Our dogs "practicing" hanging out in their airline kennels. The game is "go in...get a dog cookie". They ship out next week.
"Wherever you go, go with all your heart."
I will be moving back to the U.S. in about two weeks. Our dogs ship out next week. The horses go back within two weeks. The end is real now. Thank goodness, because preparing for it all is extremely time-consuming and unbelievably stressful.
For a while I was really torn about leaving Spain to return to the U.S. I was wishy-washy. I couldn't make up my mind. One day I couldn't imagine leaving, and the next day I was convinced it was the best thing to do. This went on for about six months. Then an opportunity came along unexpectedly in my home town that made it the right time to go back to the U.S.
I love living in Catalonia, and in Spain and Europe in general. It has been the best two and a half years of my entire life. And my husband and kids all agree we are going to miss it. It has been a priceless experience for us all. But once I make a new commitment, in this case to returning to the U.S., I do my best to be 100% onboard with it. So for my own mental well being, I've had to start "dissociating" from Catalonia and Spain and embracing my move back home.
It is fascinating to experience how the mind dissociates from something. I'm already becoming "more American" again. Instead of dressing up all the time to go out, I've started wearing t-shirts again. I crave a great hamburger (which I can luckily find here). And as my mind looks forward to reintegrating into my home culture, I'm becoming less and less tolerant to the local culture and the Catalan and Spanish "way".
Throughout my time here I have always reminded myself that I am a guest in this country and region and that I need to accept, change and adapt to the local culture and languages (Catalan and Spanish), not the other way around. Now, hearing Catalan DJs and music on the radio is like nails on a chalkboard! Now, the laid-back Catalan and Spanish way drives me nuts! Now, the smugness of some of the local people makes me want to puke! It's not that I didn't have these feeling before. It's simply that I forced myself to keep them deep down inside. Now, I'm letting them surface.
Alas, it is time to move on. I'm pretty sure this whole experience will be like childbirth...ten years from now I will have only romanticized, fond memories of our tenure here and will have long-forgotten the distasteful parts. They will simply become the funny stories we tell.
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Becasue almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important." -Steve Jobs
First of all, I'm not dying. Yet. But eventually I will. And I know Steve Jobs was onto something when he said this. And what he said is relevant to me right now as my family and I just made the major life decision to head back to the U.S.A. in a few months. This is bittersweet because Barcelona is truly the best place - hands down - we've ever lived. It is about as perfect as perfect can get.
I know my last ranting post didn't make it sound like I'm in love with Spain or Catalunya, but really I am, and always will be. Barcelona is mine - it's ours - now, and forever. Despite the cultural differences, despite the economy, despite the little things that sometimes drive me nuts, it is a fantastic place and the past two years here have honestly been the very best of my entire life. I can feel tears forming in my eyes as I write this and think about really leaving. And yet I'm smiling, because I know when it's time to move on, it's time to move on.
The job that allows us to live here involves travel. Lots of glorious, amazing travel to incredible places I never dreamed I'd ever see, to meet and work with amazing people I never thought I'd ever meet. On the flip side though, it's exhausting and means I miss a lot of time with my husband and kids. We've all adapted very well and the latter issue really isn't so much of an issue. And lest you think it must be awful for me to be away from my kids a lot, recall that executive working dads are away from their kids just as much or more and no one gives this a second thought. Right now, my husband "holds down the fort" and my family is quite happy.
But I'm no longer enthusiastic about the travel. Work travel is far from glamorous and I am convinced it is aging me prematurely! When I came back from holiday vacation in the U.S. I realized I'm done. I returned on a Friday and had the first work trip of 2013 to the Netherlands. The trip that resulted in my ranting about the striking taxi drivers in my last post. When I finally got home that night It became crystal clear to me that this is el fin (the end). I am no longer willing or interested to travel for work the next year or more. And that's OK. We knew this would be a temporary overseas assignment and that eventually we would move on. The time has come.
The very next day I found out a good friend and colleague back in the states announced she was leaving for another opportunity. This opened and opportunity for me, and after talking with my family, a day later I had made the arrangements to take a position back home. I know I'm making the right decision as I have a sense of relief I wasn't expecting to feel. Before the holidays we thought we would be staying here another year as we have so enjoyed our time here.
Soooo, now everything it took to move overseas has now to be done in reverse, minus one cat (R.I.P. Audrey, who died during our stay here), plus one Russian tortoise (Lumpy) and a PRE horse (Altivo), and amazing experiences and memories that no one outside of my family will possibly begin to appreciate as much as we do.
So, as I transition out of my role here, there's lots of work to be done over the next few months. I've already initiated the steps to get both Ebro and Altivo home. Ebro will earn double platinum Frequent Flyer status as this will be his third overseas flight. Altivo, will be a first time flyer. I have chosen John Parker International to transport my precious equines as they did a fantastic job getting Ebro to Barcelona from Amsterdam when he first arrived in Europe. They have years of experience moving some of the most expensive race and competition horses in the world. My horses are just my pride and joy and not worth millions of dollars. I really liked that I read in an article about John Parker that they treat all their customer's horses the same, whether they are dealing with a syndicated international racehorse or a backyard pet pony. I know my boys will be in good hands.
I'll definitely keep My Horse is a Frequent Flyer up and running through our move back to the U.S. After that, who knows? For sure, the blog will serve as a scrap book to remind us of all the great times we had here.
Many thanks for reading. I hope you have enjoyed the blog as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
Note: Race and competition horses are flown all over the planet every day and horses handle flying very well. It is a myth that they all have to be tranquilized and they go nuts while in the air. Keep in mind that some horses have to be tranquilized to even travel in a horse trailer for ground transport. This is no different. Of course there will be some horses that don't travel well, but most do just fine. They are accompanied by very experienced, professional grooms and have hay and water available. The grooms are experienced and trained how to deal with emergencies. The horses are shipped on cargo planes in large, bedded crates that can accommodate three horses side by side. If they're lucky enough to fly "first class", they get an entire crate to themselves. Ebro and Altivo will be flying "coach".
Did you say I get to fly on a plane again?! :)
I am usually not a quitter. Once I set my mind on something I will see it through to the end or die trying. But I've recently discovered, quite by accident, that some things are worth quitting. I've also come to realize, and been utterly amazed by what is hidden when one only considers something from a singular perspective. Sometimes, if we're lucky, circumstances enable - or even force us - to see something from a new perspective. This was the case with me and TV. When we moved to Barcelona we decided not to subscribe to cable TV. We figured we could watch shows on the internet. We did hook up one small TV for local service and we have 2 other monitors hooked up to DVD players for movies and exercise DVDs. And the kids have a Wii. Since I traveled so much last year and my family was busy settling in to our new host country, we simply quit watching TV for the most part. I do admit that occasionally my daughter has asked me to watch an episode from the Food Network or America's Funniest Home Videos on YouTube, and that I did breakdown and buy the last season of House Hunters International, and the my kids will occasionally watch cartoons in Spanish and English on the local stations. But I can honestly say that I have spent no more than 3 hours total watching TV in the past year. For a while I missed it. But I now know for certain that I am completely over it. I had a brief thought that I might like to watch a show the other day. But after scanning through the web for about two minutes to find one I realized I had absolutely no real interest to sit down and watch one. Now, I actually prefer to read a book or a magazine (paper and electronic), write, listen to music, exercise, walk the dogs, jump on the trampoline with my kids, meditate, or do a million things other than watch TV. I cannot name a single contemporary US show (are they still called sitcoms? or maybe they're all reality shows now?) other than Modern Family. And that is only because some new friends from the U.S. gave us a DVD of the 1st season. I watched bits and pieces of a few episodes. It was OK but not enough to draw me back to watching TV. So now I am happily living without TV...something I never, ever imagined. As a benefit I am no longer exposed to any of the negativity or downright garbage that spews forth daily from the television. Do not get me wrong. I am not a no-TV snob. I couldn't care less if anyone else wants to watch TV. However, I can tell you that if you ever do choose to give it up, I am virtually certain that you won't regret your decision.
That brings me to the topic of Facebook. To fulfill my need for mindless down-time since I no longer watch TV, I turned to the internet, including Facebook. I loved being in touch with old friends and family, seeing what everyone was up to, perusing friends' photos, and posting on my wall and photo albums. I was addicted from the start. It really helped me feel connected to the U.S. and counteracted the loneliness I often feel living abroad. I began checking it in the morning and evening. Then I would check it on my BlackBerry, then a few times on weekends. It consumed at least 30 minutes or more of my time every day. That's at least 3 and 1/2 hours of my life every week. And while I say that I want to write more and get in shape it was much too easy to claim that I just don't have the time. So, I'm quitting Facebook. I still want to keep in touch with those I love (or like a whole lot), especially family members that I came to know better in the past year. I am convinced that I can still stay in touch through email and Skype. Many friends have shared that they too have a desire to quit and a few have asked why I have chosen to. Here are my top 10 reasons for quitting Facebook...
10. the soon to come complete-commercialization of FB
9. the toxic addictive nature of FB
8. the difficulty of balancing my right to free-speech without alienating my friends and family
7. to reduce the risk of being unprofessional online
6. to avoid the time sink
5. to discourage my narcissistic tendencies
4. to avoid creating drama
3. to avoid drama
2. to further lengthen my electronic leash
1. because it's the right thing to do for me
Other things I am working on quitting...
reading Yahoo "news" (minutes of my life I will never get back, it's like a train wreck...I can't NOT look! Oh the SHAME! I cannot help myself)
driving a car when I could walk, ride a bike or take a train
Quit something...I dare you!
"A horse gallops with its lungs, perseveres with its heart, and wins with its character." - Federico Tesio
The United States Pony Clubs are sort of the english-riding version of 4-H and teach horsemanship and riding to kids. My club was fantastic with excellent instruction and involved members and parents. We, our horses and our tack had to be perfectly clean and "groomed" before our Saturday morning lessons or we couldn't ride. We also had to do everything on our own. Parents weren't allowed to help. Kids passed through "grade levels" by showing increased riding skills as well as horse care, equine anatomy and verterinary knowledge. Occasionally clubs would get together to hold "rallies" or competitions to test riding and knowledge.
I must have been around 12 or 13 years old when I competed with my horse Jake in one such rally competition with my teammates from the Diamondback Pony Club.
"Mack" had been destined for the slaughterhouse when he was rescued by a family friend. My grandfather gave "Mack" to me when I was bout 7 or 8 and he was just a yearling. I promptly renamed him Jake. My family initially trained him as a rodeo horse but I eventually began riding him english and jumping him.
Part of the rally competition involved cross-country jumping in which the horse gallops over a course of 20 or so solid, natural jumps for about 2 miles. This particular course ran through beautiful woods in Northern Arizona. Jake and I were doing very well getting over the fences and making good time. About half way through right before a jump he slowed his gallop and felt like he might even stop. I knew he must be tired but I gave him a kick and a light tap with my crop and asked him to keep going. He picked up the pace and galloped over the remaining jumps to finish on time with no faults.
As soon as I got off I noticed he looked a little "off". He had an almost imperceptable limp. A veterinary exam is mandatory after jumping the course. When I told the veterinarian I thought he was limping, she instructed me to keep walking him because he was probably just fatiqued from the course. He passed the exam. As soon as I got back to the barn I took Jake to one of my instructors and told her I thought that something was wrong. She looked him over and immediately recognized a sprained suspensory ligament on his left front. The suspensory ligament supports the fetlock joint and keeps it from touching the ground when weight is placed on the leg. It is a serious injury that often puts an end to a horse's racing or jumping career. We immediatey began cold-hosing and treating the injured leg.
I felt so guilty when I realized he had sprained it at the exact moment about midway through the course when it felt as if he wanted to stop. He kept going because I asked him to.
Jake didn't have an elite pedigree or perfect conformation. He was rather short with a huge head and a long back. But he showed that day, and throughout the rest of his life, that had more heart than any horse I have ever ridden. He would have tried to jump the Grand Canyon if I had asked him to. It took him about a year to recover from that injury, and he was never able to continue jumping after that. We moved on to dressage where we competed successfully at the lower levels. We took long trail rides in solitude and with friends. We rounded up cattle in the spring at a family friend's ranch. We rode on the beach in California when my dad hauled Jake there for me as a high school graduation present. I could ride him down the road bareback with no bridle and only a string around his neck. My kids both rode Jake in his old age.
Jake was my partner throughout my childhood and into my adult life. He was a keeper. I have never so completely trusted a horse. When I had to move to Chicago for my education a good friend kept Jake for me. Her young daughter learned to ride on him. I visited whenever I was in town. When Jake was 29 I got a phone call telling me that he had become stuck under the fence during the night and that after he was helped out he wasn't doing well. The vet was called out and determined that he had twisted his intesting during the struggle to get free and that his prognosis was not favorable. Since I couldn't be there myself to see him, I gave my friend permission to do what she thought was right. I did not want to pursue heroic measures because of his old age and the likelihood that he woudn't recover from surgery. My family had given him the best life a horse could possibly hope for, and it was time to let him go. My friend was with him until the end.
I was only able to handle Jake's passing because I wasn't there to see it. I donated his body to the local University where students performed a necropsy. The necropsy confirmed his ischemic intestine and his larger than average heart.
On a side note, during the same call when my friend informed me about Jake's grave condition, she also informed me about a job opening in my hometown. I ultimately took that job. The very job that has opened up the world and opportunities I never imagined possible. The very job that has made me disrupt my family, move out of our house and ship Ebro all the way to Spain. My friend and I joke that this job was Jake's last gift to me.
My family and were not able to get our visas during our recent trip to the Spanish Consulate. We were told that I may not be able to get mine for up to 3 more months and that my husband and children may not be able to get theirs for up to 6 more months. This is certainly not the news we wanted to hear, and creates a myriad of significant complications and extreme difficulties for my entire family. Issues related to my husband's job, where and how the kids will attend school, and me being gone in Europe for long periods of time, among others. I have seriously contemplated giving up on the whole idea of moving to Spain. Things can almost always be undone. I'm not one to ever want to quit, but this experience has truly tested my resolve as we have been preparing for the move for an entire year.
Driving home from the airport after the visa appointments I told my husband and my kids that I would understand completely if it was getting to be too much, and if they wanted to stop pursuing the move to Spain. My kids stated with conviction that they want to continue with the move. My husband pointed out that we had decided that this would be an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our family and that we should see it through.
And today, for some reason I thought about how Jake, severly injured half-way through the cross-country course, had the heart to finish the course.
I'm currently reading a book in which the characters contemplate what their angels look like. If I have one, I am certain that he is a short bay with a big head and a long back.