Finding a Dog Sitter

Is hard when you are a dog nut like me.  Henry is my first dog ever.  And if you would have told me 5 years ago that I was going to get and be a kook about a dog I would have thought you were nuts.  One time years ago a friend half jokingly said she was going to get me a puppy for my birthday and I told her if she did I’d get her a snake for hers.  But 4 1/2 years ago I fell in love with a labradoodle puppy I met and through that puppy found Henry.

And when Henry, my sweet doodlely doo came into my life everything changed.  I  suddenly got it!  the whole dog craze.   I now understood years old sayings like “dog is man’s best friend”, “barking up a tree” and “it’s a dog’s life”.  Yoga poses downward and upward dog took on a new meaning.  My life became harder and better at the same time.  And when I knew I would have to board him during vacations I searched all resources I could get my hands on, interviewed 10s of boarding ranches and individual sitters.  I toured, interrogated, relentlessly read reviews and talked to friends and dog owners I would meet in the park.  So when I found Cardiff’s Lodge I knew it was right.  I felt it in my bones.  The owner Susan, started the ranch because she couldn’t find the quality of dog care she required for her own dog, Cardiff.  She lived in a house on several acres of land with horses and large wooded areas that she and her staff would hike with the dogs she boarded.

I loved Susan. She took care of Henry from the time he was a pup.  She nurtured him and educated me on how to train, feed and care for my pup.  Even though the ranch was a good 45 minute drive, I gladly made the trip.  I would get a huge Starbucks, load up Henry and his stuff and we would drive to this beautiful part of Washington with it’s huge Hemlocks and misty mountain backdrops blasting the music all the way.  It  became a ritual attached to many wonderful vacations I would take.  Vacations that I could go feeling good about leaving Henry, knowing he was hiking in the woods, chasing squirrels and being meticulously cared for by Susan.  This went on for 4 years.

And then the email came last October.  From Susan’s husband, a man she had married only a few years early.  An email to inform us of Susan’s passing.  I was in shock.  She died after a 3 year battle with Ovarian Cancer.  She was 51 years old.  I never knew she was sick and had just seen her the previous spring.   She was so courageous, she never let us know something was wrong.   I had the hardest time coping with her death.  I’m teary as I write this post.  How did this happen?  And how do I continue on?

Thankfully over the holidays a good friend took Henry while we travelled.  But I knew I would have to find someone else to watch him.  Henry is different than he was as a pup.  He doesn’t like to be in a space crowded with dogs.  He’s like me, socially inept.  Susan used to say “he likes to hang with me in the office, he doesn’t like to mix with the riff raff”.  How would I find someone who understood him like Susan did?

About a month ago I saw this ad for  A new website that matches dog sitters with dog owners.  As I combed the bios of potential dog sitters I noticed many that lived close to me on the Island.  I carefully looked at the pictures in the bios, do they look nice?  I read all of the reviews.  And after interviewing several I found a couple of families that I felt could work.  So when we decided to drive to Portland for the weekend I tried one out.  Lulu, was her name.  She and her family live in a cozy house with a great fenced in back yard.  Its hard to put in words it’s more of a feeling you get when you know it’s right.

Lulu has a puppy of her own and only takes a couple more to board at a time.  While we were gone she sent pictures of him, she had taken him on a long walk and given him a good bath.  He slept with Lulu’s sister that night and was pretty darn happy when I picked him up.   So I booked Spring Break knowing I can rest easy when we leave him.  He’ll be safe, fed, exercised and happy.  That’s the best you can hope for.

An odd job triggered by a very sad event.

When Things Don’t Work

Last Thursday afternoon, an afternoon like any other, I ran upstairs to throw a washed load into the dryer, in a hurry, 2 minutes to spare before I had to be somewhere, I don’t even remember where.  And there on the laundry room floor was a puddle, a mini lake, a small ocean.  Oh crap!  something is leaking.  Checked the back where the hose goes into the drain, all in place.  Oh crap!  something I can’t fix in 2 minutes.  So the 2 minutes turned into a half hour as I tinkered without resolution and determined that the culprit was a ripped rubber liner around the front loader door.  Ok, something I can explain, something specific.  Not the black hole of the unknown.  Not the it could be a loose screw or a broken drum.

But when it involves a part it almost inevitably involves time to order and receive the part.  So the 2 minutes that it was supposed to take to do this load of laundry turned into 6 days.  It was Thursday when this unfortunate incident occurred and it would not be fixed until yesterday, Tuesday.   And a family of 4 with a muddy dog can barely survive 6 days without a washing machine.  I’m here to tell you.

Wear your jeans twice, rinse out your socks, rinse out what?  how do I do that? spritz your sweater and put in the dryer, all things we tried.  It’s interesting to observe how the elimination of a modern appliance affects a family’s life.  How did our grandparents do without a washing machine?  My grandmother, who died 15 years ago at age 104, didn’t get a washing machine until my grand father died just 15 years before her.  She washed everything by hand and used a manual ringer to squeeze out the excess water.  That was in the 80s, the 1980s not the 1880s.

She was a sturdy woman, a Polish immigrant.  I’m not so sturdy and my kids are much less sturdy.  Every generation gets wimpier and wimpier when it comes to manual labor.  We not only want a washing machine but we want one that has a computer in it.  We want our clothes to get the royal treatment and we don’t want to get our hands dirty or in this case too wet and wrinkled.  When the washing machine breaks we all look at each confused and worried.

And so 6 days and $323.82 later, I have my beloved washing machine back.  And it ran like a champ all afternoon and into the night.  And the clean clothes and towels landed into the closets and drawers and this morning the whole thing is a distant memory to my family but not to me.  Because I now have a renewed appreciation of my washing machine.  An unexpected very odd job.

I Can’t Stop Eating!

dessert   As much as I want to get into shape, the eating part just isn’t falling into place.  I’m good as long as I eat at home but lately we’ve been eating out a lot.  This lovely little dessert item was from last week to celebrate the end of finals for my teenager.   This time it was 13 Coins, an old time short order restaurant in Seattle.  A favorite of my kids and me because I love any restaurant that has 24 hour breakfast, Veal Parmesan and Monte Cristo sandwiches all on the same menu.  Not to mention desserts that can feed an army.

That was Thursday night, Wednesday it was happy hour at Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue.  My husband and I treated ourselves after a meeting with the Financial Planner, I guess we felt our future was so bright we deserved that heaping dish of fried Calamari and Tenderloin Sliders with mounds of shoestring fries.  Not to mention a couple of glasses wine.  Come the weekend, you can’t expect me to cook can you?  So it’s another night of celebrating the end of finals at Il Fornaio in Seattle for Duck Ravioli drenched in an asparagus cream sauce and of course another glass of wine.  I could go on but you get the point.  Eating is the best form of entertainment for me.

Our family meals out are festive and filled with our best conversation.  When we’re out in a restaurant the kids can’t excuse themselves and leave, they are stuck with us.   My girls nights out are always centered around a meal and a couple of glasses wine.  Charity work, book club, Super bowl parties, you name it, they always involve food.

And I’m not sure I want to give it up.  I’m trying to curve my indulgences where I can, like only taking 1 piece of bread instead of the whole basket, or 1 glass of wine instead of 2.  But I don’t feel like I’m making big progress.  In the food department.  But the exercise part is about to be ramped up.  I’m experimenting with a Monday boot camp to add to my boot camp 101 on Wednesdays and Fridays.  The Monday one is not 101, it’s advanced.  Will it kill me?  Not sure, but this odd job of getting healthy is not an easy one.

For me, it’s all about making choices.  Balancing what food I’m willing to give up with how much I’m willing to exercise.  Falling off the wagon and getting back on.  Figuring out what changes are sustainable.   Living one day at time.  Isn’t that what it really boils down to?  Stay tuned.

What Yoga Teaches Me

I haven’t done Yoga in over a year and prior to that only practiced here and there.  Once upon a time I was pretty serious about my Yoga.  But Yoga like everything else physical and spiritual comes and goes and either I’m all in or all out, there’s usually no in between.  Anything involving physical exercise is hard for me, I’m uncoordinated, my limbs don’t bend like most it seems.  When the crowd is moving one way, I’m moving the other way.  And for some reason can’t easily take instruction and implement it, a type of physical dyslexia if you will.  And I’m easily embarrassed sure that everyone is checking me out and hee, heeing behind my back.

So as part of my physical resolution, I’ve begun Yoga.  And beginning at the beginning with a beginner’s workshop every Saturday for five Saturdays.  The hope being that not only will this help jump start the physical part of my new year resolutions but also start up the spiritual part as well.  So last Saturday, my 2nd Saturday in the series, a woman, who I see around the island, rolls her mat beside me.  She typically won’t give me the time of day, stand-offish, and frankly somewhat intimidating.  But there’s no other place for her to go the class is crowded and I’m the one she squeezes in next to.  So close that we bump hands during the sun salutations.

So now the self consciousness meter is registering in the red zone.  Not only am I out of practice and inflexible and unable to follow directions, but I’m doing it on top of someone who intimidates the hell out of me.  Oh crap!  not my at Yoga.  The dog park would be a better place for me to encounter this person, even the grocery store with my cart filled with processed crap and hers with only organic perimeter of the store healthy stuff would be better than here in my Yoga class.  But it’s occurred to me later that maybe it’s at Yoga where I will learn to deal with people like this.

And sure enough as the class moved along my busy mind begun to forget about her.  I fell off my balance pose, put my left foot forward instead of my right, moved my arms half way when the class moved the whole way, my faults and weaknesses all poured out like a burst of hard rain.  And nothing happened.  And pretty soon I was more focused on getting my balance than on my environment.

And I remembered why I was in Yoga to begin with and that’s to center my focus within.  To move with my breath not someone else’s.  Not only in Yoga.  Knowing full well that this is an odd job that takes lots of practice.  Stay tuned.

The Work

The Work photo   I’m reading a book or should I say rereading a book I’ve read many times before entitled “Loving What is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life” by Byron Katie.  Self help meets Buddhism.  Does anyone else have an arsenal of these books in your Kindle library?

This is one of my many and for some reason it’s the one I turned to this New Year when I decided things were going to change for real.  In “Loving What Is”, Byron Katie leads us through a process of interrogating our negative thoughts.  Like they are criminal intruders.  Ask them 4 simple questions:  Is this thought true? Is it absolutely true?  How does this thought make us feel?  How would it feel if we didn’t have this thought?

So let’s say a negative thought comes from nowhere, so and so thinks she’s better than me.  And you find yourself in a tizzy over this cloud that’s come out of nowhere.  Byron’s inquiries would work like this:  Is it true that so and so thinks she’s better than me?  uh, yeah!  Is it absolutely true? well, I can’t really prove it, she’s never said it outright, there’s no witnesses, it’s just the way she acts……How does it this thought make you feel?  like crap, I’m all defensive, I’m wanting to defend myself, I’m wanting to attack her character and her family’s  character.  How would it feel if you didn’t feel this thought?  at peace, I’d be back to normal, I wouldn’t feel insecure, like I’m inferior, etc….

So in this case you may learn that if you didn’t feel insecure around so and so that particular negative thought wouldn’t have occurred to you. And in my case a realization like this  usually works, the thought dissipates at least for now.  But Byron Katie calls this process “The Work” because that’s what it is.  For it to work you have to be diligent about catching those intruding thoughts when they appear and tackling them on the spot.  Or remembering them and evaluating them later when you have time.  The so and so makes me feel insecure realization may not take the first time or it may take until you see so and so and she looks 10 years younger than you and has just developed a cure for cancer, then the gray thought comes right back with a vengeance.  So know you may have to go through the process over and over until it takes.

Because thoughts are like clouds, there are bright white fluffy ones and there big heavy gray ones.  They flow over us in a seemingly random way.  And the big heavy gray ones can appear our of nowhere and weight us down, direct our disposition.  And in my case throw me into depression and inaction.  The Buddhism part of this process is that once I deal with the gray thoughts I find I’m more present.  When I can make them disappear I feel lighter and more hopeful.

How’s that for an odd job?

Falling Off The Wagon

WP_20150109_002 (2) Shrimp Scampi Carbonara over fettuccine.  Need I say more?  Friday night’s dinner at That’s Amore, my favorite little Italian café nestled in a Mount Baker neighborhood in Seattle.  The view of the city is unexpected, the wine selection is great and everything tastes like heaven.  It’s a place you can bring the kids and everyone is happy.  My happiness costing at least 2000 calories.

Saturday night’s cost was another 1200 calories as I downed a pepperoni pizza flatbread after my daughter’s basketball game.  Sunday at a sport’s bar watching the Green Bay Packers play Dallas, trying to order responsibly off a very seductive menu, a Chop Chop salad that came the size of a football field.  I couldn’t waste it so 1500 calories later the Packers won and I was in the hole several calories for the weekend.

Food is my life and the weekends were created for the purpose of letting go, releasing stress and having fun.  Which, for me, translates to eat what you want.  And I’m so glad that we have the James Clear article about habit forming (see last Monday’s post) to take the guilt away.  Falling off the wagon doesn’t necessarily start the habit forming clock over.  I was good, no damn good last Monday through Friday (until night time).  I went to boot camp twice, barre once & threw in yoga on Saturday.  I ate healthy, low calorie meals every day.   A couple of high calorie meals aren’t going erase all that good work.

And guess what?  Next weekend I’ll eat like a horse again.  The difference from before my change resolution is that I’ll only have one glass of wine with dinner or I’ll only eat one slice of bread instead of the whole basket or I’ll skip dessert.  Hopefully.  I’ll enjoy one of the things that makes me most happy but I’ll try to keep my goals in the back of my mind.  And come Monday, assuming there’s not a girls night or date night planned for the week, I’ll stick to eating healthy and low calorie meals.  I know I can do this.  I think.

For now I’ll take it one day at a time and hope for the best.  Odd jobs are hard to do.  Stay tuned.



Letting Go

Today, day 5 of change resolution, I went to boot camp.  Don’t let the title throw you off, I go to boot camp 101 or boot camp for wimps.  Which is perfect for me.  Until the show offs show up for one reason or another like it’s a more convenient time or they like to do 2 boot camps a day, etc.  You get the picture.  But they are the ones that are running ahead, doing more repetitions, standing on 1 leg when the rest of us are sitting.   And when I’m thrown into a class with an OA (Over Achiever) it does one of two things either I try to outdo them, which usually ends badly or I give up, wanting only to run back to my car or lay down and suck my thumb.  Either option doesn’t work.

Historically my self esteem when it comes to exercise is below average.  I’ve never been a work out girl even in my youth.  I never needed it in my youth, I was always pretty thin and healthy without working out with good genes on my side.  So the whole working out thing is relatively new to me over the last 10 years or so becoming necessary for weight control but more for health keeping my creaky joints oiled and helping me sleep at night.  So today my epiphany occurred after boot camp as I walked my dog in the woods.   I realized my truth in this matter of working out with OAs and anyone else for that matter.  Is that I have to let go of all of my self consciousness, of my need to control, of my big fat ego.  I have to truly not give a crap what anyone thinks of me no matter what.  I have to find my way into my own zone and out of my ego.

I have to let the OAs run 3 laps ahead of me and not care what they think.  It’s the only way.

Because if I can’t do that, I won’t sustain this pace, I’ll allow the OAs to be one more excuse to give up.  I’ll allow the ego to win and my body and spirit will lose.  Because at the end of the day, the OAs are sent to us to teach us about our selves.  I know that I have to love myself no matter how stupid I look working out or how slow I am.  This realization will drive the car so to speak hopefully not into a wall.  Another odd job to tackle.

What Now

Ok, so we’re back from vacation.  The epiphany has occurred, change is imminent.  But what is going to change?  What’s the plan?  As I said in my last post, every part of my life is in a state of shambles.  So, after many hours of feeling overwhelmed by it all, I’ve decided to focus on one big thing at a time trying to fit in baby steps in the other areas that need change.

The what will be body to begin with, the mind and soul will be put on the back burner for now.  Why the body?  because if I’m healthy, feeling good, the other things will fall in place.  Minimally will be easier to change.  Make sense?

And so I’ve begun.  A run on Monday with my BFF Jennifer and our dogs.  The thing about running with Jennifer is she pushes me past my limits, when I think I’m going puke, she says we can do this!  And we do and I still feel like I’m going to puke but I’ve done it.  Tuesday, Barre class, talk about almost puking.  Today, boot camp, still overwhelming.  Don’t think for a minute that I’ll be working out every day but 3-4 days a week would be 3-4 more days than before.   I read the best article on forming habits by James Clear, see the link below.  In it he refutes the long held belief that a new habit take 21 days.  He makes some convincing points backed by science that habits really take anywhere between 66 days and 8 months.  He also tells us that if you mess up and miss a day or 2 you don’t have to start over.  That is great news on many fronts.  No more beating our selves up when 21 days pass and we still need to sneak that Big Mac.  Or even if we sneak that Big Mac, we don’t need to start over.  We just get back up, brush ourselves off (all of the crumbs from that sesame bun) and continue on our road to recovery.  Yeah!!!

Along with the work out comes better eating.  That’s the hardest thing in the world for me, for those that know me know that food is my life.  I cherish food, I live for my next meal.  And I love crappy food.  I don’t get excited about vegetables and fruit.  Unless they are covered in cheese.  So my first step was to eliminate heavy cream (eggnog over the holidays) from my coffee.   I roasted a turkey yesterday to have healthy protein in the house for a couple of days.  And I’m not allowing myself to snack, we’ll see how long that lasts.

I don’t really know how long any of this will last, hopefully between 66 days and 8 months because it would be great if this great idea turned into a great habit.  And this odd job is not an easy one by any means but I’m feeling pretty committed for now.  stay tuned.


The Vacation is Over

I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions.  Or should I say I’m not big on acting on New Year’s resolutions.  But for some reason this year I have a feeling things will change.  Maybe it was the week at the beach away from the materialism that the holidays vomit over my everyday life at home, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore that after while brain washes me into a trance of sorts and fills my heart with hope.  And ideas, bright shiny ideas.

The clutter in my house, my pantry, my closets, my office, my garage and car is at an all time high.  A precise measure of the state of my life.  Cluttered with obstacles, hard to move ahead, stuck.  Spiritually, intellectually and physically stuck in quick sand.  And up until this holiday break by the beach, not really giving a damn about changing, kinda giving up if you will, no motivation to change.  But there’s something about the ocean about any dramatic geography that amazes me into reality.  Usually just for a short time, but this time the feeling lingered.  Long after the wheels of the plane slammed onto the runway and through the weekend before today.

How convenient that this epiphany coincided with the New Year.  And today the change has to begin, it’s Monday, the “I will begin the change after the holiday” day is here.  Oh, I stuck my toe in the waters of change a little over the weekend, a little physical exercise, stopped putting 1000 calorie eggnog in my coffee, went to church Sunday morning, baby steps.  But today is the day that the real change has to begin.  And writing this post is a serious start.

How’s that for an odd job?  Stay tuned.


Entertaining Family

My youngest brother is visiting from Detroit.  He’s in his late 40s, a bachelor with no kids.  Not used to being around kids, my kids, dogs, stuff that families with young kids are made of.  I used to live that life a hundred years ago, I get it, I just don’t know how merge the two, keep everyone happy, give everyone what they need.

It’s like walking on a tightrope, keeping balanced in this situation is tricky.

This brother and I don’t see much of each other.  Since we haven’t had parents for 30 years there’s no glue that keeps my family together.  Not that our parents were ever really glue, more like handcuffs.  We are a drifting nomad family a traveling circus of sorts.  My husband is usually a good buffer, gets us all off our duffs, builds the activity agenda like a skilled technician.  But my husband has been in Wisconsin the last week putting together a whole different kind of agenda, one that makes this agenda seems senseless.  My last post tells you all about my husband’s father’s surgery, bladder cancer, parent challenges.  More vital stuff than this could ever be.

Back to me.  So my brother has been here 2 days.  Saturday and Sunday.  He doesn’t expect a lot of activity but I feel like I should produce something that makes the trip worthwhile.  Saturday we had lunch in downtown Kirkland, a quaint little town on Lake Washington, a little burger joint overlooking the lake where we could sit outside and bring the dog, another little stresser in this keeping everyone happy puzzle.  The kind of place my brother would probably love to party at with his friends but is instead stuck at with his sister.  Then we went to our beach club and hit tennis balls with my daughters, who love tennis.  My brother is not that into tennis but went along with the plan and seemed to like it. I brought a couple of beers in a cooler and after the tennis the girls went off to find friends to hang with and my brother and I lounged on beach chairs looking over Lake Washington.   It was nice.

Yesterday I found a driving range next to a very cool off-leash dog park smack in the middle of Mount Si.  Amazing geography.  My brother loves golf, spent time coaching the girls on their swings, which by the way turn out to be total naturals and the dog and I sat on a bench ohhing and ahhing at their talent and taking in the beautiful scenery.

We had lunch outside on the deck of the golf club, they let us sneak in the dog and life was good.  But we were home by 5:00 p.m., now what?  My brother settled in the T.V. room with my youngest and watched stuff they both like while my brother threw back beer like it was water.  He’s a bachelor, not used to kids, it’s what he does on vacation.   My youngest was happy to watch Gator Boys with her uncle.

I know that doesn’t sound painful and it wasn’t too bad.  A lot of energy went into finding the perfect places to go that catered to a 50 year old bachelor, 2 kids and a dog.  More energy than you can ever imagine.  And I think it went well but we have 6 more days.

My odd jobs this week are stressful to me because they involve family and family is complicated.  It shouldn’t be but a family’s baggage can be awfully heavy and mine weighs as much as a small elephant.

So today when my kids have tennis lessons, high school fees and photos day, and my husband is now home but entrenched in a big work project and the dog needs walking,  my brother will want to be dropped at the neighborhood drinking hole which believe it or not does exist on this island.  And my job will be to go with the flow, to try not to judge, and to expose my kids to an uncle they so desperately want to know.  Stay tuned.