11 Signs You Were Born And Raised In California

APRIL 10, 2014

Photo: Linda Tanner

1. You’ve never called it “Cali.”

The only people who call it “Cali” aren’t from California. It’s not that anyone has to tell you not to say it, people just don’t. I think it’s a respect thing. It feels almost like calling your mother by her first name. I’m cringing just thinking about it.

2. Burritos are a constant topic of conversation while abroad.

My Japanese friend was convinced that “you know Californians miss home when they start talking about burritos.” True enough, in-depth discussions about missing our burrito joints of choice would come up even more often than being apart from our families.

Burritos are a unifying part of the Californian experience — black, Asian, gay, poor, rich, or Ke$ha, you love a dank-ass burrito.

3. Other English speakers don’t understand your English.

Speaking of dank-ass food, we don’t speak the same English other Americans do. Sometimes phrases like, “How gnar was that shit?” or “James was hella butthurt so he just bailed” do warrant translation.

4. You’ve asked someone, “Why do you live there?”

A pissed off Rhode Islander came up to me one afternoon. “God you Californians suck so bad!” I asked her why. “Whenever I say I’m from Rhode Island, they just ask me why. Like, why do I live somewhere that isn’t California.” I tried to sympathize, but honestly I have no idea why anyone would want to live in Rhode Island.

5. Living somewhere rainy makes you seriously depressed.

I was living in Taipei for a while, which despite being a super fun party town, has some of the suckiest weather outside of London. After months of grey weather I was bummed for no real reason until one day, in a quiet alleyway, the sun finally muscled its way through the clouds and onto my skin. I was immediately way happier.

Later, when my friends visited me, they expressed sincere concern about my state of being because I was no longer tan. We are a solar-powered people.

6. You’re the best fucking driver around.

People complain about Californian drivers like we suck or something. Quite the contrary! We have more practice than anybody at it, weaving through lanes and circumventing traffic with our eyes closed. Our skills can shave 20 minutes off a drive in traffic that would reduce lesser drivers into sobbing lumps of existential despair. And yeah, we know this is bad for the environment. We assuage our guilt with compost heaps and Priuses. Prii?

7. You act all tough whenever there’s an earthquake.

“Oh you think that was bad? You shoulda been there for Northridge, now that was a gnarly quake,” you tell those scared non-Californians after a little rumble. True, we have a lot more experience with earthquakes than most people, but they still scare us. Not that we’re going to admit it, though.

8. Snow kinda freaks you out.

Sure you go snowboarding in the winter, but snow is a pretty foreign concept off the slopes.

Last time I was in Brooklyn it was a particularly chilly December evening. I was walking out of the subway when the road looked kind of weird. “Dude, snow!” I said to the guy next to me. “Yeah, what about it?” he said. “Dude!” I said, at a lost for words. He shook his head and walked away.

9. You’ve got a special PCH playlist.

Driving Pacific Coast Highway is a special occasion. It’s usually a day when you’re not in a terrible rush slogging around on the 5, and you can really roll down the windows and enjoy the smell of the sea. What’s actually on the list is really personal, but you can never go wrong with the Beach Boys.

10. You have an incorrigible avocado habit.

In other parts of the country, avocados are an expensive luxury. I’ve seen New Yorkers cradling a sorry-looking avocado they just paid three dollars for. We just put avocados on everything because their creamy decadence makes all of our fresh food taste even better.

11. In-N-Out, dude.

I can’t write an article about California without any mention of what In-N-Out means to us. We have access to every variety of gourmet burger imaginable, from Kobe beef patties to buns make out of ramen, but all these weird permutations are only brief distractions from the pure burger bliss of In-N-Out.

It’s the perfect harmony of the fresh tomato and lettuce. It’s the lightly toasted bun. The thicker than Kim Kardashian milk shakes. That gross-but-satisfying post burger onion breath. In-N-Out doesn’t ever change it’s menu, because there is no improving on perfection. Any Californian who has ever left California for an extended period of time knows that coming in for a Double Double Animal Style is the only homecoming ceremony that means anything.

East Coast idiots might try to tell you that Shake Shack or Five Guys Burgers and Fries1 are comparable, even better, but their taste is suspect; they live on the wrong coast, after all.

1Sorry, but that place should definitely be a sausage joint. Just saying. 

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The Daring Racism Experiment That People Still Talk About 20 Years Later



More than 20 years ago, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” conducted an experiment about racial prejudice that audiences will never forget. The year was 1992 — in the wake of the deadly Los Angeles riots that erupted after the acquittal of police officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King — and racial tensions in the country were running high. Yet, the “Oprah Show” audience members didn’t suspect a thing when they arrived at the studio and were immediately separated into two distinct groups.

The division wasn’t based on skin color, but eye color. “What we did was treat each group differently, discriminating against the people who have blue eyes, catering to those people with brown eyes,” Oprah explained back then.

As the audience lined up to enter the studio, the blue-eyed people were pulled out of line, told to put on a green collar and wait outside. The brown-eyed people were told to step to the front of the line. Once indoors, the brown-eyed group was then treated to coffee and doughnuts, while the blue-eyed group could only stand around and wait. When the blue-eyed group saw that the brown-eyed group was going to be seated first, some became upset.

“Look at those people! What are they doing in there?” one woman shrieked.

When the show began, Oprah welcomed diversity expert Jane Elliott to the stage. Elliott helped set up the experiment, and she knowingly added fuel to the fire when she spoke. “I’ve been a teacher for 25 years in the public, private and parochial schools in this country, and I have seen what brown-eyed people have done as compared to what blue-eyed people do. It’s perfectly obvious,” she said. “You should have been here this morning when we brought these people in here.”

jane elliott oprah show in 1992

Feeling discriminated against, the blue-eyed audience members stood to voice their frustrations.

“She was rude to us! All of us!” one woman said. “Yelled at us, called us names, pushed us aside. She was rude!”

“Why doesn’t Jane have a green collar on? She’s got blue eyes,” another pointed out.

Elliott didn’t hesitate in her answer. “Because I’ve learned to act brown-eyed,” she said. “And the message in this room is, act brown-eyed and you, too, can take off your collar.”

The blue-eyed people were flabbergasted, but it wasn’t long before the brown-eyed people bought into the idea that they were superior. “People, I had a girlfriend in school who was blue-eyed. She was so stupid, she was always copying off of my papers,” said one brown-eyed woman. “These [blue-eyed] people were so rude and so noisy today, we couldn’t hear ourselves even talk!”

Eventually, the audience figured out that the show was really about race. “God created one race: the human race,” Elliott told them. “Human beings created racism.”

Twenty-two years after that memorable episode, “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”caught up with Elliott, who still gets emotional when talking about the catalyst that led her to create the blue-eyed-brown-eyed experiment in 1968.

jane elliott in 2014 oprah where are they now

“Martin Luther King, Jr. had been one of our ‘heroes of the month’ in February in my third-grade classroom, and he was dead at the hands of an assassin,” Elliott says, getting choked up. “I hate to talk about this because every time I talk about it, I remember how it felt that day. I was going to have to go into my classroom and explain to my students why the adults in this country had allowed somebody to kill hope. Martin Luther King, for me, was hope for this country.”

In an effort to get her small-town, all-white class to experience what it was like to walk in someone else’s shoes, she created the eye-color experiment. “I decided the next day that I was going to do what Hitler did. I was going to pick out a group of people on the basis of a physical characteristic over which they had no control, separate them… treat one group badly and treat the other group very well, and see what would happen,” Elliott says.

Why eye color? “Eye color and skin color are caused by the same chemical: melanin,” Elliott explains. “There’s no logic in judging people by the amount of a chemical in their skin. Pigmentation should have nothing to do with how you treat another person, but unfortunately, it does.”

What she found with the experiment is how incredible its impact can be.

“Give me a child at the age of 8 and let me do that exercise, and that child is changed forever,” Elliott says.


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25 Life Lessons We All Can Use, From A Very Wise 99-Year-Old Great-Grandpa



 When you need advice, you ask someone who knows best. When you need life advice, you go to someone who’s seen it all. And who could be better than a great-grandfather with 99 years of life experience under his belt?

Recently, PopSugar’s Macy Williams, wrote about her nonagenarian great-grandfather, known in the family as “Grandpa Cheese,” and his life lessons we can all apply. Williams calls him an “inspirational man.” “He has experienced so much in life — love, loss, triumph, and failure. And through all of that he has continued to remain himself and keep people laughing while he’s at it,” Williams told Huff/Post50 in an email.

Grandpa, whose real name is Andy Anderson, is chock full of advice. After all, he’s had quite the incredible life. He never went to college, but ended up being the national dairy manager for grocery store chain Safeway. He also was married for nearly 70 years — until his wife passed away. He said it was love at first sight.

He’s looking forward to his 100th birthday next May, which he hopes to spend with his family (while enjoying some hot buttered rum and brie cheese, he tells us). “I feel pretty good about getting older. I may be 99, but I am still learning and experiencing new things everyday. You never stop learning. Age is not just a number, it’s a badge of all my life experiences,” he told Huff/Post50 in an email.

The most important thing he’s learned? “Family is precious. Family is the most influential element of your life from the moment you’re born until the moment you die. Your family shapes who you are as a person.” Beautiful.

Here’s Grandpa Cheese’s full list of 25 life lessons, as told to PopSugar:

  1. Always maintain a good sense of humor.
  2. Never be too good to start at the bottom.
  3. Exercise every single day, even when you don’t feel like it.
  4. Don’t spend more money than you make.
  5. Drink orange juice every day.
  6. Love at first sight is not a fable.
  7. Having a bad job is better than having no job at all.
  8. Eat around the mold; don’t go wasting food.
  9. Your family is the most precious thing you will ever have in life.
  10. Eat sausage every day — it worked for me.
  11. Your life is delicate, and if you neglect yourself, you’ll spoil. That’s what cheese taught me.
  12. Don’t ever be afraid to be your true self.
  13. Everyone has too many clothes. Wear what you have and quit buying more.
  14. You must be able to forgive, even if it’s difficult to do.
  15. Save your money now and spend it later.
  16. Love is not always easy; sometimes you have to work at it.
  17. Find something comical in every single situation.
  18. If you’re faced with a problem, don’t delay trying to figure it out. But if there’s no way to figure it out, you have to forget about it.
  19. Make sure you’re doing what you love; don’t be afraid to follow those dreams you have for yourself.
  20. Education is important, but not necessary. Life can be an education in itself.
  21. Explore your world and stay curious.
  22. Try not to take yourself so seriously.
  23. My full name is William Bradford James Anderson, and my initials always remind me to ask myself, “Why be just anybody?”
  24. Have common sense. Think about the most reasonable answer to every situation. If you don’t have common sense, you’re a bust.
  25. Life is a gift that you must unwrap. It’s up to you to determine if what’s inside will lead you to happiness or dismay. You have the power to make that decision for yourself.
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Special Delivery: Rare Set Of Elephant Twins Born In South Africa by Stephen Messenger

December 08, 2014

Every new elephant birth is a cause for celebration given the state of the species — elephants are killed in record numbers due to rampant ivory poaching. But one pachyderm parent on the Pongola Game Reserve in South Africa is doing more than her part to help replenish the species’ numbers by giving birth to a rare set of twins.

Reserve spokesman Donoven Gloy told The Dodo by phone that the two new arrivals, first reported last week, appear to be healthy in the company of their mother, a 33-year-old named Curve.

“The reaction here has been great,” says Gloy. “Everyone is feeling very positive and they’re receiving quite a bit of attention here in South Africa.”


(Facebook/Pongola Game Reserve) The prevalence of twins among elephants is said to be exceedingly rare, with studies suggesting it occurs 0.5 percent of the time. Dr. Ian Whyte, an elephant specialist who worked in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, said in a press release, “Though a few cases of twinning have been reported in the Kruger National Park, an examination of the reproductive tracts of over 1200 adult cows culled in the Kruger National Park during population control operations did not yield a single case of twins.”

(Facebook/Pongola Game Reserve)Morbidity for elephant twins is thought to be high, says Whyte, as the calves often must compete for their mother’s milk. Gloy, however, says that the newborns both seem to be well-nourished and have not been observed squabbling with one another.

As Kruger National Park’s website notes, when twins are born, other female relatives in the herd have been known to take on nursing duties to relieve pressure on their parent.

Gloy says he is optimistic about the future of the twins, seen here interacting with their herd near a watering hole on the 18,000-acre reserve.

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11 Reasons Why I Read & Why Books Should Not Disappear by Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

Via on Dec 6, 2014 – from THE ELEPHANT JOURNAL

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ~ C. S. Lewis

Lately, my newsfeed has been brimming with articles about how scientific research has proven that reading is good for you, how readers are smarter/better/sexier, on why readers of fiction are more empathetic people—things like this.

My first reaction was, um, isn’t this all stating the obvious?

But I keep forgetting that while I grew up without computers (or even video games, despite an attempt at interest in Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros.), let alone the Internet, younger generations are quite literally inhabiting a different world.

I wasn’t huddled under the covers texting after bedtime. I was whipping out my flashlight to read the Choose Your Own Adventure books, Flowers in the Attic and Emily of New Moon under the covers (depending on the week, the year).

I feel fortunate to have been weaned on books and to have fallen in love with them as I have. I am also a huge fan of the possibilities afforded by the digital age, in all its non-linear complexity and expansiveness.

I would love to believe that a perfect human is in some ways a hybrid one, able to have moments of pleasure reading a story on actual paper, from start to finish, while lying on the grass, leaning against a tree, or on a hammock in some far-flung place; and have other moments delving into the universe of meta-literature, where stories, voices, and identities can shapeshift and become anything we’d like them to be.

I would love to see a human with a calm, clear, focused mind able to form and maintain a beautiful, long flow of thoughts and arguments, and have a gorgeous imaginative mind able to process more information than ever before, and generate ever new ideas and worlds.

For me, reading is as organic to my lifestyle as breathing. I read because I write, I write because I read, and a life with books, words, pens, journals and word-images is natural and fundamental to me.

But it’s fun to break it down more, so, in the name of holding onto the old so that the new can be that much stronger, here are my reasons for absolutely loving reading actual books:

They feel good.

It never gets old, the feel of a velvety new book cover, and then the frayed edges of a well-worn favorite. It’s like a baby’s security blanket: the more you use it, and the more tattered it gets, the more it takes on pieces of you (or the love of previous owners), so that it’s very physicality roots you to your own special world.

They look and smell good.

A great album or book cover has multi-generational appeal. We are very visual people, us humans—scientists agree that it is our dominant sense—and a great book cover and book design has the ability to transport, and lets us carry around what amounts to a work of art. And ah, that strange, intoxicating, gluey-inky smell of a new book, and that stunning mustiness of books going way back into dim yellow depths—magic.

They are so much more than the sum of their parts.

They are words on a page. That’s all. How insanely amazing that they can make you laugh, cry, wish, yearn, yell and everything in between.

They are a vehicle for self-expression.

As humans, we are naturally inclined (thank goodness!) to creating, and expressing ourselves, to leaving a stamp or mark on things. Writing your name inside a new book as a student, writing notes in the margins (I have been known to write-shout expletives at authors I disagree with), highlighting portions of a text you love, or just doodling your daydreams on paper—this is the stuff of heaven, a true blending of minds near and far.

They allow you to fall.

If you give yourself the luxury of time to read a book through to the end, you will be rewarded with the feeling of having been swept right into a vortex where strangers dwell, who become so familiar that you never want to leave them behind. That feeling of horrible shock that comes when a great story ends—when it seems like your very own world by now—is worth the price of setting aside time to read.

They expand mindfulness and connectivity.

When you do fall into a great story, especially fiction, what you’re also doing is increasing the number of beings/people/characters you can relate to, and increasing your ability to feel connected to human feelings and situations outside your ordinary sphere. You might just find this affecting your ability to relate to others in the “real” world. Plus, reading = patience = concentration = focus = attention = mindfulness, to be brief.

They are good road companions.

This one is simple. Books don’t require Wifi, which you may well not have when you’re somewhere like a near-deserted island in Laos, or an awesome shack in the mountains or a remote airport with hours to wile away.  As long as they don’t accidentally drown or catch fire, books are strong, enduring pieces of magic, information and storytelling, and they’ll always be there for you.

They help me see myself better.

Because books can increase the scope of what we can know, understand and imagine, they let me position and then re-position myself in the world. They help clarify ideas, issues of identity and emotions by opening up worlds and then by being there, stable and sure, any time I want to revisit.

They make me want to live my life more fully.

Every time I “meet” a new character, country, adventure, it inspires me to do more, feel more, live more. This might be the greatest gift a good book brings.

There are so many things you can do with them.

You can balance your tea on it while riding squished on a train—coaster! You can stuff postcards, business cards, great ideas scribbled on napkins and love letters inside them, you can write phone numbers on them in a moment of desperation. You can craft, and make your own cloth or paper covers for them. And best of all, you can share them—giving away your favorite book might be the most rewarding feeling in the world.

They remind me that life is more than a quote.

Life sometimes takes on the air of one giant stream of memes these days. Quotes can be very inspiring, but imagine how much more one can learn by discovering the greater context for these small slices of wisdom. The possibilities are large as the number of minds in the world—and then some.

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What I know about happiness is this: happy people do things differently.

There are billions of people on our planet and clearly, some are truly happy. The rest of us bounce back and forth between happiness and well, unhappiness depending on the day.

According to Psychology Today, University of California researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky states: “40% of our of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.

Throughout the years I’ve learned there are certain traits and habits happy people seem to have mastered. But before diving in with you, let me preface this and say:

We all have bad days, even weeks—myself included—when we fall down in all seven areas. None of us are perfect and messing up once in a while doesn’t mean we’re destined for a gloomy life.  

The difference between a happy and unhappy life is how often and how long we stay there.

Here are the seven qualities of happy people.

1. Their default belief is that if their life isn’t good, they can change it.

Happy people know life can be hard and tend to bounce through hard times with an attitude of curiosity versus victimhood. They take responsibility for how they got themselves into a mess, and focus on getting themselves out of it as soon as possible.

Perseverance towards problems versus complaining over circumstances is a symptom of a happy person. Unhappy people see themselves as victims of life and stay stuck in the “look what happened to me” attitude versus finding a way through and out the other side.

2. They believe most people can be trusted.

I won’t argue that healthy discernment is important, but most happy people are trusting of their fellow man. They believe in the good in people, versus assuming everyone is out to get them. Generally open and friendly towards people they meet, happy people foster a sense of community around themselves and meet new people with an open heart.

Unhappy people are distrustful of most people they meet and assume that strangers can’t be trusted. Unfortunately this behavior slowly starts to close the door on any connection outside of an inner-circle and thwarts all chances of meeting new friends.

3. They concentrate on what’s right in this world versus what’s wrong.

There’s plenty wrong with this world, no arguments here, yet unhappy people turn a blind eye to what’s actually right in this world and instead focus on what’s wrong. You can spot them a mile away, they’ll be the ones complaining and responding to any positive attributes of our world with, “Yeah, but…”

Happy people are aware of global issues, but balance their concern with also seeing what’s right. I like to call this keeping both eyes open. Unhappy people tend to close one eye towards anything good in this world in fear they might be distracted from what’s wrong. Happy people keep it in perspective. They know our world has problems and they also keep an eye on what’s right.

4. They don’t compare themselves to others or harbor jealousy.

Unhappy people believe someone else’s good fortune steals from their own. They believe there’s not enough goodness to go around and constantly compare yours against theirs. This leads to jealousy and resentment.

Happy people know that your good luck and circumstance are merely signs of what they too can aspire to achieve. Happy people believe they carry a unique blueprint that can’t be duplicated or stolen from—by anyone on the planet. They believe in unlimited possibilities and don’t get bogged down by thinking one person’s good fortune limits their possible outcome in life.

5. They stop striving to control their life.

There’s a difference between control and striving to achieve our goals. Happy people take steps daily to achieve their goals, but realize in the end, there’s very little control over what life throws their way.

Unhappy people tend to micromanage in effort to control all outcomes and fall apart in dramatic display when life throws a wrench in their plan. Happy people can be just as focused, yet still have the ability to go with the flow and not melt down when life delivers a curve-ball.

The key here is to be goal-oriented and focused, but allow room for letting sh*t happen without falling apart when the best laid plans go awry—because they will. Going with the flow is what happy people have as Plan B.

6 They refuse to consider their future with worry and fear.

There’s only so much rent space between your ears. Unhappy people fill their thoughts with what could go wrong versus what might go right.

Happy people take on a healthy dose of delusion and allow themselves to daydream about what they’d like to have life unfold for them. Unhappy people fill that head space with constant worry and fear.

Happy people experience fear and worry, but make an important distinction between feeling it and living it. When fear or worry crosses a happy person’s mind, they’ll ask themselves if there’s an action they can be taken to prevent their fear or worry from happening (there’s responsibility again) and they take it. If not, they realize they’re spinning in fear and they lay it down.

7. They walk away from gossip and complaining.

Unhappy people like to live in the past. What’s happened to them and life’s hardships are their conversation of choice. When they run out of things to say, they’ll turn to other people’s lives and gossip.

Happy people live in the now and dream about the future. You can feel their positive vibe from across the room. They’re excited about something they’re working on, grateful for what they have and dreaming about the possibilities of life.


Obviously none of us are perfect. We’re all going to swim in negative waters once in a while, but what matters is how long we stay there and how quickly we work to get ourselves out. Practicing positive habits daily is what sets happy people apart from unhappy people, not doing everything perfectly.

Walk, fall down, get back up again, repeat. It’s in the getting back up again that all the difference resides.

Adapted with permission from original post Daily Transformations

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1. Desert rain frog


(calphotos.berkley.edu/Arie van der Meijden)

This adorable species of frog is native to South Africa and Namibia. As a mating call, the frog can emit a very high-pitched whistle, making it look and sound like some kind of squeak toy. They are currently considered vulnerable, with their population experiencing a decline due to extensive mining.

2. Prehensile-tailed porcupine


(Flickr/Eric Kilby)

Like the desert rain frog, the prehensile-tailed porcupine has a uniquely adorable squeak (this guy sounds like a bicycle horn). Found throughout South America, these amazing critters have muscular, prehensile tails that allow them to move through trees.

3. Solenodon


(Mongabay.com/Jeremy Hance)

Contrary to his appearance, the solenodon is not a rat or a shrew who’s had his nose pinched too hard; they belong to their own genus, and were discovered way back in 1833. The solenodon can survive on a number of different foods including worms, reptiles and insects.

4. Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat



Looking more like a fuzzy refrigerator magnet than an agent of Satan, the Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat is a relatively new discovery who was found in Vietnam in 2011. Although the bat usually shies away from humans, he can get pretty feisty when confronted with a predator!

5. Peyrieras’s pygmy chameleon


(Wikimedia/Magnus Manske)

This tiny lizard  could easily fit in the palm of your hand! Native to the moist forests of Madagascar, the Peyrieras’s pygmy chameleon is endangered due to logging for rosewood and mining.

6. Olinguito



The olinguito looks like a stuffed teddy bear brought to life. Found in both Columbia and Ecuador, this close relative of the raccoon has only recently been discovered after a ten-year expedition!

7. Poodle Moth


(Flickr/Arthur Anker)

The Venezuelan poodle moth is a fuzzy little insect who was discovered in 2009 and still has yet to receive a scientific name. In fact, the critter was originally believed to be an Internet hoax. Very little is known about this moth, except his obvious desire to dress up like cotton ball.

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10 Hours Walking in NYC As A Man


Just click the link below:

10 Hours of Walking
in NYC as a Man

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What It's Like To Walk Through New York City As A Woman

OCTOBER 29, 2014
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Wish Granted

Napa woman, 90, gets wish granted, rides horse for the first time

By Carolyn Jones
Updated 8:35 am, Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ninety-year-old Thea Murphy is escorted on a ride aboard Katydid at the Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Petaluma. Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle / ONLINE_YES

  • Ninety-year-old Thea Murphy is escorted on a ride aboard Katydid at the Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Petaluma. Photo: Paul Chinn / The Chronicle.

It took 90 years for Thea Murphy to get on a horse, but about 30 seconds to fall in love.

“I’ll be sore tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter. It’ll make me remember Katy,” a beaming Murphy said Friday afternoon at a Petaluma horse arena as she gazed upon the palomino mare that provided Murphy’s first horseback ride. “Look at her. She’s so beautiful. And she listens to me!”

Murphy’s maiden horseback ride was courtesy of a Napa nonprofit called Celebrating Seniors, which granted wishes for half a dozen elders in the North Bay. Murphy’s wish was to ride a horse — something the 50-year Napa resident had never done.

Other seniors wanted to go on San Francisco Bay cruises, or visit a great-grandchild on the East Coast. But for Murphy, who’s partially paralyzed from a stroke and blind in one eye, it was all about horses.

“It’s because I love them,” Murphy said before getting on a horse. “I love animals, I love horses. I want to know what it feels like to ride one.”

Gentle horseback rides

The ride took place at Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Petaluma, a facility that provides gentle horseback rides for people who are physically, cognitively or emotionally disabled.

Murphy’s wish was chosen from about 45 entries, and she had been planning for the excursion for weeks. She bought denim skinny jeans and a bright red shirt for the occasion, with red lipstick to match and hair colored strawberry blonde.

She was accompanied by caregivers, friends and volunteers from Celebrating Seniors, who became a little weepy when Giant Steps staff lifted Murphy from her wheelchair onto the 1,000-pound beast.

“With her disabilities, at her age, to still have that same desire that she had since she was 6 … that’s what we found so heartwarming,” said Penelope Hyde, who led the senior wish committee for Celebrating Seniors.

Even the staff at Giant Steps was moved by Murphy’s story, and by Murphy herself. The slight, Dutch-born widow smiled almost incessantly as she petted the horse and chatted happily with spectators.

Riding horses can be great therapy for disabled people, said Giant Steps Therapeutic Center Director Mark Walden.

Balance, coordination and core strengthening are among the benefits, plus the emotional and social boost from interacting with the patient, placid animals.

Will Rogers’ wisdom

“It’s like what Will Rogers said: There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man,” Walden said.

Murphy has had her share of physical setbacks recently. In the past few years she’s had a leg amputated, undergone hip replacement surgery, lost vision in one eye following cataract surgery and became paralyzed on her left side after a stroke.

Giants Steps staff held her on both sides as the horse ambled around the arena and down a short trail, for a total of about 30 minutes. Murphy held the reins and directed Katy left, right and forward. Katy, for her part, followed along cheerfully.

Murphy may have physical limitations, but her spirit has never been brighter. Until very recently, she was reading a book a day, knitting, puttering in her vegetable garden and Skyping with her 91-year-old sister in Holland every morning.

“She’s a tough cookie, extremely strong-willed,” said neighbor Anne LeBlanc. “She gets something in her mind, and there’s no stopping her. She decided she wanted to ride a horse, and here we all are. Life is really quite amazing.”

Carolyn Jones is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:carolynjones@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @carolynajones

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