Sunday, May 26, 2019

Manic Monday!

Even though I am now in retirement, I still have blazed in my mind that Monday is the start of a work week. Maybe I am way off base, (don't think so) but it is not always the most favorite day of the week. There are songs written about how Mondays can feel, such as Just Another Manic Monday, Blue Monday, and Monday, Monday. Not exactly feel good songs, especially if you have to face Monday anyway.

Our schedule just so happens to be one that we must be up and dressed and ready for what is going to happen on Monday morning. It is bitter sweet and we are grateful for being able to have the ability to have two wonderful friends who work as house cleaners come to us first thing on Monday morning. There is no one around who does it better than the two of them. We are both fussy about having a clean house, and used to spend 4 - 5 hours cleaning our town house with less than half the space that we have now. So, yes, we are very grateful for this privilege. Plus, as long as the weather is good, we leave when they arrive to take one of our dogs to Doggie Day Care. The other one is not quite old enough and does not have all of her shots yet. Davis needs to release some of his energy and after a day of playing with his friends, he is pretty much worn out for two days. It is a matter of gratitude (for him and for us). We are grateful to be able to do this for him and to have the younger pup, Maggie Mae, to ourselves for training.

It truly is a case of mind over matter. For myself, I have come up with some things that have helped me cope even better with Mondays. Wherever you work, personalize it for yourself. I work out of our home, so I really have the ability to take care of what makes me happy. If you have some limitations on what you can add to your own work space, then just be a little more creative. Perhaps your screen saver, or a family picture or a picture of someone who makes you smile, a small desk light to help warm up your space vs. the fluorescent lighting that most offices have, and attractive organization boxes for office necessities. Everything in your office should tell a story about you. One of my favorite things that I had (and still do) is a sign that says, "Out of my mind. Be back in 5 minutes." I must admit, that this is how I feel many times.

To know that I have something to look forward to is important. Just as in our everyday lives, working on planning a trip can be as exciting and invigorating as actually going. Planning something for Monday can be just as exciting. You always need something to look forward to. It does not need to be a major event. Maybe just a special kind of coffee to pick up on the way to work, taking a walk outside during your lunch break, or even joining a club that meets on Monday evenings. I was reading a blog by Austin Kleon where he talks about ASGs. This stands for Arbitrary Stupid Goals. 

The book is actually by Tamara Shopsin. These goals can actually push you out of bed to get up and to get started on your day. As Kleon wrote in his blog based on a quote from Julia Louis-Dreyfus that we all have to have something that we are looking forward to next. She stated that this was advice that her mother used to tell her. Smart lady, in my opinion.

Something that can really make me feel happier is when I think of kindness vs. productivity. I have discovered that through kindness, not only toward others but towards myself, actually increased my productivity. These are little things, really. A simple compliment or smile can turn someone's frumpy morning totally around and this can do the same from within me.

One important thing for me to remember is that it is okay to not be in a good mood all of the time. Don't force it. Knowing that it is unrealistic to be in a good mood 100% of the time, my goal is to work on 95% of the time. My mood elevator may not be on the top floor all 95% of the time, however, how I respond to whatever is bringing me down or set up ways to avoid some of what I can plan with what I want to look forward to can at least move it further up to the top. Life is tough. I came to the realization that it is possible to be in a good mood yet be going through some difficult times. It actually can make it easier to get through the tough times. 

Let's do a little reversal here. My Monday starts with getting in my mindset on Sunday night. Instead of the usual, "Oh woe is me...tomorrow is Monday," basically because Sunday late afternoons and evenings were filled with rush, rush, rush. Hurry, let's get the sheets washed and dried and the bed remade. Or cooking a major dinner without going over the recipe beforehand and having specific ingredients and team work for the preparation is not relaxing and is already stressing me out. 

That is easy enough to solve by changing the plans around. Do the bed/laundry on Saturday. I love writing, so I changed my Monday blog writing to Sunday. I placed a Jasmine and Patchouli candle on my desk that fills the room with a wonderful aroma and adds to the ambiance of the room. Now that it is summertime...use the pool in the afternoon for relaxing and water jogging. All this means is that I take a later shower. Working the Sunday crossword puzzle or reading. Planning a movie or listening to music with the love of my life is always a relaxing way to end the weekend. 

Words that I try to live by: Invest some energy into making Monday and every day something that I can look forward to do and enjoy.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Do You Ever Need Someone To Turn On Your Switch?

Sometimes I forget what it is that helps me have a happy, healthy, and productive day. I need someone to turn my switch back on in order to get there. It can be reasons that are out of my control such as the weather. What is in my control is how I respond to it.

If you have been reading my blogs then you are aware that we now have two goldendoodles. One is only 3 months old, while the older one is 2 1/2 yrs. old. The older doodle does not like to go outside to do his business in the rain. Saturday night was more than just rain. It was a torrential downpour that lasted for quite some time. Of course, it was the time for the last call to do our nightly business and neither one of the furbabies would venture out in it. 

We had a choice. Put them in their crates and when they were uncomfortable and needed to go out, they would wake us at 2 or 3 A.M. - some ungodly hour. Or the puppy would just have an accident in her crate which we never want to happen. It never happened with the older one. The other choice was to wait up with them and stay up later than we wanted to. Both of us are at the stage in our lives that we NEED a certain amount of sleep to function happily! Being a dog family means there is not much sleeping in late so it requires us to go to bed earlier to achieve this goal.

Finally, the rain let up somewhat, and we were able to get them out, and managed to get soaking wet with them. Good news? They did their business and went on to bed. We got out of our wet clothes and went straight to bed.

Here is where my point is going. BOTH of us were miserable for a while on Sunday morning. We heard Maggie Mae at 7 (only because we stayed up so late with her to go out). I started to get up and so did Steve. He said for me to stay, then when I woke up and dressed, he would come back and sleep, then shower and dress. It was teamwork. Thank goodness we could do this because we had a fantastic Memphis Symphony Orchestra Concert to attend at 2:30. Neither one of us wanted to fall asleep when the lights went down and the music started.

When you need your switch turned on there are many ways to do this. Becoming overwhelmed and frustrated is not in this picture. For myself, I thought long and hard about the difference that the two of us make in each other's lives. We were able to turn what could have been a miserable day into a happy ending. According to Lou Holtz, "Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it."

Most days are happy days for me and I started to ask myself if there was an specific thing that I do in order for this to happen. I did come up with ideas that seem to take place on really good days. First of all I do like to have a quiet time to think about what I may be doing for the day that I am grateful about. For example, today I was so grateful that we were going to stop off and pick up some colorful plants for outside and our screened porch, referred to as our inside-out room. I have replayed in my mind what it will be like to finally be able to sit out in this beautiful room and have plants. Due to some health issues, we did not use it much at all, nor the swimming pool last year. Things are looking so much better in so many ways. 

Another thing that I noticed is as I am thinking about my day ahead, I need to be sure that I am accepting it for what it is and not wishing that it would be something different. Some errands/jobs are just not as glorious as others, yet they still must be done. It is all about trying to bring your best self to what is coming up. As Diana Ross said, "I can be a better me than anyone can." It works out a lot better and happier than wasting emotional energy on focusing on the down side.

While I am on the subject of acceptance, I think that kindness fits here very well. Kindness acts to others, as well as myself. It gives me a good feeling to experience an act of kindness from someone, but it actually feels even better to actually be the one doing something kind for someone else. It is a sure fire way to help brighten the day. It is amazing what a simple smile or a kind word can do for someone and for yourself. Kindness is contagious.

Self-care falls right into my next train of thought. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. It is a way of respecting not only yourself, but others. If you don't take care of you, mentally and physically, it is impossible to do a good job at taking care of others. It is treating yourself as a friend and we all need to think  about what we need to feel supported and nourished. Is it a friend or family member to be a sounding board? Or maybe just a hug from someone special will do it for you. It does not always need to cost money. 

Although, I must admit that a manicure/pedicure, massage or just a new pair of cute shoes is one form of self-care that I very much enjoy. It is more along the lines of self-care therapy. It is not the ONLY way to take care of oneself if you want happiness in your day.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Puppy Training 101

Let's get something clear right from the start. I am not any kind of professional puppy trainer. That is for sure! I am just feeling the need to get down on paper some of the things that I have learned (the hard way) so far about training puppies. There is no one specific right way! 

Here is the myth: as a new owner of a goldendoodle I believed that it was my responsibility to train her. This is so wrong on so many levels. Whatever breed of puppy that you choose, you need to know the characteristics of that particular dog. Let me explain to you that every puppy has their own special kind of intelligence, I know. I have had some very intelligent dogs. The thing about doodles is their level of intelligence mixed with their personalities puts them in a total different category. Our little one has shown us that on one level her nickname should be Miss Prissy, because that is what she does when she walks around us. It is sort of a sashay. Then again she could also be nicknamed Miss Piggy. She most definitely is one we will need to watch on how much food is given to her. She will eat hers and then her brother's bowl. He is more of a slow eater, grazing through the day usually some at noonish and again at 5. I have actually had to hold his bowl up for him to eat or else Maggie will be in it.

This category can be your worst nightmare if you do not read up on doodles and what to expect. From the moment that they decide to bond with you, they have a cunning plan on how best to train you. And get this? They don't even have a powerpoint presentation. Doods have it all worked out in their amazing minds. As the owner, you need all the knowledge that you can get your hands on to read to stay one step ahead. (If you are lucky!)

This blog is more or less sharing with you what I have learned on how to help your doodle train you so that you and your family can have a happy home.

You must have chosen a goldendoodle because like me, I fell in love with their teddy bear looks, their soft silky coat, wagging tails and soulful eyes. Who can resist? What you may not know is that these furbabies have distinctive behavior patterns that are hard-wired into their brains that make them very different.

Once you bring your puppy home, you will soon find out some of their special behaviors. In my opinion, the crate for house training is crucial. You really need to be able to give 2 -3 weeks of non-stop supervising and writing in a journal. We found a crate bedding that is anti-chew resistant. We know this from our older doodle. He chewed through every bed we ever purchased until I researched this company called  K-9 Ballistics. Never has he, nor our newest puppy, attempted to chew on it. Therefore making it safe to leave them overnight in the crate and knowing that they will not chew it up and ingest the stuffing. 

Our two have their own crates and Davis does not quite fit into Maggie's. As you can see, she just climbs on top of him. Where there is a will, there is a way.

As you can see in the second picture, they have their own crates, but many times Davis tries to take a nap on the cool hardwood floor and Maggie uses him as her table to chew on her bully stick.

If a blanket from their breeder is given to you, then use it in the crate too. Maggie actually has the red one from when Davis was a puppy in her crate. Helps with separation anxiety and if you have the right size crate, they will not want to soil it. Works like magic. Limit food after 5 and then only small amounts of water available if needed up till 8. Our bedtime is 10 so out the puppies go (one at a time to avoid distraction from one another at this stage) 

to do their last business of the night before taking them in and gently saying, "Go home." We point to their crates and in they go. It is not a punishment. In fact, their doors are left open during the day and they can roam in and out as freely as they wish. 

The usual alarm clock, Maggie Mae who is now 3 months old, starts with some gentle whimpers. One of us hears her and out she goes immediately. It is rather urgent usually, so don't waste time. We use jingle/tinkle bells on the doors in the day but for this case, it is out the door softly repeating, "Let's go out to the potty." Like clockwork, she takes care of business.

It is at this time that the new journal page begins. Date at the top of the page, put in the time and write # 1 or # 2 or both! It is also important to write feeding times, play times and napping times in between. We actually set a timer of 15 minutes and take her to the jingle bells, ring them and say to her that we are going out to potty. She needs to hear a comforting and loving voice. Communication is the key. As the day continues, every 15 minutes, the timer will go off and if she is not napping, eating or involved in heavy duty playtime, we ring the jingle bells and say to her that it is time to go potty. After a few days of writing in the journal, you will begin to see a pattern of when to expect # 1 and # 2, along with when she will be napping.

Now that she has been with us in our home for 4 weeks we are seeing that her bladder is getting larger to hold it longer and we are making it 30 minutes to an hour before having the need to go out. We are home with her and still set the timer for 15 minutes but usually end up canceling it due to the fact that she can go longer between trips.

In the beginning, we did have a few accidents. They were all because we were not paying attention to her signals. She is still learning to ring the bells. There are times that she does and other times she just goes to the gate or the door and sits. If we don't pay attention then we have, "Clean up on aisle 4!" to take care of. So always have paper towels, and swiffter mop with disinfectant spray on hand.

 Lucky for us, she has us trained to be on the look out. She even has her older doodle brother that has seen her at the gate, neither one of us noticing so he just rings the bells for her to get our attention. Now that is smart! Potty training is being consistent and using a happy voice with the same praises and rewards. It also helps to limit her access to spaces where you can't supervise. If you can't supervise, then she needs to be crated. 

Maggie learned by Day 2 that after she goes out to potty, if she goes to the special drawer and sits still, that magically, she will be given a small treat. Her brother taught her that one. Everything that he does, she does. If we say Davis sit, he does and she watches and then does the very same thing. One of Davis' games is ring around the rosy. He gets something that he should not have and he goes around the island in the kitchen or a breakfast table and just taunts us to chase him. Doodles love this game. Biggest mistake? Play it with him. It helps to have another person in the house to head him off. It also helps to teach the command to drop it. Usually, he does. 

Training to sit, shake, down and stay are fairly easy. Maggie just watches Davis. The trick that we are facing is the cheekiness in their personalities of not coming when called. This is a behavior that we are currently working on. When in puppy school, Davis was the star of the class when it came to this command. Get him home and outside when something caught his attention and he develops selective hearing. Maggie does the same thing. It is a little tough on the ego when you realize that you are not the center of their universe.

Then, there is something called "zoomies" with goldendoodles. Suddenly your precious little puppy seems to be possessed; running wildly at top speed and looking at you with wild eyes. At first, I actually thought that our dog was having a wild seizure. It is a perfectly normal behavior, noted especially in goldendoodles that can last 5 - 10 minutes. It is a way to get out built up energy. Also, it is a time for you to check if your doodle is getting enough exercise.

Moderate exercise is the best way to handle goldendoodles because of their ligaments and fragile joints that can lead to aggravating hip or elbow dysplasia later in life. This works out fine with us. No joggers here. In fact, if you see me running, you should start running too because it means something is chasing me.

One last item that I would like to bring up is due to the long legs of standard goldendoodles, they are excellent at counter surfing. In other words, whatever is left out on the counter top is fair game to them. Whether it is a plate of food or tea towels and napkins. There are ways to avoid this. Apparently, they actually sell counter shockers. This is the last approach that I would take. I did hear about stacking muffin trays and setting a trap whereas your doodle pulls on the tea towel and the stack of muffin trays fall the ground with a loud clang. I tried that once. It scared him. He learned not to go near that trap again. Problem was that I would have to set the traps every 12 inches across the kitchen counters. That wasn't going to happen. So our older doodle has us trained to not ever, ever put food out on the counter tops and to have all tea towels out of reach. 

I can say that two doodles are better than one. They thoroughly entertain one another. Sometimes, I believe that Maggie Mae thinks that her brother is just her own private giant toy. He puts up with it. The socialization skills that he learned at Walnut Grove Doggie Day Care helps him know the limits when playing with a smaller dog. He is a kind and gentle dog and once he has had enough of Maggie, he simply wraps his big front leg around her in a hug, as if to say, "Let's just chill out for a moment."

They are inseparable and we can't imagine our lives without the two of them.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

What Is Success

What exactly does it mean to experience success. It is my belief that each of us have our own definition of success. Only I can know what it is that truly makes me happy. I must be the one to set my goals, write them down and work on them in baby steps. That cliche that 'Rome was not built in a day' most definitely applies to being successful.

Now, of course, there are little things that keep me going in order to feel happy and successful, such as having a productive day decluttering, clearing the laundry or even making a delicious meal. These are the little things that lead to the big ones. I know that I am not happy if I do not stay on top of things. This is not being a hard nosed OCD kind of person. I just like to make my lists, prioritize what would make me the happiest if I achieved checking off items on my list. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Usually, there is a very good reason why I don't. This is not a cop out. I have learned to be kind and realistic with myself. Nobody is perfect. I like to think of this as a motivation to become better instead of an excuse.

My biggest goal is to complete my novel. I am getting there; word by word, paragraph by paragraph, page by page and chapter by chapter. It is hard work. It is my hard work and it is something that I enjoy immensely. It is a matter of not comparing myself and my time frame to others. My life has other events taking place that I must change the priorities for the day. 

For example: I can't live in our home with dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piled up, dust balls rolling across the floor, mail piled up to go through and sort, etc. I have to take time to do these things and make the time to sit and write. Plus, I want to do other things such as read, write a blog each week, work on a crossword puzzle, attend a concert or see a movie with my husband, shop, and the list goes on and on. 

When I am working on my novel, it has to be a time that I can concentrate so that I get my time line of what is happening as the story unfolds in the right order. I actually learned this the hard way and had to go back and add a chapter in to pull my story together. I try not to look at it as a delay in my success but as a stepping stone toward my success.

Success is always under construction. It is not a simple black and white issue. I can visualize my success, no matter how large or how small each success may be, knowing that I am working on what makes me happy is a positive way to achieve my goals.

The last couple of weeks, my actual novel writing has slowed considerably due to adding a new member to our family.

Maggie Mae, our 2 1/2 month old new Goldendoodle, is entertainment in itself. And if you have ever gone through puppy training, it can be brutal for a few weeks. One really positive thing about this is that it is true: Two doodles are better than one. I say this because our 2 1/2 year old doodle is teaching her the ropes, in a good way I might add. 

Maggie has us trained on when to get her outside to do her business. This means that I can't be engrossed in my writing because I must keep a lookout for when she goes to the door or very gently rings the tinkle bells to go out. The exception to this rule is when she finally crashes out asleep for 1 - 2 hours. This usually happens once in the morning and once in the afternoon. And for the most part she sleeps through the night up until 5:30 AM. This means that a nap needs to happen for me and for my husband. It is a matter of team work. It is how we get things accomplished in our home. Luckily, he also does not like things to pile up so together we make it work. 

We can feel our success in all aspects of our lives. Eating healthier is a goal for both of us and we are losing weight at a steady, although a slow rate. It is a good thing to think big, however, this is not going to happen overnight and it is important to not let this weigh down our motivation to get to our goal. (yes, pun intended) Taking those bags of clothes that are way too big is definitely a big motivation.

There is no time for procrastination. It is a time for being persistent. It helps to reach milestones, even the small ones. Take deep breaths and even possibly rearrange your priorities for the day. Set up positive mantras that will see you through. 

Knowing that success in whatever your goals may be is just ahead. Reflect on what you desire, know your own personal limitations so that you don't set yourself up for failure. I know that I can't get my novel written by a specific date, so I am more open to setting small goals. With everything else going on in my life, I try to do a positive balancing act. I know that I can't change certain aspects of what is going on in my life at this moment in time. Each day brings a different view of how my day needs to flow. It is a matter of being flexible and staying positive. Most importantly it is crucial to always:

Remember, success is a journey not a destination. Words from Arthur Ashe ~