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From left to right: Ripley, my parents' dog Harry, and Midnyte

From left to right: Ripley, my parents’ dog Harry, and Midnyte

It’s a gorgeous Texas day, warm and sunny.  (I’m ignoring the humidity on purpose, hoping that if I pretend it doesn’t exist, I’ll stop sweating.)  The breeze is great though, very refreshing.  It’s a pleasant change form the hot winds in Arizona!

I decided to come outside and write, partly because it’s one of my favorite things to do, and partly so I could play with the dogs.  We play for a few minutes, until my old dog is ready to pass out from panting so hard.  She’d play until she drops, but I’d rather give her breaks and play again.  It works out for both of us; I get up from my laptop, stretch, and take frequent breaks.  She gets to play and hang out for a few hours.

I was brainstorming blogs and this topic came to mind because my dogs really are my best friends.  Even my husband, who was not a dog person when I met him, has come over to the dog side.  Why do we love dogs so much, and why are they such great friends?  I think I have a few of the answers…

1.  Be happy to see one another, no matter how much time has passed, and show it!  People appreciate when you’re happy to see them.  It makes them feel like they’re the only one that matters.  When I get home and my dogs greet me, it automatically lifts my spirits.  I look forward to going home because I know that I’m going to get a dose of joy.

2.  Live in the moment.  It doesn’t matter if your best friend said something mean to you 5 minutes ago.  Let it go.  Friends don’t keep score, and if you can forgive easily, you will feel lighter.  It’s more fun to be happy and pay attention to what’s going on right now.  Now is the best place to be.

3.  Give little treats.  It could be a tiny morsel (like a compliment) or a huge bone (like a gift).  Those treats say “I’m thinking of you.”  Treats show others that we care.  No, they’re not necessary, but who doesn’t like getting treats?

4.  Play together.  Dogs make us laugh when we throw balls for them or watch them splash in the water.  They’re not afraid to be silly.  Be silly with your friends and laugh together.

5.  Don’t focus on the superficial.  My dogs don’t care how much I weigh, how I’m dressed*, how clean the house is, what job I work, etc.  What they care about is who I am to them.  I can be myself and will never judge me.

*The one exception to this is that Ripley gets really excited when I put on yoga pants, as that’s usually what I wear to hike.  She cries and jumps up on me.

6.  Just be there.  When I’m having a bad day and talk about it, my dogs will never interrupt me, never jump in to offer solutions, will never tell me what I should have done.  They just listen without judgement, and give me a lick on the cheek or the hand as if to say, “I’m here for you, and I love you.”  There’s nothing more comfortable than reaching down and feeling a furry body at my side.

"Hi, I'm here!"

“Hi, I’m here!”

7.  Whatever you want, chase with abandon.  Whether it’s a ball or a pesky squirrel, go after it.  It doesn’t matter if you catch it; the fun is in the chase.  Good friends will cheer one another on through that chase and never say, “You can’t do it.”  In fact, they’re probably running by your side with you!

8.  It’s never too late to build a lifelong friendship.  No matter how old they are, if a dog loves you, they love you.  Even if they’ve been abandoned many times before you found them, they will love you if you let them.  They don’t care if you’re old or young; as long as you’re willing to share your space with them, they will be glad to be with you.

9.  When you’re together, give the relationship your attention.  I get frustrated with people when they check their phones or watch the restaurant TVs when we’re together.  My dogs do their own thing when I’m busy.  They go off and think doggy thoughts, watch squirrels or birds, chew up toys, squeak toys, play fetch alone, or bark at other dogs.  But when we’re playing together, they are completely focused on me, and I try to stay focused on them.  Time together is more fun when we’re both engaged.

"Why aren't you paying attention to me?"

“Why aren’t you paying attention to me?”

10.  When someone you love hurts, don’t take “no” for an answer.  Many times, when I’ve had a bad day, Ripley (65 pounds) jumps in my lap and starts kissing me, whether I want her to or not.  She pokes at me with her wet nose and demands to be petted.  Midnyte lays at my feet or puts her head in my lap.  Even if I think I want to be left alone, they won’t.  And I can’t resist them.  Maybe whatever happened didn’t get better, but I feel a little better, and that’s what’s important.

Is your dog your best friend?  What have you learned from your dog?

Sleep Is Plotting Against Me

Her paws are hanging out of the box... Can the monster get her?

Her paws are hanging out of the box… Can the monster get her?

I’ve decided that “sleep” is a woman.  Why?  Well, she’s moody and irritable, and she just stops talking to me for no reason.  The current time is 1:39 a.m. on Sunday morning, and I’m on my laptop because sleep is mad at me for some reason.  I didn’t do anything to her.  I’m always very nice to her.  I don’t drink too much before bed, and I try to get to bed around the same time every night.  I have a good pillow, and my room is nice and cool.  But is that good enough for her?  Nope!  She’s just decided that she didn’t like something, so now I’m banished to the couch.

At least I was productive, right?  I stayed up and wrote reviews for other writers on Scribophile.  If I smoked and had two fingers of scotch, I’d pretty much be a cliche at this point.  Insomniac writer.  Pretty redundant, right?

And now my house is making funny noises!  I’m sitting here in the dark, with my laptop screen on the lowest brightness, just hoping to get sleepy.  But my heart races from an unfamiliar noise, and I think about shining my iPhone flashlight toward the noise, but I don’t.  Half of me thinks, “There’s nothing there; don’t be silly.”  The other half thinks, “Of course there’s something there, but it can’t get you as long as you pretend it’s not there.”  But I don’t have any covers to pull over my head, and my feet are hanging off the chair.  Since I was a kid, I always believed the monster couldn’t get me as long as everything was covered and my feet were on the bed.

So on that note, maybe I should head back to bed.  Even if I can’t sleep, at least it’s safer there.

Feel Good Friday

Hello, and happy Friday!

Google funds all teachers requests in LA. from donorschoose.org.

Veterans are being trained to be America’s next farmers.

Janitor uses breaks to play piano for hospital visitors.

6 year old explains the meaning of life.  Seriously.  She gets it.

Have a great day!

Truth.  Attitude is everything.

Truth. Attitude is everything.

Confessions of a Vampire Lover

Look closely and you can see a big spider...  Creepy!

Look closely and you can see a big spider… Creepy!

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve never read Dracula.  I read Frankenstein, so at least I don’t have to be completely ashamed, but… how did I miss that?

I’m reading It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother & Me by Jane Congdon.  It’s a memoir written by a woman who has always been a Dracula fan since she saw her first Dracula movie, starring Christopher Lee.  She explains that she had always wanted to see Romania, but that it took her until her 60s to get there.  Once in Romania, she started resolving some of her childhood issues.

She explains that she had read about travel being a transformative experience, but that she didn’t expect to actually experience any transformation or changes.

I’m not very far into the book, but so far, I’m really enjoying it.  She talks about vampires, and I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything with a “real” vampire in it.  I think the last one must have been ‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King.

Recent books with vampires have romanticized them, with books like Twilight, the Anita Blake books and The Vampire Diaries.  Vampires just aren’t scary anymore.  They’re sexy and rich, and can be tamed like puppies.  What made Dracula so scary was that he was sexy and evil.  He couldn’t be tamed.  Vampires of yesterday treated humans like food or vermin.

Here’s a list of 55 best vampire books per Goodreads.  I think my next mission is to work through this list.  What’s the best vampire book you’ve ever read?

A Perfect Saturday

What breed do you see in the brown one?

What breed do you see in the brown one?

You don’t get many perfect days in life.  I’m trying to make the most of my weekends these days, and this Saturday was pretty much as good as it gets.

When we woke up, it was raining.  I love rainy days, and I’m glad to have them again now that I’m in Texas.  It was also 60 degrees, which meant jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt.  Jeans are my favorite clothes ever, and shorts just don’t do it for me the same way.  I have a few pairs of jeans that fit just perfect right now, and that makes me feel great.

We went to explore the local farmer’s market.  I have to admit, I’d gotten used to the anemic offerings in Arizona flea markets, where you’re lucky if you get a few locally grown items mixed in with typical supermarket fare.  I read this on their website, and one of the vendors also explained it to me: At the Cedar Park Farmer’s Market, vendors are only allowed to sell things they’ve produced in some way.  The coffee seller got her beans from Brazil, but she roasts them herself.  The man sharpening knives only sharpens knives; he doesn’t sell them because he doesn’t make them.  The man selling burgers buys his beef from the rancher a few tents over, then uses the recipe his mother showed him for his patties.

It was raining, but a really cool experience.  I think there were almost as many dogs as people there.  The kids were polite, and all the vendors smiled and made conversation.  We bought way more than we intended (it was meant as a scouting mission), and the husband got a bunch of water dumped on his head and down his back from the tents overspilling.

When we finished up, we headed over to PetSmart to pick up a few items.  Though my goal is to get away from big box stores, for things like cat litter, I don’t have a ton of options.  There was an adoption event going on, and my husband decided that Ripley looks a lot like a Boxer.  (I call Ripley my Rorschach dog test… everyone sees something different.  We know mom was a German Shepherd, but have no idea about dad.  Maybe a Pit Bull, or a Boxer, or a Great Dane.  Sometimes she looks almost exactly like Scooby Doo.)

Afterward, we got a little lunch and some Starbucks (the coffee roaster was out of coffee at the farmer’s market).  Then we came home and took naps to the sound of rain.  After that, we did quite a bit of unpacking.  I burned some candles, played some music, wrote some words… really, how does life get any better??

Feel Good Friday

Sorry for the late post today.  I went and got my hair cut today!  Here’s your feel good moments for this week.

Football players suspended while coach requires them to show good character.

Really sweet story about the last surviving search dog from Ground Zero of 9/11.  It’s one of those stories that feels good but also hurts.

Girl Scouts save lives while hiking Pike’s Peak.

Chef from Detroit takes back empty lots and starts teaching people how to cook and grow food.  (Video)

Man-ups: Men posing as 50’s style pin-up girls.

Hope you enjoyed today’s dose of positive.  And remember, if you don’t want to focus just on the bad stuff in the world, don’t.  Sometimes you have to look for the good stuff, but I promise… it’s there.

It was cool in there, but like 98% humidity.  I was soaked! Innerspace, Texas Photo Credit: Doree Weller

It was cool in there, but like 98% humidity. I was soaked!
Innerspace, Texas
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I don’t like to sweat, unless I’m dressed properly.  In yoga pants or bike shorts and a T-shirt, I’m okay with it.  I do whatever I’m supposed to be doing, then I shower and change back to normal clothes.  In Arizona, you don’t sweat all that much.  What they say about it being a dry heat is true.  However, you get filthy from all the dust in the air, so even if you only sweat a little, you still need a shower.

Out here in Texas, you sweat, even if you don’t feel hot.  You sweat in your house.  You sweat walking to your car.  You sweat in your car.  You seriously sweat every-freaking-where.  I’m tired of sweating.  I know it’s my body’s cooling mechanism, and blah-blah-blah, but I still hate it.  But it’s funny… in Arizona, you have to drink gallons of water to stay hydrated.  You con’t feel like you’re sweating, but you are, and if you don’t drink excessive water, you get headaches and fatigued and stuff.  In Arizona, I would hike 7 miles, drink 128 ounces of water, and still not have to use the bathroom.  Here, if you drink 24 ounces of water, sweat 37 ounces, and then have to run for the bathroom.  How does that work?!  Seriously!

I know that it doesn’t sound awesome when you say that it’s 120 degrees “but it’s a dry heat.”  It doesn’t feel great either, when the sun is seriously burning your skin, and you feel like a vampire (only not the wussy-sparkling kind, the kind of vampire that gets worse than a sunburn), sticking to the shadows.  That’s how Arizona feels.  And if you do sweat, there’s so little moisture in the air, that it dries in a few minutes and you quickly forget about it.  In Texas, it’s definitely cooler overall, and I’m comfortable enough with the sun that I can eat garlic without fear again.

But seriously… enough with the sweating… okay?

Cedar Park, TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Cedar Park, TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Now, I’m not a nutritionist or an exercise-ologist.  I’m not thin, and I have high cholesterol.  (My doctor tested me; apparently I will always have high cholesterol, unless I eat carrot sticks and celery only for the rest of my days- true story.)  So you can take or leave what I have to say.  But several things occurred to me the other day, and I thought I’d share them.

I was out walking in the woods near my house, sweating like a pig and out of breath.  My legs were tired, and I didn’t want to walk one more step.  And I was having a great time.  In fact, I was figuring out where I could explore next, and assessing the concrete (yes, there’s a concrete path in the woods) for rollerblading potential.  As I walked, I realized two things.  1.  This is exercise.  2.  I’m having a good time.

I’m very pro-body acceptance.  At my thinnest, I’ve never been thin.  And I have skinny friends who can’t gain weight.  Our sizes say nothing about our character, and I’m tried of having weight be made to sound like something important.  So here are some of the lies that the fitness industry tells us.  In no way is this a comprehensive list.

1.  No pain, no gain.  Bear with me for a second.  Yes, exercise needs to be a little strenuous in order to work.  Yes, done well, you might have some sore muscles.  But for me, this always meant that if I wasn’t torturing myself, I wasn’t exercising.  I hate: running and weightlifting, going to the gym (inside!  ick!) and doing pushups.  If it’s exercise, I can almost guarantee I hate it.  But if it’s fun, I don’t mind moving my body.  For me, walking through the woods is fun!  Skating is fun!  Yoga is fun!  Kickboxing is fun!  Running is horrible torture, invented by skinny people for sadistic reality TV to watch me jiggle.  Which brings me to my second point.

2.  You have to work hard to call it exercise.  I kind of stopped skating for awhile because I read on some website that you only burn a lot of calories skating if you’re going full out.  If you’re just kind of cruising along, you’re not exercising.  While I love skating, I need exercise.  I want to take off a few pounds.  So I put my skates away and did nothing.  Effective, right?  Here’s the fundamental flaw with that whole “you’re not exercising” thing.  For anyone who isn’t good at skating, they’ll tell you that it’s hard to stay up, coordinate your feet.  They’ll tell you how much it hurts their leg muscles.  I never understood that, but now I do.  Even cruising along, you’re activating your core muscles.  And I’d rather skate than do sit-ups.  Something is always better than nothing.

3.  A cheeseburger is “better” for you than a salad because that salad has too much fat/ salt/ calories.  You know what I’m talking about, those websites that call out different restaurant foods.  They talk about how unhealthy certain salads can be for you, and that you shouldn’t eat that high calorie/ high fat/ high sodium dressing.  Yes, and we should all be eating organic foods and cook everything from scratch in a blissful, chemical additive free lifestyle.

See, I fell for that too.  I thought, “well then I might as well eat the cheeseburger.” (Back when I ate meat.)  And somehow, in my mind, that worked.  I tried to force myself to eat tasteless, low-fat dressing.  But then I didn’t want to eat salad and made excuses why I should eat something else.  Here’s the thing.  The salad is healthier.  It’s got fiber and vitamins and all that good stuff.  If I use unhealthy dressing, I can just use less because it tastes better.  None of us are perfect, and life is all about harm reduction.  Just do the best you can with eating.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  In a choice between the salad and the cheeseburger, I still think the salad is better for you.  Even if the veggies are drenched in bad for you stuff.  Where’s the redeeming part of the cheeseburger?  The tasteless tomato slice they put on top that almost everyone takes off anyway because its’ mushy?

4.  Certain exercises are better than others.  Yeah, this is true.  But you know what the best exercise is?  The one you’ll do consistently.  That’s the best one.  You can work up to something better later.  But if you’re doing nothing right now, a 5 minute walk is better than thinking about running 30 minutes and putting it off.  5 minutes every day is better than a half an hour once in a awhile.  I live in the real world.

5.  Exercise is something you have to do; no one enjoys it.  We’re talking about average people here, not people who have body smarts.  (I’m talking about the kind of intelligence where people are actually good at moving their body.)  Actually, if you don’t like exercise, you probably just haven’t tried the right one yet.  My husband loves bike riding, and I hate it.  I love to skate, and he thinks the only thing he should ride on 4 wheels is a car.  We both enjoy walking/ hiking.  He likes going to a gym; I think that going inside a building to exercise is crazy.  The only exception to that is DDR, which is the most fun I’ll ever have while sweating.  The point is that if you need to get more exercise, try a few things.  Don’t get stuck in the gym rut or think it has to be one particular type.  Google “exercise for people who hate exercise” or something like that and see what you come up with.  Remember, if you do something weird to get moving, the exercise police aren’t going to come get you.

6.  Weight is a good indicator of health.  Nope.  Disagree.  It’s a lie.  Here’s why I say that.  First off, I’ve been trying to lose weight forever.  I’m a whole foods vegetarian.  Which means that I eat my daily dose of veggies and grains and all that stuff.  And I’m still fat.  Why?  My doctor put it best:  “You come from German farming people.  Being able to keep weight on and be strong was an asset.”  Yep.  I just don’t lose weight like some people.  I could starve myself and exercise excessively, but why?  I have more stamina than my thinner friends (as evidenced by the fact that I can keep going longer when we go places).  I can walk for miles and my body does all the activity I want it to do.  I feel pretty good, sleep pretty well, and am happy overall.  So how am I not healthy?

Like I said, I’m just a person trying to get healthier myself.  I’m also a therapist, and something I’ve noticed is that mental health and physical health are tied together.  If you feel good mentally, it’s easier to get moving.  And if you feel good physically, it’s easier to feel good mentally.  So do yourself a favor; if you’ve been putting off positive change because it’s overwhelming, start teeny tiny.  Babies learn to roll over before they crawl, and they pull themselves up before they walk.  Apply that to your own stuff and remember that even if it seems really, really, really slow, a little progress is better than none.

Oh, and don’t forget that you should probably ask your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.  Because, you know, I’m not a doctor.

Feel Good Friday

Take a moment to check out some of these news articles, and remember that there’s a lot of good in the world… we just need to be willing to look for it and recognize it.

Dog saves child from bees.

San Francisco law allows tax incentive for landowners to turn a vacant lot into an urban garden.

Mom talks about the value of a smile.

A young lady’s response to an embarrassing photo that went viral and the cyberbullies who tried to put her down.

And how it made her into a role model.

Puppy-brothers rescued from being bait dogs for dogfighting are adopted together.

1-legged breakdancer rocks the house.

In general, I’m not a fan of self-published fiction.  I’ve found most of it to be sloppy and poorly edited, the story obviously needing a lot more work.  There’s a reason why the traditional publishing route works.  Much like everyone using a digital camera seems to suddenly think they’re a photographer, so too do many people with access to self-publishing seem to believe they’re authors.

Not so for Chanda Hahn.  I finished Book 3 and was looking at the release date for Book 4 before I realized that she’s self-published.  My first clue was when I noticed that her first book was published last year, and we’re already looking for Book 4?

No matter.  Her books are great.  It’s a young adult tale about Mina Grimm, who is the ancestor of the Brothers Grimm and the recipient of a curse.  She must complete tasks given to her by the Story (modern twists on fairy tales) or suffer the consequences.  They’re well-written and great fun.  I highly recommend you take a look at the first one.  If you like young adult fiction, you’ll be hooked!

One of the reasons I like the story is that it doesn’t water down any of the bad guys.  There are werewolves and shape shifters, giants and witches.  Many of them want to kill Mina, and none of them sparkle!  There’s a theme of good vs. evil and the question of redemption running through it.  I like layered young adult fiction, that can be enjoyed lightly or can be used to ask bigger questions about life.

Check this out on Amazon… the first one is FREE on Kindle!

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