WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

February 3, 2014

WordFood in a Public Forum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:11 pm

Last Thursday I landed in Denver after a one month trip to Vietnam. It was one of those remarkable journeys full of discoveries and learning, surprising insights and flashes of empathy from places you can’t anticipate. Like the day I was hiking through a particularly tough bit of primitive Central Vietnamese jungle during a wet, cold day, stuck in the mud, struggling with creepers,  whacking my head on fallen trees. In that moment it suddenly dawned on me that these – and far, far worse- were some of the conditions that my fellow veterans had to deal with forty years ago during the war. Along with booby traps and jungle rot and so very much more. But the fleeting insight into that world was priceless. I was hiking back to a hostel. They didn’t. Most of us won’t see that jungle up close and personal, and for me it was a paid adventure. I’m a Vietnam-era vet, never been there before.

The warm welcome I received, the kindness, their laughter at my attempts to speak their language, well, let’s just say it was a cathartic experience.

While I travel I write on various forums. My style is to find the funniest things that happen and relay them along with observations about the country and its beauty.

It happened that on one occasion I had paid for an excursion which required that I give up the use of my own gear and use the company’s equipment, which was not very good, and that, along with very cold water and mud, caused me to take some pretty good falls. We crossed about eighteen streams both coming and going. By the time all was said and done, I’d thrown my back out twice and fallen on my knees on some nasty rocks three times, using shoes that had no tread and that were a size too big. My shoes are excellent hikers, good gear in any condition. I hadn’t expected so many stream crossings, and I should have asked about it beforehand, because I have gear up to the task. Good head’s up for next time.

The couple who were along on this trip were impatient when I couldn’t keep up with the very fast pace set by our guide and their kindness turned to condescension as they increasingly got tired of having to wait for me to catch up. The next day they left early. The guide, whose job it is to keep the group together, didn’t argue. This had consequences for us all. At 2:30, right on the nose when we were supposed to get our ride, my guide, two porters and I came out of the jungle onto the road, which was totally empty- no ride. The couple had taken it. It was cold, windy, wet, no cell signal, and a five hour trek back to town. We started hiking back.

When I did get back to town about two and a half hours later (a van finally did pick us up) I had found my funny again. I wrote my version of the story. I didn’t make a big deal of the dangers of being left in the middle of nowhere without adequate supplies or much else. But I had been angry. So I had a little fun at the expense of the other couple. Who ended up reading my post.

The woman’s response was probably the most bilious, angry, vicious character assassination I’ve ever read. It also went a long way towards proving every point I’d made in the post. She also pointed out that I’d have it removed. Of course not. The post was so extreme it was funny in its own right. However there were some good lessons to come of it.

The reason is three fold. It was an excellent reminder that those posts are public, and if I’m of a mind to poke fun, I need to be uber careful about how I do it. It’s fine if I do it to myself. But not to others. I did apologize. And I took the lesson to heart.

Second, if someone wants to put bile online, it speaks far more about their character than it does about their target’s. There are ways to disagree, ways to take issue, and ways to take someone to task. There are as many versions of a story as there are people involved including the butler. No right or wrong.

Third, it is a lesson in how important it is to sit on your words before you publish them.  This is like that angry email you write and should hold off on for 24 hours until you cool off. Had I taken a day to cool off about being abandoned by the roadside in the rain, the post would have read differently. By the same token, had she sat on her response for a day, she might have seen the contradictions in her angry claims.

Once we hit “publish” there’s no going back. Public forums can be entertaining and they can also be highly revealing in ways we really don’t care for them to be. Toxic WordFood has no place in social media. And I am most grateful for this excellent reminder.

December 31, 2013

Nourishing WordFood: Remembering Who Serves Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 12:10 pm

In the month since climbing Kilimanjaro it’s been busy. The holidays, trips to see friends, emails to answer. Among the work and preparation for yet another adventure trip, a couple of emails stood out: Ignas and August, the guides from my trip up that great mountain in Africa.

These two wonderful men from E-Trip Africa became friends and confidantes during the six day journey which took me to 19k’ and more to the rooftop of Africa. They also carried me most of the way down when, while sliding down the wicked scree that you have to navigate for nearly four thousand vertical feet, I badly twisted my left knee and needed help. Without them, I’d have taken painful hours to make my way down solo. We laughed, ate, talked together, solved the world’s problems. When I took a bathroom break at 3 am 17k feet, got up and began to hobble back to the group and couldn’t figure out what in the world inhibited my ability to walk, Ignas kindly pointed his headlamp at my knees and suggested that pulling up my underwear might help. I nearly fell down the mountain in laughter.

Ignas’ wide ranging knowledge of geology, astronomy, math and so many other subjects, and his deep sense of the important things in life in his early twenties made him lovely company. August, who chased us down in the early hours to check our oxygen and pulse rate, was a quiet, competent presence full of funny stories about previous climbers, mishaps and mayhem from his 308 ascents.

Their constant encouragement, checkins, reminders to eat and drink kept me and my climbing partner going. Never did they push, always did they gently encourage. At the summit, when my water line froze, Ignas spent fifteen minutes whacking the black line like a dead snake with ice flying in all directions until I could get the much needed liquids from my backpack.

Once we came down, and landed at our rest hotel, the goodbyes in the parking lot were emotional and joyful. When I got back to America, I found photographs and videos, some hilarious, that August had sent the day after we had returned. I sent both men recommendation letters and copied their boss. Then I sent them both personal emails about what the trip, and they, had meant to me.

So often people come down the mountain and later, it’s hard to remember the guide’s name or the cook’s name, and it’s easy to say that I climbed Kilimanjaro. Nobody does such a thing alone. It takes a community to get us up and it most assuredly took a community to get me down. It was an exquisite experience to learn to accept little gestures of help from being buckled up when I couldn’t find my belt buckle to being chairlifted down the mountainside to drink cartons of delicious mango juice at base camp. So my personal emails expressed my gratitude for being taught how to accept such help, for that to me was more important that the summit itself. That was their gift, my lesson from Kilimanjaro.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day all of us have a terrific opportunity to thank those who serve us- those often forgotten workers and servers and support help who add untold value to our lives, but all too often go unnoticed in our world. People whose names we don’t know or don’t bother to memorize. Without them, our lives would stumble and come to a stop. Ignas and August reminded me to thank those to take care of us- and while you might not take on a mountain, the mountains of our daily lives involve everything from grocery baggers to baggage handlers to handy men to handicapped people who work at Goodwill. They are all doing things that serve us. Let’s notice, remember a name, leave a bigger tip, take the time to make someone feel visible. Important.

Now that’s a way to celebrate a New Year.

December 12, 2013

The Impact of Junk Food

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 1:32 pm

A few weeks ago in the bush of Tanzania I was on a six day horseback safari, not a couple of days removed from having summitted Mount Kilimanjaro. We were riding six to nine hours a day, and at the very least I was bone tired at night when we rode into camp. All through my trip to this point I had been warned by tour operators, fellow travelers and companions that I needed to keep an eye on my valuables, and had been diligent so far. I was traveling with a group of Swedes, and in this case, the patriarch happened to be the father of the young woman who ran the horseback riding outfit. We were all having a grand time of it.

At dinner on the fourth night I took a break and walked to my tent. I was quite startled to find a camp staffer inside, and he quickly made his way out and disappeared. The first thought I had was that I had left my money belt- with close to $800 US in cash- sitting on the table next to my cot. I grabbed it, hurriedly counted the money, and seemed to find about $300 missing. Angry as a mishandled beehive I marched back to the dining tent and demanded to talk Jo and Chris, the outfitters, and told them- and the table- that I had money missing. I was furious. They told me that this was unheard of, but I was convinced. They took me aside and ran additional questions. Chris went to talk to the staffers and Jo forced me to recount. The money was all there- but by now the damage had been done. I had embarrassed these two good people in front of their friends- and Jo’s father, and the staffers, who knew there was no theft, were offended.

The next morning when I realized the extent of the damage I’d done, I waited until all my friends were at the table and apologized to Jo’s father, Jo, and Chris. Then as soon as possible I tracked down the man I had accused and made my sincere apologies to him to which he said, quite kindly, “Be free,” which was a complete acknowledgement of my mistake.

I later found the camp manager, the man’s boss, and made further apologies, by which time word had gotten around, and all was good again.

What I learned from this was several fold. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re tired. Sure. But what’s worse are some of the cultural impacts. Despite having been repeatedly told by so many that I had to worry about my things, being calm enough to take the time to count my funds several times over would have prevented the whole incident. Instead, my mind had already been poisoned to expect money to be missing and that is precisely what it found. This is our insanity. We find what the mind says is there, right or wrong. I not only offended the kind group of Swedes who had allowed me to join their private party, but I also offended a tightly knit group of African camp staff who were duly proud of their honesty.

All were kind enough to allow me to clean up my mess, and to personally confront the people I’d hurt and to do so publicly. It simply points to how easy it is to be swept away by a part that expects to be taken advantage of simply because of toxic comments made by others. Junk food does that. This is what prejudice is, and how it poisons us to others. Anyone. A group, a class, a person. And unfortunately, everyone is subject to it, and it serves to be a student of when we fall down.

International travel, among its other great gifts, allows us to experience our humanity, and in doing so, allows us to touch deep emotions in ways that we may not otherwise be able to reach. This memory was a high point in my trip, because good people allowed me the space to process a wrong. That’s grace.

October 29, 2013

The Power of WordFood Exchange

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 4:25 pm

Anyone who has ever gone on a long trip is familiar with all the final details that annoy, crop up, and land at the last possible moment. Today was no different. At about 6 am tomorrow the shuttle is going to carry me off for a month in Tanzania, and the amount of preparation for all the adventures has been enormous. The last week has been a flurry of getting bills paid, including pulling out funds for tips for porters, chefs, shuttle drivers et al, meaning that pretty much all my accounts are on fumes. Naturally, two days ago I got a notice that my car registration required an emissions test, and my car insurance payment came due, along with a slew of other payments that just happened to land at the worst moment.

Here’s where I got taught a wonderful lesson, in the form of the basement flooding that happened back in September. My USAA adjustor and I developed a relationship wherein I kept him in stitches about the repeated floodings, and I continually told him to take care of the Coloradans who had more need than I did. And I meant it. We talked football and since he’s from Texas I razzed him about the Texans and especially Tony Romo. Now it was time for me to ask a favor. I compiled and sent him a list of my damaged goods- some pretty big and pricey. When there was question about a value he gave me the benefit of the doubt and that meant, in some cases, several hundred dollars more. In about five minutes he tallied up the total, asked for my approval and sent it up the pole to get me my payment ASAP. That check will make all the difference between meeting or not meeting my responsibilities while on travel.

This is not to say that John wouldn’t have done this for any USAA client, because they’re good that way. But my guess is that I might have earned a brownie point or two because of the exchanges we had during September, and because I made him laugh repeatedly during what I knew to be a very high stress time for the USAA adjustment team. You pay into the bank of good will and when you need to draw from it, there’s an excellent chance you may be able to get what you need.

This just goes to show that even when we are in extremis, it’s good to keep perspective, and when people are trying to assist us, to appreciate and honor them. I didn’t expect USAA to do what they did today. I am beyond grateful for this help. We are not necessarily “owed” over and above service, but John reminded me today that we can most certainly earn it.

October 21, 2013

What We Say It Is, Is the Way It Is

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 3:50 pm

Towards the end of a long and utterly magnificent series of adventures in Argentina last May, I had the chance to share a dorm room with a charming American woman about a third my age at the Hotel Estoril in Buenos Aires, where I had first landed upon arrival. She was energetic, happy, bright, and hugely enthusiastic about being on the road, the kind of person you really want to bring along for an adventure. We struck up a conversation that lasted several hours.

This woman had already been traveling for months, exploring through Uruguay and Chile, Colombia and parts of Argentina. She was full of stories and laughter. Buenos Aires was a stop along the way towards more months on the road, and many more adventures to come. My kind of girl indeed.

At one point she regaled me with a story about a young man she’d met who verbally attacked her for her enthusiasm. He was also an American, but he was bored with his travel, and according to his view, “she’d get tired of it eventually.” He most certainly was. He was put out, annoyed and inconvenienced. After a few months in a foreign country, he wanted his McDonald’s, “people who spoke English,” and Starbucks.  This young man sat in his hostel and read books while she headed out every day to explore the countryside, rappel, river raft, hike and eat local food. What he called boring, she couldn’t take in enough.

We had a good chuckle, and considered how many people would have given anything to be able to go on the same trip this kid was dismissing as a bore. To have the funds to see the world and be exposed to another culture. Then we considered how one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and how in this case, an opportunity was being lost. The way this person was couching his experiences determined his experiences. His self-talk, “I’m bored, I’m annoyed, this doesn’t interest me” all led to his way of  viewing what could otherwise have been a terrific adventure.

The words we feed ourselves are very powerful. The experience, an event, whatever it is, is just what it is. What changes it is how we choose to frame it internally. My friend saw every travel day as a succession of amazing moments to be savored.  Some more so than others (eating a bug might count as a slight negative).  But her acquaintance had already decided to resist anything that his opportunity abroad could offer him. With his toxic WordFood, he’d already decided that nothing could please him. Time for him to go home, which she suggested. I hope he did before he ruined someone else’s sense of wonder.

Someone said recently how they hated the phrase “It is what it is.” Well, it’s true- it’s what we make of it, how we speak of a thing to ourselves that creates the impact. We tend to call unsinkable people Pollyanna- yet it is their extraordinary ability to seek the silver lining, the lesson in a disaster,  what a bout of cancer taught them about life- that’s what uplifts the rest of us.

I have a ninety year old friend precisely like my buddy in Buenos Aires: eager to live, learn and experience. Her joy for life is just as infectious because she takes nothing seriously, or personally. She’s had plenty of terrible things happen. But it’s how she chooses to see these experiences that keeps her young, mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s the choice that makes all the difference.

What WordFood will you use to describe your life today?

October 14, 2013

WordFood of Win at all Costs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 9:28 am

The other night our local news channel ran a story about a Vietnamese woman who had come to America years ago. Happy to be in her new country, she worked to earn citizenship and joined the Army to serve for a number of years. She was honorably discharged with several significant medical challenges. She found work with the Federal Government. Today she has three kids, and is furloughed. While she can still get care from the VA, she doesn’t receive full benefits which would help pay all her monthly expenses. And like many of us who are 100% disabled, she is looking with real concern at the third week of October deadline when the VA says it will run out of money to pay its VA benefits.

This young woman is in much worse shape than I am. I have savings put away, a good chunk of which I just put in my checking account so that if worse comes to worse Wells Fargo can get its mortgage paid the first of the month. But millions of us vets, and Federal workers, and many others in similar situations are not so well off. And my savings bucket isn’t that deep. Republican or Democrat, Independent or Green, whatever your politics, I suspect we are all planning to throw the idiots out come next election. Except for one isolated little county in northern Georgia where they are quite happy to fight the good fight as long as Obama and immigrants and Obamacare and women’s rights and anything that looks like progress or change is stopped in its tracks.

Countries all over the world have long looked up to us for leadership and right now we are an international laughing stock. No matter who you blame- and it really doesn’t matter- this is about enormous egos and the stupidity of politics- those who are getting hurt are the people who put these morons in office. Gone is any semblance of graciousness, common sense, care for the common man. They wield words that say “the American people this or that” but their pocket and benefits aren’t being affected. We’re paying the price for their inability to talk to each other.

Obamacare doesn’t affect me- but it will give much needed insurance to a number of people in my life who didn’t even know about it. When I told them they were immensely grateful: to wit,  a 68 year old grandmother who is bringing up her grandkids. She’s been without insurance all her life. Take it away and she’s back in the same boat. I support it for those who need it.  But on the largest scale, to hold an entire nation ransom because you have an issue with a law? At a time when America is just now getting back on its feet financially? Then spend more time talking about your position in the press instead of genuinely trying to find answers?

I don’t know about anyone else but I look forward with glee to getting to the ballot box next election cycle. My suspicion is that all of us who have had to live in terror of losing homes, not being able to pay for food or basics due to Congressional shenanigans are going to become outspoken activists. Finally. If that’s what it took to get us involved in politics again, then I say terrific. We’ve needed something like this to wake us up to whose up in Washington having way too much say over our lives anyway.

October 9, 2013

The WordFood of Wide Horizon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 9:16 am

Wars are started over petty insults, which small egos take as great offense, and pretty soon millions of lives are being lost over what amounts to nothing more than a stung sense of self. On a much smaller scale, every day the little wars we wage inside our families or in the confines of our lives take terrible tolls because we feel we are entitled to be treated as special.

“Don’t you know who I am?” We want to shout to an annoying customer service agent. To him, we’re just another rude customer. He’s thinking about lunch, and you’re between him and his Big Mac.

Several weeks ago I was at my riding stables, taking lessons in the big arena because rain had forced us inside. I was with my trainer at one end, where we had some room to work. Another trainer was setting up obstacles for her student. Suddenly the place was swarming with girls on their mounts, blocking my way, and I couldn’t work. The other trainer, in a voice dripping with condescension, told me that I “didn’t own the arena and would have to learn to share it with others.”  The hair on the back of my neck prickled at the tone. I don’t mind learning the rules, I do mind, at 60, being spoken to like a 2 year old.

I later mentioned this to the head office, and indicated that if I were part of the problem, I would own it. However I didn’t care to be spoken to in such a way (hear: my tender ego was insulted). I followed up with an email to my contact about the situation, which instead of going to her, the trainer in question got it. That trainer sent me a tart, even more condescending note that said that I should get there early, and if I needed help with my tack, I could ask for help, both of which were unnecessary swipes at my skill level. Since  a simple conversation with my trainer would have told her that I am there an hour in advance of my lessons and that I not only own my own tack and am quite competent at setting up my horse, these insults could have been prevented.

I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote a response four times before I deleted it. Then I bought some tack at the store where I had been referred to this outfit, and did my due diligence. I found out that she does this to everybody and that her father is exactly the same way. So was mine. In other words, she probably got plenty of condescension growing up, and this is just how she vents. It’s not about me. It’s just what she does. A little research reveals a great deal of how much we share with others if we’re not looking to make ourselves right. It’s so tempting to make it all about us, when it’s not.

So the other day some confusion caused me to lose half an hour of lesson and she stood in to give me my other half hour. After a sharply worded start, she did an excellent job of providing skills training. She softened as we worked, and gave me terrific guidance.  She asked personal questions and related her points to what I do to give them meaning. She went out of her way to provide value. In fact she gave me another 35 minutes, which was as close to an apology as I would ever get. This is a proud, strong woman, the kind of woman I am normally drawn to as a friend. That door is now open.

As we walked back to the tack room I expressed my appreciation for the extra time and the excellent training. And I meant it. We’re now fine.  When we can see the wide horizon of a situation and see ourselves in it, it’s much easier to let go of the need to be right. And in that path lies peace.

October 4, 2013

The WordFood of Chicken Little

Yesterday morning dawned bright and early, and it was a perfect day for a good long Epsom salts soak to take care of the sore back I’d gotten from Archie the horse (previous post), so I filled the tub. And soaked. Drained the tub. Then came downstairs to work in my office for a while. When I hit the bottom step, my next step into the basement was into water- for the third time in the last several weeks. This time there was a bubbling pool of it, coming out of my laundry room drain. I got the camera, and copped a wonderful shot of the bubbles of dirty water coming up over my bare feet.

Now you have to put this into context. A few weeks ago my toilet overflowed, putting three inches of water into my finished basement, ruining my carpet, my desk, my filing cabinets, damaging the walls, and much more. The floor under the carpet is also in trouble. USAA, in my opinion the best insurance company for us vets, had already just sent out the contractor to estimate the damage after the water mitigator folks had smashed a few things, left my desk sitting in the water, and basically acted like gorillas. Mind you, the floods were going on so I was last on the totem pole, for good reason. Sam, the contractor, had patiently gone through the house and informed me that the whole basement would need to be redone.

Now the other side of the basement, with the new linoleum floor, was sitting underwater.

There are many ways to look at this. There’s a part that can holler poor me, why did this have to happen just before I leave on a big trip, oh woe is me! Oh the inconvenience, I won’t get this fixed ’til spring, gripe, whine, complain. On the other hand, there is a part that can find this very funny. I’ve been in constant contact with my guy at USAA. Yesterday after I sent him the foot photo, I commented that I once considered buying beachfront property but now I won’t because surf’s up in my basement.

There are people all over Colorado who have no basement at all. Mine happens to be a little damp. I told John at USAA to take his time, and put my house at the bottom of this list. As long as there are big machines down here drying things out so I don’t have mold, I’m fine and dandy. How lucky I am not to be a flood victim. How lucky I am this happened before I left for Tanzania. How lucky I am to have USAA for a supplier. How lucky I am to have a deductible of only $500 and I’m going to get completely new basement, a new desk and other new furniture, new paint job and who knows what else. Come ON, I didn’t like the Berber carpet down there anyway.

This isn’t about being Pollyanna. This is about stepping back and seeing the big picture, and realizing that there are multiple ways to view what happens to us. Having a wicked sense of humor goes a long way. John has been overwhelmed with working with flood victims, and I’ve been making him laugh while working with me. So when spring comes along and I need something, chances are I’ll get right away. We’ve been having fun with this.

We all have a Chicken Little part in us. The sky falls on every one of us at one point or another. Whether we run around in circles yelling about it or put on the wellies and dance in the puddles is up to us. People survive cancer by using laughter. I have a sign over this computer that says “Put your big girl panties on and get over it!” Just reading it makes me smile.

My friends who are aware of my basement issues are all sending me condolences. Heck, I can’t wait for spring, when I’m going to get a brand new basement, courtesy of roots in the city sewer, and also because I installed a toilet handle backwards. Now that’s funny. Chicken Little can go lay eggs. I’m going to go choose new carpet.

September 24, 2013

WordFood’s Four Footed Conversation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 6:52 pm

September brings golden aspens to the hills, and this morning at 8 am I was up at AA Stables in the chill and breezes of a pretty fall morning getting a sorrel named Archie ready to ride. Ginger, the stable owner, allowed me to set up the tack with minimal assistance from Chris, who was feeding today. I set an old, tough Aussie stock saddle on Archie’s back and he blew out his gut- something every rider is familiar with, a trick that ensures that the girth isn’t so tight later on the ride. This can have disastrous circumstances if you don’t tighten it several times. So I did my best. The saddle was very old and the leather recalcitrant, but I was finally able to get one more hole out of the cinch. I asked Chris to check and she gave me the go-ahead. However, Archie didn’t want to head up alone, and he resisted me every step of the way.

Archie and I walk-trotted up the rocky, aspen lined lanes of this mine-dotted territory, taking short canters where possible in the warming air, and enjoying the distant snows against perfect blue skies. We passed an abandoned mine, and I asked for another canter. Suddenly I felt the world go sideways, and I started to slide overboard as my saddle went south.

Anyone who’s ever had this happen can recount how this happens in perfect slo-mo. Over you go, helpless, and there’s the horse’s belly, BAM. Unfortunately all my 120 lbs landed square on a single rock in the lower back, and I tweaked my recently-repaired left knee in the process. Ouch.

Of course Archie now had a saddle under his belly and was lurching about, we were on a rocky lane that dropped off precipitously, and I had to get the heck up and calm him down as well as get the tack back on his back. I tied him off, and while this 1000 lb gelding was body blocking me against the trees I did my best to quiet him while at the same time manhandle the saddle. Archie was ready to head back to the stables NOW.

He’d done what he wanted, all right. I was dumped. However, the cinch, that part of the saddle the goes under the belly to keep the saddle on, was now snugly around his manly horse parts. Archie was not happy at my attempts to move the cinch- to which he responded with a powerful circular swipe of his left rear hoof- or my attempts to move the saddle forward without touching said manly horse parts. I already had one angry knee, and that hoof can do the same devastation as a 6’9″, 400lb linebacker.

I danced out of the way and looked for inspiration. Up here there wasn’t much, but there was my answer: big tufts of nice green grass. I led Archie over, tied him off, and while he was busy munching I pulled up and loosened the cinch in one quick move before he knew what happened. In no time the saddle was back on.

The cinch was now two holes tighter, and Archie had copped two mouthfuls of grass. Ten minutes of inconvenience. And for his craftiness, Archie got his tender bits repeatedly tweaked. Archie turned expectantly towards the stables. I turned him uphill, and on we went. He was most unhappy, and bucked three times to prove it. We had quite the conversation.

I could have walked Archie back to the stable.  Riders fix the problem and keep riding. There were so many lessons in this little adventure ranging from the constant reminder to ride a while and check that cinch once more time, to how like a personal relationship this is. The more I thought, the more I laughed. In every way, it was a gift. Sure I have a sore butt. But as I continue to train for my adventures in Tanzania, including a six-day horse safari, Archie’s argumentativeness gave me the perfect opportunity for problem solving on the trail in a relatively controlled environment. Better learn here than first time in Africa with a predator close by.

Those of us who love horses know that accidents, spills and bruises are a part of riding. Archie had his own agenda, and he paid a price for wanting a looser girth. I paid a price for not double checking. Great lessons all around. I’m going back next Tuesday, a little blue in the butt, for lots more. This time, I’m triple checking the girth. Thanks, Archie, priceless lesson learned.

In every aspect of our dealings with children, dogs, horses and those we love, the friction that we encounter is the place where we learn the most if we are open to it. If we own our part of it, and are willing to have a horselaugh along the way.

September 16, 2013

WordFood of Perspective

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:11 am

When bad things happen to us, it’s easy to think you’re being targeted. “Why me?” comes to mind, as though God or the Universe has specifically pointed a finger at this one human being for punishment out of the billions on the planet. It’s supremely egotistical to think this way, especially when at any given time on this globe there are plenty of folks having a hard time of it.

This past weekend I was working on a project in my basement office. At one point I’d used the downstairs toilet. After about an hour or so, my coffee was barking at me so it was time to make a pit stop again. This time my stockinged feet landed in about three inches of water surging out of the bathroom- so I rushed in to find that the entire room was floating in a small ocean. In fact, my basement was in the process of being flooded. I was able to get the toilet to stop running, but not in time to stop the water from creeping into my office, the extra office, the extra bedroom and pretty much everywhere else. Sigh.

I called my insurance company which was quite happy to open up a claim. Within minutes I got a call from a guy who politely informed me that while they were also quite happy to help, there was no water mitigation contractor within their system to help me out. Anyone who’s been following Colorado news is well aware that there are a whole lot of folks who not only have a bit of water in their basements right now, they don’t have basements at all, much less a home to sleep in. I called the alternate they provided, and was told that I might get a phone call later this week, long after the water has done much more serious damage. It already smells hinky down there. But the truth is, I still have a basement, a roof over my head, and I live on high enough ground so that the flooding isn’t a danger to me. The inconvenience of a stinky carpet is nothing by comparison and hey, I didn’t like the Berber down there anyway.

Last December, my girlfriend Soni and I had met for dinner. My boyfriend had just ended our relationship for the umpteenth time and she was unattached. We were bemoaning the fact until I pointed out that – it was December 14th- there were a great many people in Sandy Hook who would never, ever have a Merry Christmas ever again, and that perhaps our little issues weren’t that big a deal by comparison. She agreed, and we went on to discuss more important issues.

The chaos of life is just that: chaos. There is no unpredictable Greek god sitting amidst the clouds pointing lightning bolts at out butts to annoy us out of spite. Life just happens. Here in Colorado Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with many lives and she’s taken some from us. By comparison, a capricious toilet is nothing. It pays to keep in mind that no one gets singled out for special treatment. It’s how we talk to ourselves about it, gain perspective and wisdom, and especially a sense of humor about life’s vicissitudes that make us useful to each other. Invariably we will encounter others who have undergone something worse, or who need our perspective. And that’s when we will understand why we experienced the challenges that we did: they help us to serve someone else. Our WordFood of perspective to someone else who is suffering makes all the difference in the world.

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