Dear Mom… (a letter from my dog)

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Dear Mom,

I was just thinking about all the fun times we have together. There have been so many. I think I am the luckiest dog that I got to live with you. I know you weren’t sure at first, but I’m really glad you kept me. And I have really tried to be a good dog as much as I can. I know I have trampled your gardens, and sometimes I make the house dirty. I have tried really hard to always pee outside, and when I get into the garbage, it’s only because it smells so INTERESTING. I get a little distracted and forget that I’m not supposed to open the lid. I’m sorry. And, I want to state for the record, that it wasn’t me that at your Dansko clog – that was Molly. And I NEVER would have tried to eat that turkey and avocado sandwich if Molly didn’t first. It was all her fault. I have to be honest, Mom. I wasn’t crazy about Molly. But you and me? I think we have had some of the best times a dog and his girl can have together.

Hey! Hey!! Remember the time that you took me to that lake, and we swam and swam? And I got to get the Frisbee when you’d throw it? And then I got to chase the ball? And then I was so tired I had to rest a minute and we got to do it again? Do you remember?

What about the time we watched movies together on the back patio on the Big Pillow? Do you remember that? I might have snored a little bit, but the movie was so loooong. Do you remember?

Do you know what it’s like to go to Camp Cheese? I trained Grandma real good….she always gives me breakfast and water and lets me out and sometimes she makes me GrandmaSnack Cookies! If I know that she has them, I’ll stay up by the fence extra long and not come back in the house until she offers to give me one! She stands at the back door, and she calls, ‘Draaaaake…come here! Drake, come inside!’, and I wait a little bit…and then I sniff around the fence for something – there’s always new smells with all the people walking by – and then she says the magic words, ‘Drake! You want a GrandmaSnack? Come-on!’ And then I come running! Not so fast anymore. In my heart I’m still a puppy and I can outrun anybody, but my legs just don’t work so well anymore, so sometimes I have to take it a little slower.

The rabbits and squirrels know it, too, and sometimes they tease me a little bit. Especially the squirrels. The bunnies are just flat out obnoxious, so I chase ‘em out of grandma’s flower beds, but those squirrels! I think they plan it out…they’ll see me laying in the sun, and come down the tree and scamper towards me… hop, hop, scramble, pause….and they check to see if I’m watching. If I’m not, they chatter at me a little bit, just sort of to poke me I think. I whip my head up and narrow my eyes and I bark at them to let them know I might be old, but I’m not deaf! I don’t bother chasing them so much anymore…they’re just being ornery. But I let them know that I’ve got their number, and I’ve alerted Grandma and Grandpa. No siree, there will be no squirrels in our house!

Sometimes Grandma gets distracted and forgets to give me a cheese snack before bed. So, I remind her. I talk to her a little bit, and then she gets it right. You never give me cheese, but Grandma does every night. And I know you say they spoil me, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s not spoiling when I only get the most delicious snacks ever once in awhile!

I will say this, Mom, you are great about getting me toys. There was this one – it was a box that had squeaky balls inside, and I had to get them out! The squeakers were pretty damn annoying, too, so I had to really chew on them to get them to stop. You always say, “be NICE to the squeaker”, but I don’t think you really understand. What if the squeaker is really a small version of the squirrel – I have to make sure! I loved that box though. I’d carry it around the house with me and sometimes I brought it to bed. I have some dragons, and they are pretty cool. There was a duck once that I loved. I would groom it, lick his feathers, and keep it safe, he was my best toy ever. The new monster is pretty good, too. He makes funny crackling sounds AND has a squeaker. I like that.

The times when I got to ride in the car were amazing. And I always knew where we were going. I think sometimes you sort of forgot how to get places, and that’s the only reason I’d start talking to you in the car. I just wanted to make sure you knew, that I knew, that you knew how to get there. And if you didn’t, I was ready to help.

The time we went camping was epic. Yeah, I mean, it’s great being a city dog, but I think I could have been a country boy just fine. I’m not complaining! But going up to the mountains or out on the plains, rivers and grasses and sooooo many smells….yeah, those were good times.

But my best times were always with you. It didn’t matter what we were doing, just that we could do it together. If you were working and I could just take a nap in the same room, that was good. I love going for walks with you. And watching you cook. I love it when people come over because they give me all kinds of attention, and sometimes, they give me extra snacks….I like being in the middle of everything though. And with all those extra people around, I don’t want to somehow lose you, so I stick close, just in case. But it’s because you are my person. You are my world. You are everything. And I don’t ever want you to think that I might love someone else more.

So Mom, I just want you to know….I am the luckiest dog and I am happy. I have had such a good life. And every day I get to spend with you is the BEST day of my life. So let’s just keep being happy, for every day we still have left. Because until I can’t make it down the stairs anymore, I will always be ready to go for a walk with you. And I will always smile when you come home. And I will always love you best.

Finally, Mom, here are a couple things I don’t want you to forget, even after I’m not here….

  1. Always greet people with a smile and tail wag – you gotta let people know that you love them. Don’t hide that.
  2. Never turn down a snack. You never know if it’s the last one that will be offered.
  3. Work hard and sleep hard. Life it tough, so go after it all with gusto. It’s ok, there is time to sleep at the end.
  4. Five minutes of playing can turn your day around.
  5. This one is hard sometimes, but always try to mostly follow the rules. Nobody really likes a rebel who just causes trouble and makes other people clean up after him.
  6. Be loyal.
  7. Don’t be afraid to tell someone what you need, whether that is help, a listening ear, or that you are hungry or need to go out.
  8. Don’t forget that we are meant to be a pack, we are meant for community, so don’t try to do everything by yourself. The lone wolf howls at night because he is alone.
  9. Life is better when you risk a little bit. You’ll never get that proud feeling of saving the house if you don’t take on those fierce squirrels.
  10. When the time is right, let go. I will always live in your heart.

I love you, Mom, and I will always be your very best buddy. Nobody can take that away.

Love,
Drake

10 Keys to Starting Whole 30

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I have a number of friends who like to do New Year’s Resolutions. They often involve a new exercise thing, joining a gym, going on a diet, giving up cake, starting to spend more time outdoors, or committing to reading a certain number of books in a year. One of my friends wanted to do the Whole 30, which is, in essence, a paleo cleanse. She is more or less gluten free, but she really wanted to do a “hard reset” on her diet for the new year, and she asked me for some advice since I’ve done it in the past. I offered to do the 30 days with her to support her efforts, and also because I think it’s a good form of discipline for myself. Her questions and initial apprehension in getting started made me realize that there are some easy tips to put her on the path to success.

  1. Set your mind in the right place before you even start – that means deciding from the outset that you can and will do it. If you doubt yourself, you will have a hard time. Your mind is powerful, so use it to your advantage. It also means choosing a date to start, and well, then, just start. There is always a good reason to put it off or wait or something…the fact is, making a different in your routine is hard, and that’s what you’ll be doing.
  2. Hold it lightly. What I mean is, decide that you will do this, prepare, be committed to it, but if something happens on day 10 and you have a piece of bread, don’t beat yourself up, get back on the horse.
  3. Set aside one hour each Saturday or Sunday to prepare for the week ahead and write down what you plan on having for each meal, list some snack ideas, and identify the prep work you need to do. For instance, note that you need to take the chicken out of the freezer on Tuesday that you are going to use on Friday.
  4. As you plan your week ahead, spread your “left overs” out across several days and don’t try to eat it all in 3 or 4 consecutive meals. Your body and mind likes variety and it will keep your food interesting. Another idea is to make your left overs into “new” food. If you make a roasted chicken for dinner one night, repurpose the left over chicken into lettuce wraps for lunch the next day.
  5. If you are doing this with a partner, plan your meals together. So, if you are deciding what to have for dinners, I suggest that you pick two meals and your partner picks two meals that you definitely want to have that week. The other three meals can be leftovers or “pick up meals”. Your partner’s buy-in and involvement will keep him or her invested in the effort, and will help you in the motivation department, too!
  6. Also as you are planning, take into account your “busy” days, and don’t try to do too much. I have a yoga class on Tuesday nights, after work. So between getting home, taking care of the dog, changing clothes, getting to class on time and fighting rush hour, I have very little time to prep a meal. Tuesdays are a great night for me to use the slow cooker, or to have left overs, and I put that into my plan.
  7. Speaking of too much, don’t try to start lots of new things when you embark on the Whole 30. I know it’s tempting to decide that you are going to turn over a BIG new leaf and start Whole 30, a new exercise regimen and getting up 45 minutes earlier every day to take care of all those house chores first thing, all in the same week. Don’t put yourself under this kind of pressure to make so many drastic changes all at the same time. Be proud that you are making one change, and be confident that when you are ready to add more change to your life, those new changes will still be waiting for you!
  8. Don’t plan to make big decisions in the first 7 days. Your body is getting used to a new routine, and may be going through some withdrawal. It’s possible that you will be irrationally cranky.   Don’t add to the stress that you are putting on yourself by artificially adding to that, if you can avoid it.
  9. Set up your pantry and put away all the unnecessary stuff. I put all my baking supplies (sugars, flowers, chocolate chips, etc) away in a plastic bin and put it downstairs. Out of sight, out of mind! It’s amazing how this works – it’s not that I actually forget I have it, but it has been moved so it’s not as easily accessible. This means it’s easier to overcome the temptation to eat that snack or bake some cookies.
  10. Lean on resources that are fun, full of ideas, and easy to use! The first time I did Whole 30, I thumbed through the Well Fed cookbooks by Melissa Joulwan almost every day. I also visited the Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl website regularly. Both of these had Whole 30 specific plans and tips that were really valuable.

Finally, decide you are going to have fun – yes, I know this makes 11, but this should be more of a general guiding principle of life, don’t you think? We can do pretty much anything for 30 days…make it an adventure, and you never know, you might even create a new habit!

Cramming For The Exam

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There are a lot of things you can cram for – that driver’s written test when you’re sixteen.  That history exam that covers 400 years and is worth 60% of the grade.  A speech you’re supposed to give to a hundred people.  Packing your suitcase 20 minutes before you have to leave for the airport.  I’m not saying that cramming is necessarily the most effective way to accomplish any of these things; I’m just suggesting that it’s possible.

 

It is not possible to cram for a Half Marathon.

 

You have either put in the time, the miles, the stretching, the effort or you haven’t.  It’s hard to believe that my race is a week from tomorrow.  When I think back to the day I signed up to run, I couldn’t visualize getting to where I am now.  Now that I’m here, I realize that it was the culmination of all the time and energy I put in to the process.  I ran when it was cold, rainy, windy, hot, or snowy.  I ran when I hadn’t had enough to eat and times when I’d been paying attention and was raring to go.  I ran because I had a goal, I ran because I liked it, I ran on days when I was pumped up, and I ran sometimes when I didn’t feel like it.

I have tried new foods and fuel and gone back to what I know works for me.  I have gotten up early, missed parties, said no to happy hours, rearranged my schedule, chosen running over other things…  I have massaged sore muscles and asked for advice from seasoned runners.  I have read articles, bought gear, talked about running, written about running, bought more gear, dreamed about running, and then got out there and ran again.

I have had moments of doubt and I have had moments of sheer exhilaration when I thought I could conquer anything.  It is strange and exciting, and I’m still a little nervous, but in my heart, I know I’m ready.  I still have one week of tapering left, but if my race was tomorrow, I’d be ok.  I don’t have to cram for the exam – I have put in the time, one foot after another, mile after mile, minute over minute, day after day.  It’s time.

Your Gas Tank

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Food matters, what you put into your body matters.  It’s like gasoline for your car.  It might still get you from Point A to Point B on regular unleaded, but your car like premium unleaded better.  Your body is no different.

When you are training for an event, a race, or just generally stressing your body, you need more calories than you do in an “off season”.  What I have discovered for myself is that I can run when I’ve been eating crap – any calories is better than no calories when I’m 4 miles into a 7 mile run….but…  But!  Absolutely, there is a but.  If I have healthy and clean calories that my body is burning, I feel so much better!  If I must run on a scone and coffee, fine, but I struggle.  If I am running on free range eggs, spinach, a piece of fruit and some homemade carnitas, I don’t find the run as hard.

It also has to do with toxin build up.  Even things that could be generally considered “good” for me have toxins in one shape or another.  Even though I believe that red wine has some incredible properties, and I enjoy the taste of red wine, drinking in excess will lead to toxin build up.  For me, that happens in my hip joints.    For others, diary or gluten can be a trigger, even if that person is not allergic to either one for example.

When I did a paleo cleanse in January, I did myself a real service, and I didn’t even know it – in essence, I gave myself an oil change.  I reset my body, and in the process, I set myself up for more success.  For one month, I removed sugar, alcohol, gluten, grains, corn, legumes, and dairy.  I am not advocating that everyone should live this way – I certainly don’t.  But after my one month “reset”, I have to admit, my joints are happy.  I am running.  I am not having hip issues, (which I have struggled with for many years.)  I attribute this to having a fairly “clean” diet while I continue to train.

This is not to say that I deny myself now that I am not on the cleanse – I had bread, wine, cheese and sugar last night…and it all tasted great.  But I don’t eat like that every day.  For the most part, I am still eating in a quasi paleo format, mostly because that is what my body responds well to.  I have found that if I listen to my body, my cravings, when I am hungry and when I am full, I actually fill myself up with what I need rather than what I think I should need.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my kinesiologist who is basically a “body mechanic” and he gave me a tune up.  Before I left he looked at me and said, “I’m really impressed with how you have done your training.  I have to tell you, when you told me that you were planning on running a half in May, I thought you were headed for a lot of hurt and pain and I was really worried about your ability to finish and accomplish your goal because of all the hip issues you’ve had.  I think that when you did that cleanse in January, you really set yourself up for success…without even realizing it!”

Way to go, me!  Listen to your gut – sometimes you know way more than you realize.

What Matters

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I ran a new personal best today, but that’s not what’s important.  It doesn’t matter how fast or far I ran yesterday.  It doesn’t matter how that compares with today.  It’s cool that I ran my new personal best, but that’s not what really matters.  It matters that I got my shoes on, laced up and got out there.  And tomorrow it’s not going to matter what I did today or how it compares….it will matter if I choose to do it again.

Every day is made up of a thousand choices – what to have for breakfast, whether I hit the snooze button or not, how to respond to someone at work, how to word that email, when to let something go….  Those are all choices.  And every afternoon, when I get home, I have the choice to go put on my shoes, or to “take the day off”.

Taking the day off is not necessarily a bad thing – our bodies need time to recover before we push ourselves further or faster or longer than we have done before.  Training is a journey, and rest is just as important as pushing.  The trick is knowing when.

But taking the day off because you can tell your body needs a recovery day is different than taking the day off because you just don’t feel like lacing up.  That is the choice that has to do with attitude, and that choice is one that I have every single day.

It’s great to have a goal and it’s wonderful to be able to compare my times, distances and splits to see how much I’ve improved.  It gives me confidence to see where I’ve come from, and it gives me motivation to keep going.  However, it’s even more important to me that I take that first step, every single time.  I had some friends who were debating about what the hardest part of a run was… “it’s the first half mile.”  “No, it’s definitely the last half mile.”  “No way, it’s the back half of the middle when you are already tired, but you can’t see the end yet.”

I think the hardest part of the run is usually the attitude that comes before you ever set foot outside.  It is making the decision in your head to get after it one more day, to set your mind to today’s goal, whether that is just getting the mileage done, or pushing yourself to go faster than you’ve done in the past, or going further, or facing rainy or cold conditions….  The hardest part is making the choice to begin with.  The part that matters is considering all of that and still choosing to put on the shoes, set your mind, and go.  First step.  Second step.  Find a rhythm.  Making the choice to run is what matters…today and every day.

Stronger, Faster

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I have been running consistently for a little over a month now, and I have learned a couple things.  1. Running really can be addictive, even if I fight against it.  2. There is such a thing as a “runner’s high”.  3. Slow and steady is the way to go to build up a base.  4.  I might sort of like this running thing. 

When I started this journey, it was with the end goal of being able to run a half marathon without stopping.  I was pretty sure that this was going to be one of those big audacious goals I had in life, and as soon as I finished, I’d cross it off my bucket list and be done with it all.  When I said I’d signed up to run the Half, my friend Amy said, “Oooo, if you do a Half, I guarantee you will want to do a full, and after you do a full, you may or may not want to do an ultra.”  I remember reading this and thinking, she is certifiably insane!  I still think Amy might be crazy, but I am getting addicted to running which is a huge surprise to me.  Last week when it was so cold, I was getting antsy and irritable because it had been too long since I’d had a chance to get outside and stretch my legs.  I look forward to each week of training now.  And as a bonus, that keeps me motivated to keep training!

Yesterday, I had the best run.  I got out there, and just went after it.  I didn’t check my time, my pace, or anything while I was out there – I just ran.  When I got to the end, I honestly felt like I could take on anything, and then I checked my watch….I had gone further and faster than I’d ever gone before, and I felt strong!  The high I felt 20 seconds earlier skyrocketed!

By concentrating on adding mileage in a consistent, and yet, not overly aggressive manner I have been able to get stronger and faster without hurting.  I’m pretty sure that I will hurt eventually, but I don’t hurt yet, and after a month, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be!  That’s exciting.

I’m still pretty sure that my end game here is to do a Half Marathon, and so far, I am not even entertaining the idea of running a full marathon someday, but I can see myself running after this Half….just for fun.  I think I might sort of like this running thing.

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