Saturday, September 30, 2017

MDHT Fall Start #1: Cross Country (x2!)

And finally, everyone's favorite part about eventing, cross country! And, surprise, this time you're getting a double dose because we not only did our judged elementary round of XC, we also did an unjudged schooling round of XC at the beginner novice level!

Elementary XC

So, first up, the elementary course!


When I saw the course walk online and when I walked it with Emma, the only fence to give me slight pause was fence 8 because of the color and the cut outs. Grif hadn't seen anything like that before so I wondered how he would handle it. I'm bold enough, and I usually have a velcro butt, so I figured we'd get over it regardless, but it may not be the prettiest.

Other than this fence though, I had few concerns about the whole course. There were a few tight turns, but Griffin excels at those because we practice them all the time at home. I knew as long as I kept my wits about me, we'd probably be okay.

Following our stadium round I opted to do one more short warm-up exercise designed by Emma before heading over to XC. We trotted through the water, picked up the canter upon exit, made a sweeping right turn and cantered the log. Very smooth feeling and a nice note to end on mentally before heading to the next phase; I wouldn't encounter water on the elem. course, but it would be present on BN!

Heading over to the start area for elementary, we had to wait for the rider in front of us to clear the course (she had some [repeated] issues at fence 6). So, I walked Griffin in clockwise and counterclockwise circles while we waited. He wanted nothing more than to eat grass, but I really wanted him to focus on the fact that we were present for a purpose and it wasn't eating (sorry, buddy, this isn't endurance).

Finally, the volunteer at the start signaled I could go when ready and we headed off.

On the approach to the first fence, Griffin immediately lit up! I think I've got a true XC horse in this guy...


The first three fences, all on a slight uphill, went very smoothly.

As we landed from the third, Grif was on fire and I had to spend the rest of the course trying to convince him to settle and not gallop about like a mad man. One day that may be more acceptable, but right now we're still total n00bs at this and I'd like his brain to be present and not overly psyched.


Fences 4, 5, and 6, were all on a slight downhill. They didn't jump too badly, but it was a bit of a learning curve for me with my body balance in the saddle. Grif really didn't seem to care one bit, and I tried to do my best to stay out of his way and keep his very excited brain in his head. To my brain in that moment, we had a couple hairy-scary moments, but when I watch the video it doesn't look nearly so bad. My head was just in a very tentative place, I think.

Grif considered giving a healthy look at several of the fences, but I was please when he decided he'd processed all he needed to a stride or two before most of them. That's a big improvement on him being, as Austen has so aptly dubbed him, Mr. Stop-N-Sniff. Progress!!


Coming off fence 6, I really worked to sit Griffin down with a solid half-halt for the first really sharp turn on course that wound us back toward fence 7. I felt one foot slip slightly, but Grif was completely unbothered and powered forward. He locked onto 7 easily and it jumped fine.


We had another tight bending line from 7 to 8; learning from our former tight turn, Grif and I both handled this better. Grif did indeed give a bigger look to fence 8 than any other jump on course, but we got over it with more class than I thought we may.


Fences 8 through 10 were all on a slight downhill and each one of them was progressively uglier from a riding standpoint. (I absolutely need to work on downhill jumps more at home. I know it isn't rocket science but merely me needing to practice the skill.) Griffin was very forward and game, locking onto each jump as we approached the finish flags. I got more air time than I wanted after fence 9 and even more after fence 10, nearly falling off! I remember thinking to myself as my body fought for balance, "Do NOT get eliminated because you fell off RIGHT before the finish flags! No, no, NO."

Fortunately, I was able to regain and maintain my balance, and pass through the flags for a double clear in the elementary division again! Yes! Many pony pats were given.

I was laughing at myself as we left the course as I thought about my totally crap riding. While I was shaking my head as I replayed things in my mind, the photographer called over, "I have to say, your horse is really beautiful!"

Still laughing at myself, I smiled in return, "Thank you! This is only our second event and I'm definitely having an "off" day for riding. I bet you got some spectacular shots of me flopping around on those last downhill jumps as my riding was rather..." I paused, scrunching my face a bit to try to find a PC word to describe my shotty riding, "...special," I finished, to which the photographer had a good guffaw. I laughed, too, waved in passing, and headed toward Emma to discuss strategy for BN.

Beginner Novice XC

When the course map for BN was posted online, I had reservations about a few of the fences, but largely felt very comfortable with the course. I felt confident that Griffin would be okay with 90% of the fences.


My confidence about the course increased after Emma and I walked it as she pointed out nuances only an experienced eye could see. I nodded with each observation and felt pretty good about every single fence except the cordwood one. Despite Emma assuring that most horses took these well, I just had a bad gut feeling about it. The light/dark contrast of the front of the jump was exactly the kind of thing I have come to expect Q, and sometimes Griffin, to balk at. I guess I have a bit of PTSD over that kind of thing after riding many spooks/hitting the ground.

Meeting back up with Emma after my elementary course, I made the decision to absolutely warm up over some BN fences as opposed to using elementaryh as warm up. I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous about jumping after my shotty riding during stadium and elementary XC.

Of the fences I worked over for BN warmup, only one really felt good to me.

Reviewing the videos, none were really as bad as my head made them out to be; I was just very stuck in my own headspace and needed desperately to get myself back on track. My mind was getting in my way because I was hesitating in my reactions as we jumped. This is a fault of mine in all sports I do -  I worry, I hesitate, I make errors.

The schedule was running very far ahead at this point. They were ready for me whenever I could get my shit together. I took my feet out of my stirrups, took a deep breath, looked at Emma with consternation and said, "I need a minute. It's not a horse thing, it's a me thing."

Emma smiled back with empathy and proceeded to give me one of her infamous morale-boosting speeches while I sat forcing myself to breathe and focus on reality and not my illogical, manic mind.

The combination of my stubborn determination, breathing, and Emma's speech put me in such a place that I decided I was ready to go to the starting box.

Upon reaching the starting box, still a bit nervous, I was greeted by the most enthusiastic and happy volunteer. His positivity about the day was just what I needed to rally me and make me excited to get out there and Do The Thing.

Emma called last minute encouragement as the volunteer counted me down, "...3, 2, 1, have a great time!"

And I was off on my first BN XC course!

The distance from the start box to the first fence was short, but fortunately I was able to get Grif up and into a good, albeit slow, canter rhythm. We soared over the first jump and it felt great! Just what I needed mentally.

As we cantered away from that first fence, I allowed myself a big smile and a moment of oh-my-goodness-we're-finally-pursuing-this-goal-I-set-ages-ago amazement/gratitude. I set a goal of riding BN, knowing XC was going to be our weakest link in accomplishing that, at the beginning of the year. It was so surreal to be pursuing it finally!

I reined my wandering thoughts back in time to tackle the second fence, which felt just as great as the first. From there, it was onward to the third fence, a tootsie roll, preceded by water.

During the course walk, Emma recommended schooling this fence by planning to circle through the water the first time and approach the jump on the second go, ideally picking up our canter in the water. I executed this...kind of. We trotted through the water on the first entry, and Grif was immediately looking forward and locking onto the jump. I confused him a little when we circled, but ever accustomed to me switching gears on him, he went along with the new plan. Re-entering the water, Griffin wasn't super onboard with wanting to canter, but he did look up toward the jump again, so we just went for it. Our approach was very blasé, but the jump was nothing impressive and Grif popped over it like it was nothing and powered off toward the woods.

We powered into the woods to fence 4, a darkly stained pheasant feeder that had been in full shade upon the course walk but was perfectly half lit/half shaded now. Too familiar with how Q has reacted to such contrast in the past, I put my leg ON and let Griffin's enthusiasm for galloping and jumping carry us forward and over. It felt great!


As we approached fence 5, the cordwood, I gave Grif a couple half halts to balance him through the sweeping turn and approach. As we approached, I kept my leg firmly on, my eyes up, and used my voice and whip to encourage him. I felt surprisingly confident that we'd conquer this with no issue!

Despite this, he came to a SCREECHING halt in front of the jump, eyes bugging, nostrils flared, blowing air in dismay.


Fortunately, my defensive position with a deep, downward heel and forward leg saved my ass, and I barely lurched forward. In a fraction of time, I checked in mentally with myself wondering if I had relayed my earlier hesitations about this jump to Griffin, thus causing the refusal, but felt very confident that no, I had not displayed that feeling to him. The previous fences had all gone so well that my feelings of concern/hesitation were very much behind me other than briefly registering and accepting that I'd had the thought. In the past, if I'm hesitant, my position tends to suffer and my hindsight notes how many things could have gone better to improve; my hindsight registered nothing this time.

As I comforted a snorting Griffin and tried to encourage him to step forward and sniff the jump, I acknowledged the jump judge and noted, "This is our first time through BN and we are just schooling it. I will be skipping this jump once he sniffs it." She made a rude face and scoffed something under her breath, but I'd already mentally dismissed her. Her judgement didn't matter in this moment, what mattered was Griffin having a good experience.

Sure, I bet if I'd approached the jump another time or two he absolutely would have jumped it, but historically when we have moments like this at home, he will over jump in a dramatic way, toss me slightly off balance, and then power forward. With my mental state and questionable riding on this day, I really didn't see how that experience would help us at all. We had 8 more fences to experience and I didn't want Griffin to feel stressed about anything.

Hesitantly, he finally reached a nose toward the jump and gave a shuddering exhale/sigh. I praised him and we trotted forward to fence 6.


As we approached, I processed the jump and landing. I didn't think Grif would care about the jump, but the landing was slightly downhill immediately followed by a steeper downhill. My riding of such terrain had already been questionable at best, so I called to this jump judge knowing she'd seen the fence 5 situation, "Hi, we're just schooling so I don't know if we're going to jump this fence or not." She was an older woman with a tough appearance who appeared as if she'd seen her fair share of horses, courses, and riding through the years and she replied, as Griffin walked nonchalantly to the fence and touched it with his nose, "Oh come on, just keep your eyes up and you can do this."

A bit surprised by this gruff stranger, and pleased with Grif's completely unbothered reaction to the fence, I turned him around, trotted away, turned again, picked up the canter, and jumped the damn thing.

Thanks, abrupt, blunt lady! That was EXACTLY what I needed in that moment.

Approaching the steep downhill, I transitioned a now excited Griffin into a trot, transitioning back to a canter as we approached the bottom.

Heading up the hill toward the fence 7 option of swoop brush or a ditch (ditch, duh), Griffin squealed with delight at being allowed to gallop up the hill and rocketed forward. (At home he often bucks going uphill so I usually hold him back.)


I wasn't overly concerned about the ditch, but didn't know how Grif would handle it. We do have a faux-ditch we practice at home, but when we practiced a real one in July, he was awful balky about it in the beginning. Today, he decided it was a total non-event, powered across, and on we went to fence 8, an easy log we'd jumped during Twilight a week prior.


Griffin was on fire by this point and I spent much of my time between fences 9 through 11 sitting hard, half halting often, and trying to bring him back to me.

The planter log at 9 was NBD, he executed the bank at 10 like a boss, and was growing awfully annoyed with my persistent requests to slow down by the log at fence 11.

As we approached our penultimate jump, we had quite a downhill.


The footing was perfect, but I still asked Griffin to trot the majority of the downhill before letting him pick up the canter a few strides out.

At Rolex, I LOVED the boat complex near the end of the course and declared to Austen et al. that I would absolutely try to tackle it given the chance. I don't know why, I just knew I liked it. So now, presented with a boat of my own, I was so inwardly pleased at the prospect of jumping it!

I didn't know what Griffin would think about the jump, but he really didn't seem bothered on approach and rocketed over it. I finally jumped a boat! I may or may not have squealed at this point.

The final jump, a purple and green produce stand, was upon us! As Emma discussed with me, it had a slight uphill approach which meant I need to focus on not pulling and he should have no issue.

I felt Griffin sucking back a bit as he looked at the jump upon approach, but I verbally encouraged him to GO GO GO and he launched over it like a boss!


And just like that, with one jump skipped, we'd completed our first BN XC course! Eeee!


Skipping that cordwood jump was absolutely the right decision on this day; why push things? It was just a schooling round after all. Griffin was confirmed in knowing he'd done a great job and hadn't had a bad experience and that has been the first objective each outing. However, you can bet that I'll be prioritizing the construction of a cordwood jump of our own with some firewood at home!

Second place finish in the elementary division!

Overall, it was  such a phenomenal day. Grif was a total star and while my head got in the way a bit, but we moved forward despite and I am happy to know that the issues we had on this day weren't horse problems so much as rider problems. I can think through an analyze my own issues much more quickly than Grif's!

Endless millions of thank yous to Emma for being there for us all day; your guidance is so appreciated and helpful for Grif and I! It's so intimidating coming from 'podunk' West Virginia where I do all of the training myself; jumping into this big world of eventing is daunting and you have really helped ground me and make me feel like it truly is possible at each event so far! And thank you again to Austen for being there throughout this journey, too! Y'all are the best <3


This blog world is awesome for support and hopefully I'll be able to meet more of the eastern eventing contingent in the next year or so as Grif and I continue our foray into this sport. It's safe to say we're hooked. And I'm pretty sure I have a solid eventing partner in Griffin to pursue this endeavor with. I never would have dreamed that the ugly long yearling that entered my life in winter of 2012 would turn into this horse, but I'm so, so thankful he has and that he loves this job so much!

Friday, September 29, 2017

MDHT Fall Starter #1: Stadium

Following dressage, I had about 90 minutes before my scheduled stadium round. I untacked Grif, gave him a drink, and tossed him on the trailer with hay. Emma and I grabbed drinks and snacks and headed out to see the stadium course and walk cross country.

The stadium course was simple and very similar to what we'd jumped 10 days prior at Twilight. I had faith that my worries about not remembering my course wouldn't come to fruition on this day.

Following our XC walk, we returned to the trailer to get Grif and I dressed for our jumping phases. Emma took this time to surprise me with a gift from her and Austen. Emma had alluded to a "surprise" in the days leading up to the event, but I never guessed the magnitude of this surprise!


I was first handed a card that read:

We're all so proud of you for doing the thing with Griffin. You work so hard, and that dedication shows in Griffin and your performances. 
Knowing you're too damn practical to buy things like this for yourself, we chipped in to get you guys looking just as professional as you perform and train. Hope everything fits and you like it!

As I finished reading, chuckling inwardly about the public damning of my practicality, I looked up at Emma with a questioning look and was handed a navy blue PRI XC saddle pad (the color I dreamed of putting Grif and I in one day once we'd proven ourselves a little within the sport of eventing) and Isabel's old XC boots!

Color me SHOCKED...and immediately floored with gratitude for the incredible generosity  friendship displayed. Tears sprang to my eyes a bit, but I blinked them back and then proceeded to hug Emma in thanks about 3 times in a span of 2 minutes. And because that wasn't enough - THANK YOU, again, Emma & Austen. <3


And so, Grif was quickly outfitted in his new duds and I donned my matching blue sunshirt and we headed off to warm up!

Warm up for jumping was chaotic at best when I arrived. It wasn't the busiest, but those who were present were not doing a great job of navigating around in a courteous manner. Fortunately, Emma rescued Grif and I and helped us make the best of a crazy (for us) situation. I suspect traffic of riding around other people will continue to be a harder task than the actual jumping or dressage for us for awhile. Grif handled everything beautifully though, which made me very proud.

With Emma's guidance, we practiced each jump a time or two on each lead, the main bobbles occurring when I would hesitate due to traffic. Traffic aside, warm-up went smoothly and Griffin perked up from his typical dressage stupor.


The schedule was running ahead, so with no major concerns to focus on in warm-up, we headed right on up to the stadium course.

Grif and I watched the round ahead of us - a zoomy little pony absolutely tearing it up! - and then headed in for our own round.


To me, the whole round felt a lot scrappier than our stadium round at Twilight. I knew we were burying ourselves at the base of the fences more than necessary and I felt like my riding went to pot. However, we got through the round clear!

I called to Emma as we exited the arena, "Scrappy!!" Because that's how it felt, clear, but scrappy as hell. Emma noted that I did a good job staying out of Griffin's way so he could accomplish the task at hand. She also helped clear up some concepts for re: developing my eye for distances. Despite having read and heard much on the subject, the way Emma worded the same information was in such a way that it finally "clicked" in my head. I've been implementing several of her recommendations in the weeks since this event and am really pleased with the improvements!

Overall, I felt good about the stadium course. Grif had another positive experience of doing the thing and at this point, that is what matters the most. I was grateful I could guarantee a positive experience for him despite feeling that I was having an off day. As we headed back down for a quick XC warmup, I tried to muster my own mental game up to snuff so I could be there for Grif through the next phase...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

MDHT Fall Starter #1: Dressage

Crystal clear cotton candy pink skies and the first frost of the season greeted Griffin and I as we set off to Loch Moy for our first Fall Starter Trial on September 10. As we headed east into the rising sun with nary a vehicle on the road for the first hour, I realized that while the early morning wasn't my favorite on a weekend, it certainly wasn't bad with such a promising beautiful day ahead.


As the morning wore on and we dropped in elevation as we headed east, the temperatures slowly rose from the 30s to the upper 60s/low 70s. Perfect weather for riding!

I resisted the urge to stop and capture the astoundingly beautiful morning about six times as we traveled, and ultimately arrived at Loch Moy around 9:30am with Emma pulling in right behind me. Perfect timing!

All media henceforth thanks to Emma!


We parked, greeted one another, and then set off to check-in before pulling Grif off the trailer, tacking up, and heading to warm up.

By the time we reached the warm up, we didn't have much time. I set to trotting and seeing what kind of horse I would have today. Grif seemed to have more energy than last time, so I tried to see how much I could push him to be rounder than the "flat" he was exhibiting. While I felt like I had a horse I might be able to get into the contact more than I had last time (and more in line with how he is at home), Grif continued to exhibit resistance and, like at Twilight, I didn't care to pick the battle with him. It wouldn't be fair with the short time we had to warm up.


One day he'll ride at a show the way he rides at home (so much more round, I swear), but we aren't there yet. The atmosphere and the traffic in the warm up area is too much for both of us and makes it hard right now. It's much more critical that Griffin enjoys this venture and finds success than anything else right now. I'll just continue to look forward to the day that I have the "fancy" horse, as Chelsey has called him, from home at a show. 😉


The very wonderful thing about our short warm up was that Grif was more reliably picking up the correct lead. This is a sticky area for us that is a direct result of me rarely ever having knowledgeable eyes on the ground to help me when I ride. It is what it is right now, and I'm simply grateful for the good moments and incremental forward progress.


Another positive moment in warm up, despite me feeling like Grif was exceptionally flat and strung out, Emma assured he looked really good, was moving freely and even flicking his toes! This was great to hear and would be the first of many times throughout the day that I felt like things weren't going well when in reality they were pretty peachy. Once again, that whole eyes on the ground thing - boy does it make a difference!

With a word to Emma about how much I felt like a fish out of water among everyone else, I headed in for my dressage test.

Intro C

A: Enter working trot, rising. X: Halt through medium walk. Salute - Proceed working trot rising.
Judge's remarks: Straight obedient halt.


C: Track right, working trot rising
Score: 6.5
Judge's remarks: Could show better bend and balance in corner

Definitely need to ride those corners better and ask for more bend in future.

B: Circle right 20 meters.
Score: 7
Judge's remarks: Steady and nicely forward

Certainly areas for improvement, but I'm really pleased with this.

A: Circle right 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of the circle, right lead. Before A: Working trot rising.
Score: 6.5
Judge's remarks:Could show better bend and balance

Could show a lot better many things, but hey, I'm happy with where we are right now!

Transition in and out of canter
Judge's remarks:Down transition somewhat late

Definitely after A. Definitely an awkward screenshot lol

K-X-M: Change rein, working trot rising.
Score: 7
Judge's remarks: None.

Skipping along

E: Circle left 20 meters.
Score: 7.0
Judge's remarks: None.

Fa la laaaa

A: Circle left 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of the circle, left lead. Before A: Working trot rising.
Score: 6.5
Judge's remarks: Needs a little better bend and balance.

Transition in and out of canter.
Score: 7.0
Judge's remarks: None

Better timing than the first.

Between F & B: Medium walk.
Score: 7.5
Judge's remarks: None.

B-H: Free walk. H: Medium walk.
Score: 7.5
Judge's remarks: None.

Holy moly we have a STRETCH DOWN. Yay, Grif!

Between C & M: Working trot rising to A.
Score: 7
Judge's remarks: None.

At this point all I'm thinking is, "Almost done, almost done, almost done!"

A: Down centerline. G: Halt through medium walk. Salute.
Score: 6.5
Judge's remarks: Needs better bend and balance in corner, halt not straight.

Ahahaha, crooked halt returns. At least we had a straight halt for half the test!

Collective Marks
Gaits: 7.5
Impulsion: 7.5
Submission: 7
Rider's position: 7
Riders effectiveness of aids: 6.5, "correct bend" is underlined.
Geometry and accuracy: 7
Further Remarks: None. (Not a very "talkative" judge.)

Overall, I felt like the test was comparable to past tests. I did quit breathing partway through when I was caught up in the moment and hyper-focused, though I did pretty much smile throughout. Bonus is that I remembered the test with ease (I think I will forever worry about forgetting halfway through)! Grif felt steady throughout, too, though I'd like to start asking/expecting a bit more from him next time. Step by step!

The lack of warmup hurt my performance more than Griffin's I think - I felt more unbalanced and generally floppy in the saddle than usual. This resulted in me losing my inside stirrup during my first trot circle (I did quickly regain it). While I got my shit together more for the jumping phases, the whole day my riding did feel off. I attribute this to the fact that I lacked a lot of physical activity due to the high stress from work for the past month-ish. I've since rectified this, but it was what it was for this ride.


I definitely know our bend could have been better and remember actively thinking this in a few places during the test - all of which the judge noted. Totally fair. It's hard to do all things in the moment sometimes though, y'know? We're getting there though and will definitely improve with more time. Still, our effort was good enough to earn us a 30.5 which is very comparable to the test from Twilight. As a scientist, I like consistency in my results - especially when I know my inputs and outputs were pretty similar between experiments. 😉 We absolutely have things to work on, but I'm grateful we're consistent at the moment and not coming up with new issues [yet], haha. New issues will come and when they do I'll welcome them because they'll be a sign of improvement in other areas.

All in all, I'm really pleased with our effort. Grif was the least "looky" he's ever been during a dressage test which is the absolute best thing ever. He's really figuring out this new "game" we're playing in public places. That's the biggest goal so I'm really happy to see success in that department. His increasing level of comfort and relaxation about the atmosphere thrills me. I absolutely adore this horse and his brain.

Stay tuned for the next installment - our stadium round!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


I've alluded to it in several posts over the past few months, but my work life is absolutely nuts right now. I'm compartmentalizing the chaos as much as I can, but I'm only capable of juggling so much fire at once! Balancing my work and personal life is still happening, but it's a delicate dance.

Work is progressively eating into more and more of what was supposed to be "free" time and "vacation" time as the days wear on. I keep thinking it can't possibly get worse, and yet it does.

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You know that infograph of the path to success? Where your perceived path to success is linear but the actuality is a jumbled, chaotic mess? In this instance, the path from "normal" to "shitstorm" has been a very steep, linear line that has progressed from March to the present. It's just like life to make the difficult things simple and the fun things difficult.

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I love this space and I like to put time and thought into my posts. But balancing this space with the rest of my life right now has become increasingly difficult. Sadly, it's become a huge chore to write, edit, add media, and schedule/publish a post after my high-stress work days that involve a lot of technical scientific writing.

We're all busy people. We all lead chaotic lives and still somehow manage to balance our passions (horse and otherwise) with life's other responsibilities. Many of us also live with/support others who live similarly busy lives and end up being influenced by them, as well. And that's awesome! Being busy often lends fulfillment to us that outweighs the stress that piggybacks the nature of "being busy".

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But amidst all of this, we need to make time for ourselves so we can maintain mental and physical health. Right now, I need to limit certain areas of my life to maintain a healthy balance in others. As much as I try, I am not superwoman and I cannot do everything, nor should I feel pressure to! I need to practice some compassion toward myself right now.

Unfortunately, blogging is one of those things that will be temporarily limited until my job slows down in October (if things go well...). Fortunately, my hiatus only applies to writing and not actual "experiencing". Griffin and I are scheduled to head to our next event this weekend, I have multiple trail rides planned to enjoy the beautiful fall landscape, I'm signed up to run my annual 5k charity race in 2 weeks, I've got multiple climbing trips in the works, and numerous other Very Exciting Things are in the forecast.

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I hope to return to this space in a month or so and I'll do my best to read along with your adventures in the mean time. If you're a fan of Instagram, definitely follow along on the adventures there (@estout18) - it's the one form of social media I truly keep up with these days.

I wish you all well and look forward to catching back up with you when I'm juggling fewer flaming balls of fire.

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