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Couch to 5 WHAT? #MFRWAuthor

When the Pandemic rolled across our world, keeping us from our usual activities, some of us decided we’d do just fine. We’d keep up our dog

Biddy waiting for me to get my stuff together

training, exercise regularly, maybe even add a few more routines. Yes sirree Bob, we were not going to let anything stop us.

If you’re like me (and many of you are. Yes, you are) this worked for a week or so. Then we took a short break. A couple more short breaks. Until we could count the days we worked on one hand. Oops. But we could catch up quick enough. Right? For me, dog classes were my major reasons to exercise, and setting goals without class wasn’t easy.

Then our governor eased up restrictions enough to allow for limited Agility classes. We were back in business! Well, mentally anyway. Physically my legs and my lungs were letting me know it was NOT a good idea to kick back and wear out my Kindle. When you get to my age and condition getting back in shape can be a problem.

Eeep. I had a solution, since some of my reading was Zoe York’s Canadian small town romances. Those people were always working out, what a great inspiration. In fact in one of them I learned about Couch to 5K, http://www.c25k.com/, which promised to get me up and going in nine short weeks. There is even an app for my Android (you ever notice how many of the cool apps are Apple?) I was ready to go.

Mind you some of my friends are in to hiking, and I could not admire them more. I have this ingrained fear of loose dogs and nasty owners….so I’d rather walk in my own field. Mornings are nearly always cool here in New Mexico and the monsoons hadn’t yet gifted us with humidity. I had my running shoes on, phone in hand, and the company of my Salukis. Yup, ready to go.

The program start with a warm up of five minutes brisk walking. Easy peasy since I’ve been doing the FitBit 250 steps every hour. Well, most hours. But I have walked, honest. Off I go, striding out, arms swinging. After a couple rounds of the field I check, sure that the five minutes are up. Nope still three to go. Hmmm this might be a bit more challenge than I thought.

AH, the chime, and an ever so cultured voice informs me that warm up is over it’s time to RUN for one minute. I set out briskly then scaled back to a jog, managing to make it almost all the way to the next chime. Gasping, stumbling into a 90 second walk, after which I will launch into another 60 second run. Eight times.

I manage to make it to the third cycle but by now my ‘run’ is more of a shuffle and I stumble to a halt, bracing my legs to stand upright. On a whim I check the FitBit…that was surely good for at least a fat burning heart rate. No heart rate shows, I think I scared my FitBit. I punch out of the program, missing the suggestion to just delay, and stagger into the house for some water.

Next day I’m at it again, but this time when I stopped, I used the ‘delay’ option. Maybe I could do one day’s worth in two or three days? Alas, that didn’t work. At the rate I’m going I’ll never make the first day much less nine weeks.

You’re probably wondering, so what? If doing this program was such an effort, why did I keep trying? Funny thing about that, later in the day and the next day I felt…lighter. My step had more spring to it and it was much easier to draw a deep breath. Something was working. I did some more research, that told me the Couch to 5K might be extreme for some people.

Ya think?

I found something called None 2 Run, which was way easier with only 30 seconds of jogging and two minutes walking. Sadly, that is an Apple app so I have to make it up as I go along. I also went from RUN to jog, to a sort of shuffle stride that’s way easier on my knees. It’s similar to the ‘run’ we use showing dogs since that freaking concrete is NOT nice to our legs!

I haven’t talked much about this, just showed up at Agility class and pushed a little harder each week. Being able to breathe even after a difficult course is huge for me. And I can. Biddy is even looking at me with a bit more respect.

The main lesson to share here? Just. Keep. Moving.

Biddy doing what makes us happy

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The Best Time is NOW #MFRWAuthor

My father died in June. He was coming up to 97 years, lived in an excellent assisted living

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Dad as a cadet, long long ago!

facility. He’d been fading over the last few months so it didn’t come as a great surprise. A fall, a head injury,  breathing complications. With the Covid restrictions he had little contact outside the staff. He’d led a full life, career military, city zoning, large family. After Mom died he spent time with my oldest brother, playing on a train set in Tennessee.

 

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Rick in front Dad on the caboose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick sure loved his trains. I remember finding a pottery train set at a thrift store, thinking it would look so cute in their house with little succulents. It sat in a bag in my house for…well, years.

We had a family ZOOM to celebrate Dad’s life and share some stories. Rick looked good sitting in his den with his wife. Really good. I almost mentioned that train set then thought it would be better as a surprise.

Last month I had an early morning phone call from my Texas brother. Rick had fallen, hit his head. It didn’t look good. Several hours later he was gone. Too young. Too freaking young. He had a granddaughter being born, a busy family he was so proud of. His health was on an upswing. But…gone.

That train set is out on the kitchen counter. Maybe I’ll get some succulents, maybe I’ll find someone else who is fond of trains. Time is moving faster every day. The best time is NOW to tell people you care. And to send them the silly gift you bought years ago.

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Give Me Liberty, Or…

 

Patrick Henry’s inspiring words, spoken March 1775 at the Second Virginia Convention, helped inspire Colonial Virginia to take up arms against Great Britain, the acknowledged super power of that era. “Give me liberty…” finalized a strong last paragraph:

Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me give me liberty or give me death.

The paragraph was at the end of a powerful speech I don’t think everyone has read. It might not be a bad idea to take a few minutes away from the barbecue and fireworks to peruse his words. Maybe later to check out some of the other speeches from the bold, impetuous, imperfect people who helped set our country on the path toward freedom.

At the time Thomas Jefferson penned “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as “unalienable rights” his stirring words addressed only a portion of the population. As did so many of our forefathers, he owned slaves. We have progressed beyond that era.  It took another horrific war to start to resolve that issue although the repercussions continue to shadow our lives.

Between the brats and the beer we might think about the men who dared stand up and demand independence, the men who fought to extend those inalienable rights for all men, the women later who stood up against society to demand those rights for their gender. And let’s plan to continue to build on these efforts to leave a better society for our children.

In more eloquent words: “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…” Let’s do it.

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We Can Do Better #MFRWAuthor

This was first published in Perspectives, the newsletter for AKC Delegates

It’s been a roller coaster ride since March, with most of the track spiraling down. A 2015-05-02 agility 0448few slow upgrades then another wrench and everything feels out of control again, hurtling around one corner, then another, trusting in the science of the engineering of wheel to track. These times are trying our souls, challenging us to do better, to be better. Challenging us to help ourselves and each other.

To help each other our major task was…do nothing. Stay home. Lucky us having dogs to keep us company. Lucky dogs having their people full time. What a time to sit still, to contemplate who we are, where we’re going, what really matters. When we asked what you were missing most during this time of isolation, no one worried about cumulative points or high scores. No one lamented that they could be out competing. The major concern was the loss of camaraderie. No shows and trials meant not seeing fellow competitors. No classes meant missing the people with whom we have built connections. No one watching our dogs and each other improve from week to week. No one commiserating over a clumsy effort with encouragement to do better.

Dogs for the most part are social beings. They like to be together, they crave touch and feel comfort in their family groupings. Yes, there is the occasional curmudgeonly dog thatIMG_7578 prefers their own corner with their own bowl and their own toys thank you very much. But by and large dogs are happier in a pack.

We aren’t that much different. Many of us say we prefer isolation but still we are drawn to each other, to gather into groups, and organize ourselves. Now our groups are disbanded and we’re not sure when and how and if we can come together again. We know we weren’t perfect. We know the drive to compete, to be better than, has permeated every activity. We miss what we had, but do we miss every aspect of it? How many times did we allow the competitive drive within us detract from what could have been a pleasant experience?

We have a unique opportunity to try to make things better. To examine what we were doing and find ways to improve. Ways to reach out and help each other instead of trampling over each other in a quest for more. We can do better.

We will do better. 002

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What Makes Us Happy #MFRWAuthor

Smiles not only show the world how happy we are, they also contribute to our good health. Seriously, scientists have studied smiles extensively, and will tell us smiles can trigger the release of neural communication boosting neuropeptides as well as mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Whew lots of big words! Here is some backup from Very Well Mind.

We smile when we are happy, and we can help ourselves feel happy by smiling…that’s kinda neat when you think about it! What makes us happy? Some people think they would be happy ‘if only’…if only they lived in a better house, drove a newer car, got a promotion at work. In my world of dogs, some think gaining titles or extreme wins will make them happy.

As wonderful as those sound, are these realistic goals? If you don’t title your dog in three events or you can’t upgrade your car, what can you do to put smiles on your face?

Years ago, my husband was in home hospice. When he died I called family and friends, letting them know, and told them I was doing fine. One of them called back, telling me she was coming and to deal with it. When she arrived, she asked what I wanted to do. We could clean out the garage, try to catch up on the gardens, or just go walking with the dogs. What would make ME happy.

I stopped to take a deep breath. After months of hospital visits, acute care visits, then home nursing responsibilities, I had forgotten how to be happy. What I wanted was a day away from responsibilities, from duties. We went to Madrid, a funky artist’s community with eclectic shops. We went to my favorite libations store in Albuquerque. Nothing fancy, we just hung out together, and she left the next day.

Over the next months…years…I kept her suggestion in mind. What would make me happy? Often it was little things, like new garden plants, washing dishes before the sink overflowed. Taking the constant pile of cardboard to recycle can often  soothe me for days. Little things but they helped keep me smiling. Whenever possible I share the question. Sometimes the wish is surprisingly easy to help fulfill.

So…what makes you happy?

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Jack London’s Scarlet Plague #MFRWAuthor #BOB

Remember Jack London? Call of the Wild? White Fang? Sea Wolf? To Build A Fire? A In 1910, Jack London Saw COVID Coming in “The Scarlet Plague”man’s man, who lived the adventures he wrote about? I’ve learned recently he was also a social activist, a muckraker, a believer in unions. Far more layers to him than I’d ever known…now I need to read some biographies.

I recently discovered he also wrote a bit of Science Fiction, which is what I’m sharing now. In 1912, he wrote a dystopian story about about an event in 2013, narrated decades years later by one of the few survivors of a dreadful pandemic. Dreadful, as in possibly one person out of thousands survive. Some of his predictions are off…We advanced past dirigibles, democracy is holding on, and who could have foretold the advances in communication?

Beyond the grim nature the writing is elegant, his word choice anticipates an educated reader. Or perhaps this language choice has to do with the era in which he wrote. It’s a short read but it left me with a lot to think about.

The Scarlet Plague is available as an e-book through the Gutenberg Project. You can also find the physical book on Amazon and probably other used book resources.

 

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Don’t Forget the Dog #MFRWAuthor #BOB

This post is mostly for the writers among us.

We love our pets. Dog, cat, bird, fish, we dote on them. We are far more likely to buy a book when we see a dog on the cover. Writers know animals appeal to many readers, with a special attraction for characters who rescue animals. Used as a character feature this can increase connection to the reader.

All well and good, and a tool for writers to employ. Until they forget the dog.1936538_97029219860_1238899_n

We meet the female or male (usually female) protagonist through their interactions with others and learn about their empathy and depth of character. Sometimes the information is shoved at us sometimes we encounter it gradually as we read. That’s a subject for another time. We learn about how much these animals mean to them. Special thoughts if the animals are old or disabled. The writer wants us to know these animals are VERY IMPORTANT.

Then the first meet and with some books instant attraction. The new mate will meet the animals so they can be impressed with how loving and caring this special person is. Then on with the story and we don’t hear much about the dogs until they’re needed again to emphasize how wonderful this person is.

In real life, it doesn’t work that way. Dogs need exercise, food, attention. They’re not meant to be locked in the house for hours nor is it safe for them to be unsupervised 003outside, fenced yard or not. Too much bad can happen. Cats, being more independent, don’t need us as much but woe to the owner who gets on the wrong side of their feline. Litter boxes need regular cleaning, yard poop patrol is necessary.

Those glamorous coats we see floating in the wind don’t come without hours of effort. If your character is busy busy busy please don’t gift them with an Old English Sheepdog, or an Afghan Hound, or some other abundantly haired dog or cat. Unless you want to make regular grooming a major factor in the character’s life. If you want to know more about caring for more exotic pets, most fanciers would be thrilled to help you, just give them a call.

Pets add depth to our characters and can enrich our stories. As long as they’re not just a 032line in a character chart. BICHOK, my friends.

 

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When Food is Your Comfort #MFRWAuthor #BOB

Ahh, comfort food. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Chicken fried steak with white gravy. Mac’N’Cheese. So tasty in the mouth so yummy in the tummy. And oh so permanent on the hips. Sigh. And let us not forget cheesecake or chocolate pie. Nope can’t forget those!

Some people…doggone them…can indulge frequently in these treats and live long healthy lives, perpetually slender. For the majority of us it’s not quite so simple. When the day comes we can’t carry a suitcase up an escalator and our dogs are embarrassed to run Agility with us, changes need to be made.

Does this mean we need to avoid all those foods we love so much? Weeelll we’re not going to lean up on fried meat, mashed potatoes and gravy. But a few adjustments can keep our mouths happy and our waistlines more in line.

I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite recipes, the ones that have helped me, and also my secret helper. What’s my secret helper, you ask? What we used to call white broccoli…cauliflower. You might have tried riced cauliflower and loved or hated or been totally ambivalent. But have you tried Shepherd’s Pie with mashed cauliflower and cheese? Hmmmmm??

IMG_20200119_190632449I started with leftover stew, any combination of meat and vegetables will do. I don’t much care for carrots or peas, so most of my stews and other slow cooked meats end up with an excess of onions and garlic (is there such a thing as too many onions??)

Mashed up the cauliflower, in this case frozen that I thawed out and actually should have cooked better. I had the devil of a time getting those chunks soft and creamy!

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Eventually it went on top of the stew, then of course I added cheese and popped it in the oven.

And…here you are. Nope not low calorie but lowER calorie plus I snuck in another vegetable without having to add those danged peas or carrots.

What do you think? Kinda hit the spot on a winter evening, and fooled my roommate!

 

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The real scare of Covid-19

I can’t think of a better way to return to blogging than these words of a highly talented writer and fellow Saluki person.

Lambert's Look

By Scott Lambert

One of Jamey’s saluki friends told her some horrible news today. Both of her grandparents had Covid-19 and she was expecting to lose her grandfather soon.
This news hit Jamey hard. Especially the personal stuff. The friend, Danielle Rubin, has Salukis and one of the most beautiful spotted saluki bitches I’ve ever seen. I don’t know Danielle personally but I’ve seen her at shows. And I relate to her story. Parts of it.
She’s had to deal with this issue for a while. Covid-19 doesn’t kill quick. So, her family watched and waited while both grandparents suffered. Alone. Wednesday was her first seder without her grandpa, ever. Her grandma started to improve and, just the other day, left the hospital. Grandpa didn’t. He’s been put on the ventilator. He isn’t expected to come off it. They got to talk with him one last time. He was lonely…

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STEALTH HEALTH: Using our dogs to keep us young #MFRWAuthor #BOB

a variation of this was first seen in Perspectives, the AKC Delegate newsletter

            Standard advice as we age is to get a dog or cat for company. We’re told they can 1936538_97029219860_1238899_nprovide unconditional love and comfort. Studies show owning a pet can help protect against loneliness and depression. More of those studies tell us pet owning people on Medicare make fewer visits to the (human) doctor. Dogs offer a wealth of benefits to the mature amongst us. Having a dog as a companion could add years to your lives and play a significant role in surviving heart attacks.

We know all that, don’t we? Most of us are reading with one hand on the head of our canine companion, or possibly with our lap full of demanding dog. We’ve had dogs for decades, we’ve whelped them, raised them, trained them, shown them, watched them age and held them for that last trip to the vet. We’re now down to the last one or two dogs, keeping us company as our lives slow down.

Why?

Not why do we have a dog or dogs with us. Why do we slow down? Barring medical issues why do we succumb to the idea that we are older therefore we can’t do anything too strenuous. Or maybe we’re too heavy, too weak, too…whatever.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

George Bernard Shaw

            Maybe we think we can’t compete with the young, athletic, up and coming people in our breed, or sport. Okay at some point we might not be able to keep up with them in Conformation. But what about other dog sports? Companion Events, Performance Events…the list grows every year of what we can do with our dogs. And in these events, we can compete against ourselves.

81876594-Friday-0450Rather than go to a gym or sign up for treadmill punishment, why not try, say, Agility? What, you don’t have a Border Collie, an Australian Shepherd, a Malinois? Take an afternoon and check out the trials. You’ll see every breed imaginable, and some mixed breeds, following their people’s guidance around obstacles (or making up their own courses). You’ll also see a wealth of silver…hair, that is. Not everyone is young and svelte! Agility requires time invested in training, and here comes the stealth part.

See, you don’t actually need to compete. You can take lessons, practice at home, give yourself and your dog a good workout and never chase another ribbon. If you convince a friend you need their company then both of you will benefit. Or you can make friends, good friends, at the training center. Eventually you might decide you want to leave your safe area and attempt a trial. Here’s the fun part…you don’t have to win to reap the rewards! You can have just as much fun with your dog, just as much frustration and confusion, and never qualify. Along the way you’ve gotten up off the sofa, out of the car, and pushed your heart rate to a healthy number. Soon you won’t have time to check out VVKC-28-15that new television series, you’ll be signing up for a seminar, helping out at a trial, working on a better approach to the obstacles.

Somewhere along the way you realize you’re sleeping better, waking up earlier, and looking forward to what the day will bring. You’ve fooled yourself into being healthier, and given your dog a new lease on his canine life. And you can do the same for your friend…why should you be the only one having so much fun?

 

I’m up earlier than usual, finishing this in the predawn. Soon I’ll be heading out with my little red girl, chasing that elusive green ribbon. Even better, sharing my day with the friends I’ve made and new friends I’ll meet.

Keep moving, moving, moving. But take a moment to hug your friends, tell them you love them, that you’re thinking of them. We never know when it’s going to be the last chance.

 

 

 

 

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