides, and then practice practice practice until you know all of the details backwards and forwards. You study the information to be able to answer any questions that pop up. By the time you reach the podium, you’ve done your homework.

Just so with riding: you don’t get to a show and think “CRAP I NEED TO LEARN HOW TO POST THE TROT.” You do that at home until it becomes second nature, and then you go compete with your professional-as-hell posting trot. You learn the rules for your discipline, you practice your test, you practice HOW to learn courses to test your memory. You figure out what to do if something goes wrong- you do your homework so you can answer the questions.

  • The nerves: despite your preparation, you step up to the podium and realize your hands are shaking. You’ve done all the hard work and in theory everything should just fall into place, but suddenly you wonder if you can do this. But once you take a deep breath and pause for a moment, your nerves settle and you’re able to speak without stumbling. You find places to pause during your talk to catch your breath and it lends you the presence of mind to continue on smoothly even when you trip over your tongue.

You reach the show and realize that even though you’ve schooled 2’6″ courses at home a million times, the 18″ class you’ve entered looks HUGE. Everything is scary and overwhelming. But then you take a deep breath and pause, and you ride the way you know you can. You find places to stretch up and breath on course, and that lends you the presence of mind to continue on smoothly even when bobbles come up.

  • The audience: you look out on a sea of judgemental faces. “Ohmanohmanohman they probably know more than me and they think I’m an idiot.” Except no- they’ve shown up to hear you talk about the topic. You’re the one that has put in the work, and they’re choosing to listen. Suddenly you realize that they aren’t there to condemn you and pick you apart, they’re there to listen and learn.

You see the judge staring out of the booth with his judgey judge face, and pass a sea of unimpressed juniors and ammies. “They all think I’m such an idiot who can’t actually ride.” Except no- the judge will see a bazillion people that day and unless he’s a total dick, won’t actually think you’re a bad person even if you hit a rail or two. Most of those ammies have been in your shoes and genuinely want to cheer you on. Most of those juniors- well, they’re probably bratty teenagers- but WHO CARES. There are two groups of people at the show: people who are supportive and encouraging and push you to learn, and people we don’t give a flying rat’s ass about.

  • The aftermath: you finish up, say thank you, and leave the stage. Your heart is still pumping with adrenaline, but it’s in a good way. How cool was that! It may not have been perfect, and you may have said “sequins” instead of “consequence,” but probably no one noticed. You made it through in one piece and feel such a sense of accomplishment and pride that you did this.

You come out of the ring grinning and patting your pony, still trying to catch your breath. Sure, you put 5 strides in the 6 and 4 strides in the 3, but you made it through in one piece. You’re so proud of the progress that you and your steed have made.

  • The familiarity: you’ve given a couple speeches by now. When you get up to the podium, you smile at the crowd and launch right in. You know your stuff, you like your audience, and any slips of the tongue are easy to laugh off. It’s exciting in a good way.

This isn’t your first show anymore. You’re there to compete, strut your stuff, and learn. You know what you’re doing, you like what you’re doing, and a round doesn’t need to be perfect for you to have a good time. It’s exciting in a good way.

With riding, as with speaking, the only real way to conquer nerves is to prepare and then to DO IT. It’s so hard to get over fear of public speaking if you never speak in public. It’s so hard to get over show nerves if you never show.

I’ve been participating in a Toastmasters group with some coworkers, and I sincerely believe that strengthening my confidence with public speaking has a strong effect on my ability to think on my feet while in the saddle. I look at it as mental cross-training for the show ring.

As someone who has always mentally blanked-out a bit on course, I’m excited to put my new skills to the test this weekend for a strong finish to our first show season together!

What do you think of this metaphor? Do you do any sort of “mental cross-training?”

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I’ll have more fun updates on how training is going later this week, but until then enjoy some filler fun facts about yours truly:

  • I don’t get stage fright. I grew up doing ballet and absolutely LIVED for recitals and performances. I seriously love being the center of attention. It’s not even that I’m some uber extrovert (I’m really not), I just love having all eyes on me. It’s why public speaking is my jam. Maybe it’s from being the youngest child and only girl? Who knows. I try to not be obnoxious about it.
  • I have a theory that greater comfort with public speaking directly translates to greater presence of mind in the show ring. I need to put together a post on this.
  • I have a weird thing with lizards. I love them. I don’t know why, I just absolutely lose my mind when I see one. To an absurd extent- I saw some guy dressed up as the Geico gecko at a baseball game and literally started crying. It was out of control.
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I have shed countless tears over this picture
  • If I suddenly received a gazillion dollars, I don’t think my life would materially change. I like working, I love my roommate, I love where I keep Francis. I’d probs buy a lot of tack and then go to more horse shows, but that’s about it. Things are pretty good as they are and I wouldn’t make a whole lot of changes even if I had the money.
  • I credit a lot of the arc of my life thus far to my high school chem/physics teacher. He’s the one that nurtured my love for science and encouraged me to apply to some competitive engineering programs for college. Science and math had always been my jam, but he was hugely influential at an age where that support and encouragement opened my eyes to so many more possibilities.
  • I have a fear of edges. Not heights. I can be super high up and as long as I’m secure, no problemo! But stick me near the edge and I freeze and get tunnel vision and freak out.
  • I jumped on the bandwagon and did the three fictional character thing that’s floating around Facebook:

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Honestly I could probably limit this to just Elliot. Pasty New England perfectionist with a penchant for making any situation awkward (“Elliot Reid, Moment Killer”). But then Hermione is my jam- loves to learn and gets shit done. And Jess from New Girl kinda has the humor- super goofy and positive.

Prepping this week for our last show of the season this weekend, can’t wait to let you know how it goes!

Mental Health

Riders as a whole seem to be pretty conscious of their health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. We all want to be in sync with our horses and know that in order to do that, we have to be fit in all of those ways. I don’t mean having the body of an Olympic track athlete and achieving a state of nirvana with every ride, but achieving balance in whatever way works for each of us.

Getting physically fit has always been the easy part for me. Thanks to genetics and *mostly*  healthy habits, I can maintain a decent muscle mass without too many lifestyle changes. Where I struggle, and have always struggled, is the mental game.

I’ve mentioned in many posts how timid a rider I was when I was younger- crying in almost every lesson because I was scared to jump, refusal to move up a division even though my horse could do it in his sleep, and general terror at everything my trainer asked me to do besides trotting. But not trotting too fast because that was scary too.

And I’ve also mentioned in many posts that I’m much more confident now! I still have my “oh crap” moments, but I’m much more willing to try new things and trust my mount. I’ve done so many things that scared me as a kid and had so much fun with all of it.

So I’ve conquered one of my mental blocks (for the most part….I still get a little tense when the jumps go up. At least now I’ll still give it a try despite the nerves!). But I have another mental block that wanders its way into my life every fall. SAD. No, I’m not saying that this mental block is a sad thing. I’m saying that my mental block is Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Some of you likely have dealt with this too- it’s surprisingly common among women. For those of you who haven’t, it’s basically the winter blues on steroids. Symptoms vary from person to person- personally, I get lethargic, tired, stop sleeping well, lose interest in EVERYTHING, get super anxious for no reason, and am basically miserable from October to March. Not to say that every day is a bad day or that I take no pleasure in anything, but the balance of good-to-bad days gets thrown waaaay off.

This has come back around at me for ten years now, and I’ve handled it with varying degrees of success over the years. It’s no coincidence that I’ve changed jobs/moved/picked up hobbies almost exclusively in the fall and winter- changing things up and staying busy seems to help. Being around the horses helps for obvious reasons- it keeps me active and getting fresh air. I take vitamin D and walk outside and have a light box in my office and eat super clean and cut out caffeine and do all of the things I’m supposed to do.

And that’s all certainly helped. But I still had days where getting out of bed was TOO much, and even the thought of doing something routine like taking a shower or brushing my teeth was overwhelming. And that was not ok with me. I have too many goals to accomplish and too many fun things to do for me to be fine with lying in bed with bad breath.

So I’m really happy to say that I finally talked to my doctor about it last year and we came up with a game plan. I’m not planning on sharing my medical history (any more that I already have…lawlz), but I will say that ten years in, I finally DID something about it instead of sitting here dreading the colder weather. I got to love the changing leaves and snow like I did when I was younger.

I didn’t hate winter last year for any reason besides how STUPIDLY COLD IT IS OMG. I guess I can’t blame it all on the SAD.

The takeaway? I’d like to urge any of you who deal with the “winter blues” to talk to your doctor if it starts to get too much. And always feel free to reach out to me if you just need someone to talk to or bounce ideas off. My crazy would love to hang out with your crazy.