"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Promise

My mom on the beach at Arroyo this past spring.

A friend recently went to visit the island for the first time.

Southern side of La Cordillera, the island’s central mountain range. I always called them MY mountains. 
Sent by my Aunt Mari a couple of months ago.

Photos were posted to social media, but most of them were selfies and of the drinks had during the trip. And I despaired a little because, while I was thrilled that my friend was having a good time, a part of me kept thinking, “But I want to see the island. I want to see the island itself through your eyes. I want to see the land, the people, the buildings. I want to know that it is healing, that it is still beautiful to someone that has never seen it before in person.” And while thinking this, I realized it was a “me” problem: while posts on social media do have repercussions on the viewers whether you want them to or not, the takeaway for me was this: I need to go back and see it myself. I need to stop trying to see it through other people’s perspectives and just see it with my own eyes.

If you’ve seen my car, you know I have a bumper sticker that says “Rincón 413: Surfer’s Road to Paradise.” Road 413 will take you to all the big surf beaches in Rincón. Photo by moi from our last trip to the island some 10 years ago.

In the process, I realized how little gets posted online by my friends back home about the way the island looks now in everyday life.

Historic ceiba tree on Carretera #2, which runs from east to west along the northern coast of the island. It’s one of those sights that you look for as a local. Pic also by me.

Because recently one of the doctors at work went to PR. He has friends there and visits regularly. He told me that he was going, and when he returned, he took me aside. “It’s not good,” he said quietly. A big part of Old San Juan closed permanently. Despite it being the island’s capital, the local government was furious over the 
San Juan mayor’s fight against both island and US bureaucracy in getting supplies to where they needed to go (she was doing it herself!) and so they retaliated by leaving San Juan without power until almost Christmas. (This was well-known at the local level. Of course it didn’t make headlines here because nobody cares about island politics.) Many of the local shops and businesses had to close, their owners leaving for the mainland if they could afford to relocate.

Gorgeous bamboo grove in Guajataca. That’s me in the pic; photo is by Carlos.

The more I write about it, the more the island becomes this mythological, larger-than-life thing in my mind. As of 2015, I have spent more time on the mainland than I ever did on the island. 18 years...I lived for 18 years in PR, from the time I was 7 years old until I turned 25. During my lifetime,  Ihave spent a grand total of 21 years in the continental US...it is funny to me now, in hindsight, that 2015 was the year that I fiercely decided to embrace my identity for the first time, to identify myself as Latina, as Puerto Rican, as an islander, when 2015 was the same year that marked the beginning of my living in the States longer. I’ve become a classic ex-pat that argues about the beauty of the land she once knew, about its awesomeness and wonder, about its changes and where it’s going, while rabidly defending the memories of something that used to be close to magical, that now seems more magical than ever before precisely because of the current circumstances...despite not having set a foot on the island in over 10 years.

Walking down to the beach with bodyboard in tow during a stay in Arroyo. You can see the typical beach villas that can be found in seaside communities around the island.

I talk to my mom on the phone, and know that the day that I return to visit, it will be unrecognizable. It’s been 8 months since Maria hit, and only now are people trying to truly reconstruct. They have been in survival mode until now: fixing what they needed in order to make their circumstances livable again. Just now they are starting to be concerned about maybe trying to make the once-roofless house look pretty again, about re-planting their gardens and painting their fences, and starting to pay attention to the details that were previously unimportant because they were just trying to survive. 

The Red Baron Pub in Mayagüez is iconic: it is within walking distance of the Mayagüez campus of the University of Puerto Rico and is well-known for its uber-cheap happy hours (I’m talking 25 cent beers, guys...) “Mayores de 8 años solamente” = “Only older than 8 years of age.” 
The legal drinking age in PR is 18, so you know the “1” was removed on that sign...but the local joke is that you can ask for alcohol if you can peek over the bar. No one cares. (Fun fact: wanna know WHO took  that “1” off? Carlos and his friends, circa 1995-1996! They whited it out with Liquid Paper! We took this photo in 2006. 
The bar never put the “1” back up! 🤣)

But even before the storm, the island would have been unrecognizable because of so much that had changed: so many new buildings, restaurants and neighborhoods. And so much lying abandoned, uninhabited, since before the storm due to Puerto Rico’s long, drawn-out economic crisis.

Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan dressed up for Christmas. Photo from our honeymoon cruise in 2008, which made a stop in PR.

I promise you this, though: the day that I return to visit there will be selfies, yes. But just like I do with the photos of my hometown, I will point the camera outward so I can flood you with photos of the island itself. Of its people, of its beaches, of its trees and flowers and fruit, of its once-volcanic mountains, of the feral dogs in the mountains and the stray cat colony that lives in Old San Juan and is fed by the city citizens, of its roads and buildings, of the food and the restaurants and the drinks, of the dancing and the will to survive. 

Beaches and mountains. I took this photo and later turned it into a painting that has hung above our bed for the last 12 years.

There will be pictures, so many pictures, because I am going to capture the island’s soul so I can show it to you all. So I can show you, the outside world, what Puerto Rico is truly made of. 

Mark my words. 😉

Rain over the mountains while driving around the island.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Trying a New Thing

So this happened yesterday and it was pretty freaking cool.

If you follow on IG, you know I've been out at the barn actually doing noteworthy things with the horses lately, other than just feeding, grooming and life/soundness checks. (I swear this is not a shameless plug for my Instagram: it's just so much easier to post pics and quick updates there on a regular basis than it is to sit down and write an entire blog post. It can take me months to finish a blog post. It takes me less than a minute to do an IG post. So yes: there are near-daily updates on there.)

Mondays are my Saturdays in that they are my first day off after a weekend spent working. Carlos has managed to get his schedules to line up perfectly with mine so that, despite having what we call "reverse weekends" for the rest of the world, we still get to spend them together. On a fluke, Carlos had been scheduled to work this particular Monday so I was on my own. The weather promised to be GORGEOUS: breezy, sunny, upper 70's, so of course after training in the morning, I headed over to the barn to ride.

Lily spent the winter fat, fuzzy and happy, which is how I like to see her. With the transition from free choice hay to spring grass, however, she had lost a surprising amount of weight. This used to be her norm though so I wasn't too-too freaked out about it: we simply started graining her every day again, and within a week her weight has improved. My current formula for weight gain for her is pretty simple since she hates oils of any and all kinds: 5 lbs of Legends CarbCare Performance, 1 lb of Triple Crown 30% supplement, and 1 cup of ground flax (I use Triple Crown Omega Max because it is so much more cost effective than, say, Omega Horseshine: $20 for a 25 lb bag.) All of that, once a day. That's it. She's on grass 24/7. If we were doing hardcore riding (w/t/c & gallops) closer to an hour in length multiple times a week, I'd be adding hay and a second grain meal on top of that. But for 30-45 minutes two to three times a week, this works.

On this day my goal was to take both girls out of the field, feed and groom them, then let Lily hang out grazing outside of the field (the grass there is getting long and the girls love it) while I rode Gracie bareback in the vicinity.

Lily was plastered in mud from rolling in it after the weekend rains, so she had a bath prior to me hopping on Gracie, so she'd have a chance to dry off before being turned out again. She eagerly trotted next to me on a loose lead on our way to the wash stall (fyi: new barn has an enclosed double wash stall with hot and cold water), keeping pace to my walk: she was level-headed and happy but amped and I looked at her dubiously...I had only planned on riding one horse, but if she was being this goofy, she should be worked too.

Her first two times in this wash stall, she had forgotten that she had ever been in this type of space before (every barn we've boarded at except the stallion barn when we first moved to Frederick has had enclosed wash stalls. There are pics of her in wash stalls splattered throughout this blog over the course of the 7 years I've been writing here. No, this is not an exposure issue) and danced and screamed the entire time I was bathing her. I. can't. even. with screaming horses. It makes me crazy when she does that.

This time, however, she was a really good girl. She danced a bit initially but did not scream, despite letting me know that she is currently in heat when I went to hose off her rear end. >.<

I then put her back out on the grass next to the hitching post where Gracie was tied. I just dropped Lily's lead on the ground: she knows to take a hoof off if she steps on it, and she tends to stay where I leave her anyway, especially if G-Mare is close by. All of my horses get trained to be able to cope with stepping on their lead ropes on the ground. So no, not a safety issue with her.

I then tacked up Gracie with the bareback pad and her bridle.

She was not thrilled with this idea.

"How come she gets to eat and I have to work???"
I laughed at her expressions. The mare does not need words for speaking.
Sorry Gracie, but you're still a fatty so you need to get your rear in gear!
I was really proud of myself for being able to finally swing up onto her sans saddle from the ground! That was a first. I used to need a 3-step mounting block in order to mount up for bareback rides.

Gracie's disapproving ears...*snorts with laughter*

I rode Gracie around the small grassy area between the horse fields, slowly circling further and further away from her sister. Lily whinnied once, but was too enthralled with munching on the grass to do anything more. She continued to be a very good girl, staying where I had left her.

Carlos and I were planning to ride the next day when he was off again, and while riding Gracie I pondered this: Lily should be worked if she had been high-energy enough to trot next to me while leading her to the wash stall. Should I lunge her in the outdoor? I could just work her in the round pen. But I had to run errands and I didn't want to take too long.

A few days before I had watched the barn trainer ponying a baby from her lanky dappled gray TB mare. The trainer was in full Western attire, right down to the fringed chaps, and expertly handled both horses with ease, despite both the baby and the TB deciding to be uncooperative about crossing a very large puddle. I had stopped to watch because she made the whole thing look like a choreographed dance, even when the horses had briefly misbehaved.

I remembered that now and wondered...what about ponying Lily off of Gracie? I listed in my head why I thought this might work:

1. The two mares get along.
2. I was on the alpha. Lily respects Gracie and Gracie doesn't pick on Lily.
3. Lily will follow on a slack lead rope.
4. Lily respects personal space of both horses and people.
5. Gracie can be ridden one-handed and responds well to leg and seat cues.
6. Both mares respond to voice commands.
7. If either of them disagreed with the situation, I could just drop Lily's lead rope: we were right next to her field, so she wasn't going to go anywhere.

Mind you, I've never ponied a horse. But I felt pretty confident about the girls' skill set to be able to do this correctly.

Oh yeah: remember I was on the bareback pad for this. No saddle.

So I rode Gracie over to Lily, who lifted her head when we approached and let me reach for her lead rope from Gracie's back. I gathered up the lead rope in my right hand (I use 15 foot lead ropes) so that Lily's head would be even with my right knee, and took Gracie's reins with my left hand.

We started out at a walk, first going in straight lines...and I was very impressed with both Gracie's willingness to have Lily stay close to her, and Lily's willingness to stay right next to my knee. She didn't try to barge ahead, she didn't lag behind nor made me yank on the lead rope to get her to stay with us. It was like we had always been practicing this.

So I upped the ante: we added large circles to the left, which meant Lily had to move faster than Gracie in order to keep up, since she was on the outside of the circle. It only took one attempt for her to understand this. I then verbally said, "Trot-trot." Gracie picked up her gait and Lily a nice slow jog that kept her right next to Gracie. We started with straight lines again, then circles to the left...then large circles to the right, which then meant Lily had to slow down because we were turning around her. I slowly made the circles smaller in each direction and both mares responded without issue.

"Whoa," I said.

Both mares stopped simultaneously.

OMFG you guys! I was SO PROUD OF THEM. They were literally putting together everything I've ever taught them in order to do this. I was also using what I had learned with them while on the endurance trail: the ability to be on one horse, keeping tabs on her and myself, while also paying attention to what was going on with the other. They both respond to me first over whomever else is on their backs, which made this even more of a breeze for all three of us.

On a whim, I took them over the bridge to the area around the arenas. We rode around the indoor, circled the round pen, did the small trail around the big outdoor, rode into the outdoor itself and practiced figure-8s, long diagonals and changes of direction. All of this at the gait/trot.

What was going to originally be a 10-minute experiment turned into a 30-minute workout for both mares. It was a huge success.

I returned to the barn today with Carlos in tow, and hopped on Gracie again with just the bareback pad. I then grabbed Lily's lead rope and off we went, this time so we could get actual footage.

I love how they move in tandem, despite one having a diagonal gait and the other a lateral gait.
Lily tried to barge ahead and I made them halt and asked her to back up. She then looked over at Carlos with the camera like, "Ohai!" before realizing that we had just started to move again. She immediately brings her attention back to Gracie and me and follows willingly. 
(And yes, Lily is ribbier than I like to see her. Like I said above: it is being addressed and she is improving.)

We demonstrate our turning skills here.

And then this happened...

I swapped out the Wintec's regular gullet for the wide...and now it fits Gracie perfectly.
Oh yeah: because Carlos has been riding Lily, and the Alta is the saddle that fits him best. It's also all over my IG.

Which led to this happening:

Did I tell you guys there is trail access at this barn?
Because there is.

But that's another story. ;)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

April in Photos

A favorite shot from this month. Yes I did work with Lily!

Another pictorial update. These photo posts are supposed to be quick, but it's still taken me 3 days to put this together! Most of these are on IG, some are on FB, and some were taken with the intent of posting to social media but never made it...so here they go. They are in chronological order.

The last week of March, we were finally starting to see the first signs of spring. These were taken during my first run outdoors. 
I was so happy to be OUTSIDE running that I was flying...this is the highest my heart rate spiked. My resting heart rate nowadays is 42. 167 is pretty freaking high, but I was that thrilled to be outdoors again.
I work Wednesdays and Fridays in Surgeryland. Fridays tend to be a little unpredictable because we usually get transfers for emergency surgeries. Which stresses everyone out except...me. I'm usually like, "This ain't nothing compared to ER, guys..." They also tend to just be weird days in general. On this particular Friday, we had been hearing something rattling in the dryer vent duct all day. One of my coworkers noticed that the sound was continuing even when the dryer was off, and that's when we realized that it sounded like a live animal trying to scratch its way out of the vent. So my supervisor was the brave one who took the duct apart while half the team hid (there was fear that it would be a rabid raccoon. I stayed where I was working at the computer inputting an invoice, while making cracks that it was probably a ROUS. No one found this funny. Whatever.) Anyway. My supervisor finally got the duct open and out flew...something. Turns out it was a bird. Everyone else remained hiding, while I left my seat without even thinking about it and tracked the bird, much like a cat would, because I had every intention of catching it. The poor bird slammed against one of the OR windows and I rushed over to try to grab him when he dropped...but he didn't drop. Instead he slammed against the window again :( then flew in the opposite direction, crashed against a corner of the ceiling and plummeted down behind our storage area. Here I pounced, and niftily picked up the little one, hoping he wouldn't bite my hand. He didn't. I held him gently with my hands over his wings so he wouldn't flap crazily and hurt himself, and he stayed calm. Everyone else crept out from their hiding places to come look, fascinated. My supervisor said quietly, "You're like a bird whisperer!" I had this flashback of when I was a kid and was the only girl in school that was always catching lizards, butterflies, caterpillars, bugs, and small birds, just for the sake of holding them, studying them up close for a second, and then setting them free again.
The bird was a starling and he was beautiful. I had never seen one up close IRL. After everyone had had their chance of looking at him, I stepped outside and set him free. He took off from my hands without issue. I was relieved to see he had not hurt himself neither during his dryer vent struggle nor from banging against the OR window!
And all of that before one of the OR tables tried to catch fire...
A gorgeous full moon at 6:50 am on a Saturday when I was pulling into the parking lot at work.
One of the funny things about competing in Figure has been re-connecting with my friend Mio from tech school, who stumbled upon my IG after I posted about the July show. I've written about her before on the blog. We had lost touch and I hadn't heard from her in a couple of years. She hit the stage herself two years ago with OCB down in the west coast of FL and kicked butt!! She sent me this photo recently, taken during one of our hangouts back in South FL. Neither of us remembers where it was, but this was around the time I was training with Julio, before getting back into owning horses. It's a photo of me taking a photo with my digital camera, which I would carry with me everywhere back when I had a flip phone that took shitty pics, circa 2009. I was 29 in this photo. It made me a little nostalgic.
From a different run outdoors in downtown. It was cold and I had to do the unthinkable: run in long sleeves, which I hate. But my desire to do cardio outside of the gym was greater!
That mosaic is entirely painted, including the man on the ladder that you see on the right! 
I usually have company in the bathroom in the mornings. It can get a little crowded...
I was SO TIRED OF THE FUCKING COLD, I was starting to entertain the thought of proposing moving back to FL.
(Ha. Hahahaha...) Instead, I entertained myself by looking at past pics of hitting the trails on Lily two summers ago. Spoiler alert: this would lead to me actually riding the mare later this month...
We stopped at Starbucks in downtown for coffee and a snack, and Carlos picked up the local paper when he saw it had an article about Sky Stage. Sky Stage is an outdoor roofless theater where they have Latin dance nights once a month from May through September, so of course he wanted to find out when it started. He joked that at 40 years of age, he is now old enough to read the newspaper. Lol 
I have become a Converse convert ever since I discovered them for Dia de los Deadlifts. I just want all Converse sneakers, all the time!
Every morning on my days off! YASSSSS
Fun fact: lately my unspoken goal with Trainer is to bring up the weirdest subject of conversation I can possibly think of, just to see if I can get him to talk about it. Thanks to this post by The Bloggess, Amazon has provided some interesting fodder, starting with printed chicken diapers and a build-your-own-coffin kit. (You're welcome!) The latter was a huge success: we very seriously planned his Viking funeral in the Baker Park creek while I was finishing my workout. (What can I say? If we're talking it distracts me from the fact that my body is on fire.) I think I might spring this one on him next...
Sometimes the greatest victory is just getting them to eat when they haven't wanted to eat for anyone else.
She went home that day.

The second week of April, we did our yearly pilgrimage to the Tidal Basin in D.C. to see the cherry blossoms at peak bloom. The day was awful: low 40s, overcast, humid and just plain cold, though it meant that that, combined with the fact that it was a Monday, meant there were less crowds than there have ever been before when we've gone.
I ran the Tidal Basin, completing 4 miles in a dismal 52 minutes because I kept doubling back to catch up to Carlos so we could walk together for a bit, and stopping to take photos. But that was exactly the point! ;)

A seagull in D.C.!

These trees are so magical.

This was next to the Lincoln Monument. There was no breeze, so the water looked like a giant scrying glass.
One lonely tree.
The combo of the still water + cherry blossoms makes me stupid happy. I don't know why.

I saw someone else do this, so of course I had to imitate them.
My view from the top of the tree. I wanted to just stay up there all day.
This. Just this. 
Two benches inviting people to sit down and enjoy the magic.

Sidewalk behind the Tidal Basin. Almost looked like a fall view instead of spring.
Proof that I did, in fact, run most of this. ;)
We were being silly.
Lily at the hay pile surrounded by part of the mare herd. It's good to see her with friends other than Gracie!
From another run in downtown. It was a little warmer this day. Upper 50s.
This is in Baker Park.
I love this town.

The pink in the tree matched the colors of the brick sidewalk.
Carroll Creek Linear Park. Same run, still in downtown Frederick.
I liked how the light was shining through the lightbulbs wrapped that red awning's posts. (Click to embiggen.)

Back to Baker Park. This was taken close to my favorite weeping willow.
Carlos and "his" pony. ;)
On this day we had gone out to the barn with the intent of riding both horses, but I pulled Lily from the field to discover her left hock (it's always the left hind...) was the size of a grapefruit. She has the typical TB post legs so I was not surprised when last year she started showing the beginnings of wind puffs in both hocks. The left has been worse since last spring: I'm pretty sure she torqued that leg when being chased away from the hay pile by one of the alpha mares at the previous barn, because it coincided with a period when we were finding bite marks on both Lily's and Gracie's rumps. I think something similar might have happened now, and she twisted that hock again. The size of the hock was from increased effusion and it was soft, squishy and cool to the touch: not hot. I lunged her in both directions just to watch her go. She was not lame, and was quite willing to trot and canter. But she was also in her first heat of spring and being a total hormonal whackadoo so I ultimately put her back out in the field unridden because I didn't feel like dealing with all of that. In the meantime, Carlos had tacked up Gracie and was riding her around the property being a goof and G-Mare was all like, "Whatevs."
This mare, you guys. That's why she's my favorite.
Of course I hopped on. We gaited and did some light cantering. Carlos always prefers taking photos of the canter, so that's what you get. Note the huge involuntary grin on my face.
G-Mare was fluid, engaged, and soft. I kept it short and sweet (around 20 minutes) because she is out of shape, though she sure wasn't performing like it. :D

Still carb cycling. I like the variety it allows.

From another run! This is Culler Lake in Baker Park.


Downtown. I LOVE being a city runner in Frederick.

This is also in downtown. It's this weird little private park that's open to the public. On this day it had the purple pinwheels spinning in the wind and the purple wreaths decorating the gates, with no explanation as to what the special occasion was.

The Joseph D. Baker Bell Tower in Baker Park.

The creek in Baker Park. My runs always start and end in this park. It's so freaking gorgeous regardless of the season or time of day.

You guys might not understand why I was so excited about this, but Imma try to explain it. You kind of have to work in one of the medical fields and be familiar with fluid bags to get it, which is why this one didn't go on IG: it was going to be too long of an explanation. 
Anyway. There is a national drug shortage, yes? Of many, many drugs, not just opioids. Reglan (metoclopramide) is one of them. Reglan is our #1 anti-nausea medication and it's quite often that it gets added to IV fluids. Chewy was one of the patients on Reglan, and being 180 lbs, he was on both a high fluid rate (so bags ran out faster) and he had a shit-ton of Reglan added to his fluids. We ran out of Reglan in hospital because of his requirements for it. 
So both hospitals I work at are buying this new particular brand of IV fluids that have these stupid little plastic tabs over both the IV tubing port (where the infusion line gets inserted into the bag) and the medication port. You have to cut off these tabs because they will break your nails in a bad way if you try to rip them off by hand. Underneath each of these plastic tab, there is a rubber stopper through which you have to literally STAB the drip set. I had done what you always do: add the fluid additive before spiking the bag with the drip set, because that way when you prime the drip set's line, it will have the additive in it as well. 
I had put ALL OF THE HOSPITAL'S REMAINING REGLAN in the bag. ALL OF IT. We had just run out because of what I had added to the bag. I had immediately informed Dr. B, Chewy's doctor, who had promptly started calling every hospital within a 50 mile radius (veterinary and human) in search of more Reglan for the big Saint Bernard, so that we could then arrange for one of the swing doctors or techs to pick it up on the way into work. (This is a normal day in the ICU. Yes, these are the lengths we go to for our patients on the daily. But people think specialty care is overpriced...)
I went to spike the bag with the drip set...and it turned out that the rubber stopper was defective: it slid out of place in a way that was not allowing me to properly spike it without pouring half of the fluid out (and thus breaking sterility if I let that happen). I panicked: this was our last Reglan and Chewy needed it! These bags, because of their construction, made it nearly impossible to empty them easily in a sterile fashion. However, with some thinking outside the box and discussing it with Dr. B to make sure I wasn't missing some loophole that would break sterility, I clamped the drip set port with two giant hemostats to keep the port from leaking around the drip set when I inverted the bag (you can see them in the top pic on the right) , and used a large-bore IV catheter (sterile) as a funnel to get the Reglan fluid into an empty (and also sterile) IV fluid bag. "IT WORKED!!!" I announced, and everyone in the ICU cheered. I was pretty proud of my MacGyver skills. 
So that's the story of how I made sure Chewy got his Reglan. 
With some minor begging we were able to get ahold of more of it from nei, which I stockpiled in a bag with a million ID labels on the door of the big dog's run. Dr. B declared me the ICU's Reglan Drug Lord. I was the Keeper of All the Reglan! Lol

Seen in the Frederick Petsmart parking lot, parked next to my car. Carlos and I were pretty excited. Boricua power!

A beautiful but freaking cold day. I geared up and ran outside anyway.

Trail of petals. <3

Powerliftingwomen continues to be the reason why I hang out on IG so much nowadays. I laughed WAAAAY too hard with this one...

Aengus is so sexy. <3
Also, if you like cats as much as I do, you'll probably laugh as much as I did with this post.
(Yes, I am officially exploring the non-equestrian Blogosphere and let me tell you it is SO REFRESHING to discover other people that write about their lives in the same detailed oversharing manner that I do! :D Thank you, Bloggess for the post that allowed me to enter this wonderful world of like-minded weirdos!)

Zombie, despite his missing leg, can run faster than 4-legged Aengus...which means lately Aengus had been jumping up onto every higher surface in the house, including the dining table and kitchen counter, which made me crazy. A coworker mentioned that www.chewy.com has amazing deals on cat trees so I went and checked...and holy shit she wasn't kidding. Free shipping, too! So I bought this one for less than $40. We had to put it together ourselves, but that took less than 20 minutes, and the thing is sturdy, with the sisal rope posts and scratcher. Aengus approved, especially after we placed it next to the kitchen. He often sleeps the whole night up there.

Owl Cat. 

Annnnd...proof that I haven't turned into 100% runner. What happened is that, after the show in March, I got approved for running as my cardio source, and can do it 5-6 times/week if I want to. I hate the treadmill. I honestly hate most types of indoor cardio, except for Spinning. And even then, I only love Spinning as long as it's a good instructor with great taste in upbeat music, positive energy, and who does high-intensity combos like sprint tabatas and jumps. Overall, if I'm gonna do cardio, I like to get it done while running outside...which provides a ton of material in terms of photography. Runs are usually 30-45 minutes in length, 3-4 miles in distance, so I'm not doing anything crazy. 
Strength training now...I do an hour or more, 4-5 times/week. 3 of those times happen with Trainer, the other 1-2 on my own. With Carlos in CrossFit, it means I don't have media from my lifting sessions, which creates the illusion on IG that all I'm doing is running. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 
Here is a side shot of me doing Zercher squats, from a time recently that Carlos was able to accompany me to the gym. 
I have 90 lbs on the bar, and you can see why I love these so much: they allow me to drop to parallel without straining my old glute injury.

More Zerchers. I worked up to 130 lbs on the bar, which is the most I've lifted so far for this type of squat. That's nearly my body weight: 134-136 lbs these days.

Neck and shoulder vein...
Low bar back squat with 130 lbs on the bar.

Squats were followed by HIIT with the sled. Only one plate on the sled because the contraption itself is super heavy and the goal was for me to sprint.

While looking through my illustrated journals a few weeks ago, I found the drawing above. I drew that off-handedly, probably during a break between classes in college. It was me, looking the way I wanted to look at the time, on a bay horse overlooking mountains in the US. At the time, my favorite mountains were the Rockies, which I had seen and hiked during a 2-week trip with my dad when he took us to Wyoming and Montana. I had not seen the Appalachians yet, because the only part of the East Coast that I had visited at the time was Florida. The Rockies were magnificent to me with their snow-capped towering peaks, and unlike anything I had experienced prior. When I made that drawing, I was thinking that one day I would love to ride through my favorite mountains on a horse of my own. It wasn't a diehard wish like so many others: owning a horse, finding my soulmate, living in a place with seasons. All of those were firm, enormous dreams and wishes that I chiselled at mentally and emotionally over years until they finally came true. My drawings often contained the rest of the story that I wanted, the spin-offs: IF you get that big wish, what do you want to happen once you get there? What adventures would you have? What would the story be like? That drawing of my imaginary horse and me on a mountain was one of those. Just an illustration of part of a story that I was toying with, but that was nowhere within sight of becoming true at the time. 
So 17 years later, I stumbled upon this drawing that I had completely forgotten about.  
And I gave a little gasp...because I realized it had come true. Not in the way I had originally foreseen, but it had most definitely come true.
You see, my favorite mountain range now is the Appalachians. I love them so much my heart aches with it when I see them. A part of them surrounds our hometown, and the first view of Frederick when driving north on I-270 is this tiny town of lights nestled at the foot of the mountains. Our apartment complex is right at the foot of these mountains: when we step out the front door, we can see them. They are not tall nor impressive, but they are old, so so very old, the oldest mountains in this continent. And they are green for half of the year...and they remind so very much of the mountains I knew so well when I was growing up on the island. That, more than anything, is why I love them. Because they make me feel like I am home, in a place that has truly become home.
I went looking back through the photos of recent years, and found the one that Carlos took from when we rode in the Dolly Sods with Dan and Liz a couple of years ago. I was on my bay horse, overlooking my mountains, arms held out wide because it is impossible to hug a place, a mountain range, but that was the best I could manage. I got goosebumps, you guys. That random sketch of my future story, drawn in a moment where I was just looking to kill time...came true and I didn't even realize it at the time. Like I wrote on IG, "So many people believe that life is out of their control...but it really isn't. It is what you make of it. You drive it, you dream it, your decisions are what make those dreams come true or not. When you want something enough, the Universe really does conspire."
Be careful what you wish for, be it good or bad: it might just come true. My entire life so far is proof. 

I don't smoke, but some of my favorite people are potheads. Like I've always said: if I have to choose, I'd rather hang out with a bunch of happy potheads than a group of angry drunks. 
This one made me laugh and it got shared with one of those people on April 20th. ;) And I spent the rest of the day with "Drop It Like It's Hot" in my head.

From another run. I had HIIT homework so I took it outside. It was a chilly Friday evening and I was flying, both because of the homework and in my effort to stay warm! I love these old historic brick buildings.

Same run. Carroll Creek.

Same run. I happened to look up just as I was walking under a group of cherry blossom trees and saw this half moon. It was SO MUCH like the half-sleeve tattoo I designed for myself that I had to take a photo. 
(See? Draw something and it comes true. I can't even.)

Same run. Baker Park and the sunset. I was walking to cool down on the way back to my car.

Same run. Baker Park.

Same run. Baker Park.

Sometimes I work on the blog from my phone, despite having a desktop computer in front of me.
This one was featured on Carlos's IGHe takes incredible photos of everything around him (not just me lol). It's where his film degree truly shines. If you want to see more of the world from his point of view (it's pretty magical), you should follow him. His account is public.

I was obtaining a blood pressure from kitty's hind foot. She curled up against my arm and started to purr. 
Let's just say I hung out in her cage with my arm extended like that, grinning like an idiot, for way longer than I needed to after I had finished getting her blood pressure. She went home later that day. <3

First run in the heat. I wore shorts and a tiny tank top and returned home with golden skin and the beginnings of looking like what I am: Puerto Rican.
I joke that I'm like an arctic fox: white in the winter, brown in the summer!

Same run. Baker Park.

 The amazing round pen of the new barn. Yup, I was working Lily.

A better view, so you guys can get a feel for how big it is. It's a true training round pen.

My view from within the pen. I had originally had no intention of riding, but Lily was so calm and relaxed that I changed my mind and tacked her up.

Relaxed mare streeeeeetching shortly after I hop

Whoa there, wild beast! :)
She only got worked in the round pen for 5 minutes: she was not tired. 
Hard to believe she had not been ridden in over 4 months.

We warmed up at the trot and then did a short canter in each direction. As usual, Carlos prefers to take canter pics so again, that's what you get.

I didn't give a hoot about her working correctly. 
1. I just wanted to focus on both of us remaining relaxed. She's been fine temperament-wise for the last year, but like I've explained in previous posts, my PTSD over everything that has happened with Lily the last couple of years had reached a breaking point. Me deciding to get on on this day was pretty epic.
2. I wasn't dressed for trying any true concentrated work. It's hard to post in shorts! So we did a tiny collected sitting trot in both directions and checked all the lateral buttons, and then I asked her to swing into a soft easy canter. The ride was all of 20 minutes. (Not imaginary: I really do time my rides.)

Carlos on Gracie

He rides well in the saddle, but he has a tendency to ride her so much better in the bareback pad...

More canter.

She's a gaiting machine!

Same day, going to The White Rabbit Gastropub, which has become a favorite hangout.
People don't get it, but this is what I mean when I talk about how you look everyday vs how you look in the gym during a workout: it's very different. Most athletes on social media post pics of themselves during or immediately after working out. When you're "cold" hanging out, you look athletic, but you don't look like this raging beast with striated shoulders and popping arm veins.

The Record Xchange, Carlos's favorite store in downtown. They sell used games, movies and music records. It has an awesome vintage vibe.

How I felt about trying Olympic lifts for the first time!
Carlos's CrossFit gym has their WODs throughout the day, but they also have a strength class in the evenings that focuses on the compound lifts of powerlifting and the Olympic lifts. They also do some hypertrophy work at times, and I had finally convinced Carlos to start going a couple of times a week. On this particular day, they were going to do an introduction to the snatch...and I decided to drop in. I was pretty stupid excited about it, actually, as you can see in this pic (no action shots because it was a class, but I wanted to remember how thrilled I was beforehand!) I suck at the Olympic lifts and the snatch is super hard, but by the end of it I was finally starting to get the hang of getting the bar up correctly...and when you get it, it's unlike anything else. This day marked my return to CrossFit, but mainly the strength classes because I can make them complement what I'm working on with Trainer. In case you're wondering that means a normal day off for me currently looks like this: Trainer session in the morning, where I sometimes lift heavy or do a high-intensity strength workout; riding around noon; running mid-afternoon and hanging out in downtown afterwards; CrossFit in the early evening. I'm hybrid AF and I'm loving every second of it.

First yellow spikes are from Trainer session. Second HR spike with orange tip was from a ride at w/t/c on Lily. Third HR spike with red was during an HIIT-type run in downtown. Fourth spike in orange was from CrossFit in the evening.
(Resting HR is not correct: I do not wear the FitBit to sleep because things on my wrists at night really bother me and the FitBit is super clunky. My true resting HR, as noted before, is currently at 42 bpm.)

Another ride on Lily. This time I was in appropriate riding clothes.

We only trotted, with a little bit of cantering at the end. It was going to be 30 minutes tops but I was engrossed in minutiae and Lily seemed to be enjoying the work and before I knew it we had been working for 40 minutes.

Canter. Same session.

More canter. Same session. 
These two clips are basically all that we cantered.

Another run at dusk in downtown. Carroll Creek.
As you can see, I run alongside the water most of the time. Not surprising for an islander.

Level 1 ICU nursing care right here: it's when you cannot leave the patient's side. This was a Bulldog that came in in a respiratory crisis. We had to keep him anesthetized on a Propofol CRI to allow the swelling in his airway to go down. The problem: we would keep him under for a few hours, then let him wake up...he'd be fine for a while, but then he'd get excited (yes, he was receiving sedatives as well to keep him calm!) and start to turn blue again, and we'd have to anesthetize him again. It was a horrible vicious cycle. This is why human beings need to stop breeding the noses and tracheas off of animals! WTF!!!

Taken while leaving work, with the sun still out for once! It was a spectacular ending to what had been a spectacular weekend of making a difference in the lives of both animals and people.

And now, you are all caught up on the goings-on at this end of the computer monitor. ;)