Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fifteen Minutes A Day--Dog Training #1

I accomplished my first at-home dog training session yesterday. Honestly, I hadn't the gumption to do it until yesterday, and even then it was hard to get myself to do it.

After a long hard day of massage clients, grocery shopping, finding room in the freezer and pantry for the ginormous boxes of things from Costco, and making dinner, I just didn't think I had the energy for dog training. But there was Ali, all ready to do his part, so I did.

Ali and Casey Jones from earlier this year.

Ali took one dog outside in the back, and I tried with the other in the living room--but soon ended up in the carport and driveway out front. It was clumsy and weird and not very much fun. At first, Humphrey  was so triggered and excited--thinking he was going on a walk (or car ride)--that I couldn't interest him in any treats. (You're supposed to use a "measured portion of your dog's meal" when training, so they don't get too much food.)

Kibble just wasn't cutting it.

So I switched to cheese.

Now I had my dog's attention.

But it was still awkward.

On the plus side, Humphrey seemed to enjoy himself after he figured out that we weren't actually going anyplace. So, for Humphrey, training is a WIN.

"Time with mom, activity, and cheese?!"

Humphrey at a north-of-Florence beach in August.

I'll try it again tonight. Trying it at different times during the day will be important, I think. I'm sure I'll stumble upon the right rhythm for us.

It's hard to train with other dogs around, what with their excellent hearing and all. Just locking one dog in the bedroom while I go to the living room, or backyard, with the other doesn't work. Barking and freak-outs ensue.

But what else are you going to do?

Ali had the idea to do Casey Jones' training while on his morning walk. But that holds complications, too. The third dog couldn't be along, so that means: not walking him, walking Casey Jones twice, or having me walk Banjo--leaving Humphrey home alone and distraught that he's not going on a walk.

The only reason Humphrey is semi reasonable about not going on walks anymore, is that I distract him with toys in the backyard. Fetch is a great tool for us. He gets super tuckered out and all pant-y after playing.

In addition to the training, we have added supplements, better food, more play time, doggy Xanax, and meals out of food toys to slow down their eating time and adding mental stimulation to their day.

Casey Jones and Humphrey are still separated.

The biggest two challenges this presents is: most notably, our family has less together time now. One of us (teen or adult) is with the dogs in the bedroom, and one is with the third dog in the living room. We have less time together, which majorly bites. Less cuddling, less quality time, less conversation, less chill time, and less...romantic time. Also less chore time. Things are piling up.

The other challenge is: the dogs are acting up from the change. Humphrey is now getting into the garbage. After many failed attempts, we now seem to have the advantage over him. We put the garbage in a bathroom, behind closed doors (which he opens), in the shower stall, behind closed doors (which he currently can not open.)

And Casey Jones (and sometimes even Banjo) has started barking from the bedroom.

Ali and Banjo at a recent camping trip. 

None of the dogs want to be in there.

And, unfortunately, the lot falls to Casey Jones and Banjo, because Humphrey gets so stressed in there that he starts digging grooves in the wall by the door knob. He used to just let himself out until we changed out the door handle to a door knob.

So far he can't open that.

I, quite honestly, am sad and stressed at this current set up. I don't know how to improve the situation, unless it is by working on it fifteen minutes a day.

Fifteen Minutes A Day, whose acronym reminds me of "F-ing MAD," is my new mantra.

I can handle anything for fifteen minutes.

Especially if it's only once a day.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Moment by the Lake

I have forgotten my camera at the tent, and I don't want to disturb the dogs by retrieving it.

I am sitting in dappled morning sun, over-looking Lake Charlton. There are no ripples on its mirrored surface, only steam rising from it. The sun peeks through pine needles on an adjacent tree, and I can almost look at it with my sunglasses.

The silence presses against my eardrums, and then I hear past the silence. Birds, insects buzzing, a camper's slow rumble of a snore, a camp-mate's propane burner for making that first cup of camp coffee.

Soon kindling is being chopped and I wonder again about retrieving my camera.

I've only come out for one night of camping--and it seems both ridiculous to do so, and absolutely necessary.

A micro-adventure into nature to hear The Piper playing his songs. I hear them in the birdsong across the lake, in the breeze that flutters past my ears and dances in the spider webs.

The kindling catches and the campfire smoke floats out to the lake.

My coffee has grown lukewarm and so a trek to the car to get another bottle of propane is next. I will eat instant oatmeal without guilt and make a cup of chai.

There is a half-hearted talk between the only other two campers awake yet of taking the canoe out, but I don't want to move from my spot. I'm enjoying the quiet like I haven't since I arrived yesterday afternoon. Soon enough the quiet will end.

I was hoping for silent epiphany last night, but I was kept engaged with my friends--enjoying the night--and without sleep late until the wee dark hours of the morning.

But maybe this morning's silence by campfire and following the sun rise higher in the tree's needles is enough.

The Piper card from the Faerie Oracle deck said for me to come camping, so I did.

I'm confident that I have received, or will receive, whatever infusion I needed to clear my head and center into me again.

The more I think about it, the more I believe my healing and personal growth were aided by this view this morning. This still lake, this crackling fire, this quiet morning with the scent of infusing each breath.

This moment is why I came out to Mother Gaia--why I'm here today.

Monday, September 21, 2015

When Organizing Isn't Enough

Whenever I get overwhelmed with things to do and systems to maintain and plans not working out and forgetting things and losing things and just not feeling like I'm enough, I turn to books.

Of course I do.

And this time I'm re-reading Julie Morgenstern's When Organizing Isn't Enough: SHED your stuff, change your life.

I'm reading it slow, and in sections, this time--actually doing the steps as I go. As opposed to reading through it in one go and saying, "I've read it; it doesn't work." Of course it doesn't work if you don't follow up with the actions required to change behaviors. Duh. But sometimes in my quest for Fixing It, I speed  skim through the hard part. The working part.

The book has prompted me to think of a current theme for my life, and to think of when or where my clutter entered my life. These together will help me get to the why of the clutter, and help me to only keep the things in my life that fall under (or contribute to) my current theme.


I think that for the past three years, my life's theme has been building up my romantic relationship with my loverloverman--solidifying it, growing it, loving it. I also have been continuing to mother my teenagers--encouraging them and advocating for their needs.

But just recently--in the last six to eight months--I've shifted my focus to my author business. I'm charged and ready to grow it and I've got game plans and mentors at the ready. 

One of my historical problems--"And I say one, because there are many"(Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice)--is in not utilizing my time and environment judiciously. So that, looking back, I say, "Damn! Why didn't I do xxx then? I had the time and opportunity then. Now it's way more difficult."

I haven't missed the chance to do xxx, but I've missed the easy chance to do it. I make things harder for myself than they need to be. Chronically.

I'd like to transition into a place in my life where I am joyously using my time on the things that matter to me--so that I don't feel like I've wasted my time, or worse, frittered away my time on unimportant things.

Instead of bemoaning that I wished I had all the time to work on my author business, I want to rejoice knowing that I am living my dream life right now. My schedule allows me family time, partner time, personal time, business time, hobby time, and a couple of days a week for secular work. My "day" job is only two days a week.

Therefore, it feels appropriate that my theme(s) are thus:

Career theme--Building my author business with joy, serenity, and balance.

Personal theme--Rediscovering joy in my authentic self.

Coincidentally--and serendipitous too!--my career and personal themes dovetail so neatly together that they feel the same to me. Finding joy in my work and personal life leads to serenity and balance in my work and personal life.


I think my paper messiness (which is by far the bulk of my untidiness) was a combination of (1) not having time to deal with the accumulating stuff, (2) the quest to be the practical do-it-yourselfer ("That could be useful someday"/hoarding hand-me-downs and not-quite-right stuff because it was better than being without), and (3) and seeing myself as a busy, important-type person.

Busy, messy desks also signified creativity to me somehow.

How could I be creative and clean?


After dissecting my life and trying to find out when the clutter started, as per Julie Morgenstern's instructions, I think I've pinpointed it to 2002, when I moved in with my now ex-husband. And the clutter has continued to this day.

My mother may disagree, but I don't remember being super messy as a kid. My room certainly looked cleaner than some of my friends'. And in my first marriage, despite moving multiple times, my office wasn't ever out of hand that I remember.

In particular, I remember one rental house in Kalispell, Montana with a sloped floor and cottonwood trees in the back. My great-grandmother's vanity table sat in the dining room/kitchen and we used it for a desk. The phone sat on top and the drawers held the phone book, pens/pencils, various supplies, and paper for taking phone messages or writing letters. It was rarely messy and I loved it. I was proud of the family heirloom entrusted to my care.

Army life after that was always pristine. It had to be.

The messiness of my second marriage wasn't paper, just "baby" and dirty dishes.

The house I lived in as a young widow was a little chaotic sometimes, with little ones and being suddenly single--but whole chunks of the house were clean and serene. That was my theme then--finding serenity and inner peace.

It was only after I moved in with my now-ex, and my first child started kindergarten, that the kitchen bar and table started filling up with papers--bills, receipts, documents, kids' artwork and schoolwork, et cetera.

After the WHEN, it was time for the WHY

I thought, at first, that in my quest to be a nurturing mom, I wanted to keep everything. That could certainly cause clutter, but it didn't really ring true. Then I thought maybe I was just pre-occupied and never could get to the organizing of it. But I'd hired organizers to come in and make everything great, to have it fall apart again within three weeks. So that wasn't it.

Did I not have the skill-set for organizing? No, because it was organized before 2002.

Maybe I just had too much stuff and it spilled out everywhere. Maybe a sense of lack prevented me from getting rid of the papers. But that didn't seem right either. I don't think I'd miss much of it if I got rid of the whole kit and caboodle.

What was my attachment to my clutter?

Before the mess was calmness, a little bit of loneliness, and a desire for a large family.

And then it started coming together a little.

Maybe the reason I had clutter piling up around the office and dining room was because I'd simply prioritized something else all those years.

My theme for thirteen years had been nurturing my family and growing romantic relationships. I just didn't have time or energy to keep my paper clutter at bay; I was focused on something else.

But now that my kids are semi-autonomous, and I'm in a refreshingly awesome romantic relationship, I can shift my theme back to reclaiming joy and serenity in my personal life and to growing my author business in joy, balance, and serenity.

What's your theme right now? 
When and why did your clutter start?

Next step from Julie's book is to seek out my treasures, and keep those. I'm looking forward to approaching my office with a sense of joy--finding those items that create that joy in me, and also those things that contribute to my current theme. Then, I heave the trash.

Do you see? It's the other way around in every other organizing book I've read--and there have been many. Usually one goes through and makes piles for thrift stores, recycling, and trash; then puts away what's left. But I think that going through and looking for those things that light you up is far more enticing than Organizing The Office.

Who wants to make time for that?

So seek your treasures then! 
Leave a comment about what you find. We'll do this together.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Am I a Fiction Snob?

Because I've been reading non-fiction almost exclusively lately, I have challenged myself to pick up fiction. I never really thought of myself as a fiction snob, but I frequently am disappointed about the novels I pick up.

And I don't know why.

I'm interested in discovering this answer, both as a reader and a writer.

As a reader, I obviously want to be swept away to another time or place, fall in love with the characters, and/or be otherwise entertained. I usually stick to literary or mainstream fiction because I prefer a strong character arc to my books. I don't care so much about the plot, and I lovelovelove beautiful language.

I assumed that genre novels (romance, scifi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, horror) didn't focus on character development and were more akin to Hollywood blockbusters for the ADHD crowd.

But that's ungenerous.

So I've specifically challenged myself to read more genre fiction. I purchased seven genre e-books--mostly romance, but two darker ones. I thought maybe the romances would surprise me. I do, after all, enjoy romantic comedies. Though, I have to admit that my favorite rom-coms are independent ones, and not the Hollywood blockbuster ones. (Strike one for genre.) And my only experience with romance novels were a couple of unfortunate Danielle Steels and Victoria Holt's gothic romance in my high school years, Harlequins in middle school, and some Nora Roberts when I was desperate for a book to read in my early thirties.

But that's ungenerous. Again.

So maybe I am a fiction snob.

But that doesn't add up either, because there are plenty of "classics" and award-winning novels that I couldn't wrap my head around (or even understand sometimes) and even stopped reading before the end--unheard of in my earlier days of reading.

I think what I really am attracted to is voice. The author's voice.

So, as a writer, I'm interested in what makes me turn the pages as a reader. What is it about an author's voice that I like?

That's harder to identify. And--it seems--is completely subjective. Which makes it hard to duplicate as a writer.

Right now, I am reading Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber. More mainstream fiction. I know, I know.

But what's a girl to do with a To Be Read pile like this?

I'll read one of the new genre e-books next. Promise.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Doggy Dilemmas

Time for another seven minute blog post!

Since last I wrote, life took an unfortunate turn.

Two of my dogs fought again.

It was super traumatic. For me and the dogs. I only now feel partially recovered. I mildly injured my hand in trying to break up the fight--just stiff and a little swelling/over quickly, but I'm talking about the emotional trauma. I honestly thought they were killing each other. I knew with certainty that one of them would end up dead. I tried everything to get them apart. I even called 911, who patched me to the Police Department, who said that the Animal Control people had left for the day already. By the time they had called back to check in on me, I had miraculously managed to get them apart.

I'm not re-living the event in my mind nearly as often as before, and slowly feeling a little better every day.

They've been separated for over a week and this makes our home life more stressful. No more snuggling on the bed together. No more lounging in the living room with my loverloverman and all three dogs. Now we take turns sitting with them in different parts of the house, making it so that even the humans get separated from each other for stretches of time. (insert sad face)

At least the rigor of medications is over. Two different pain meds and two different antibiotics, two and three times a day, for two different dogs was crazy insane to go through. I've been to several vet appointments, with still one more to go. Humphrey needs to go in next week to get his stitches removed.

Also next week we start a new kind of dog training. I have high hopes for this time around. We've done others in the past with limited success. Loverloverman is right in pointing out that some of that "limited success" was our fault for not personally training them everyday (in addition to the two training sessions the professionals would come and do each week.) And this training will focus on changing dog emotions--specifically the problem ones: fear, anxiety, aggression.

We will be putting both dogs through training (a first), and both dogs will get personally trained by us every day (also a first). We will be changing around some of the things at home that cause extra stress for the dogs, hoping that will create a way for them to deal with their dislike of each other in less "rough and tumble" ways.

For instance, we will be installing a mailbox at the street. Two of our dogs go completely dire-wolf on the mailman through the window when he or she approaches the house mail slot. Why get the doggy adrenaline going and just cause them to be all fired up around each other? That's a recipe for disaster, right? With a mailbox at the street, no mailman at the house, no doggy freak-out, no running into each other, no fighting. Win/Win.

I'll blog about our training successes (or failures) in the upcoming weeks.

Look here for tips and tricks that might help you in your doggy dilemmas. Let's learn together.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Exercise in Slaying the Perfectionist

I'm suffering from perfectionism right now.

I haven't blogged for many many months and it's because -- I think -- I've made a mountain out of a mole hill. Blogging is just journal writing, with a little more focus. But somehow I've built it up to being this big scary platform-building professional thing. And it's not. It really isn't. It's just a diary.

Sort of.

So, I made a deal with a member of my Mastermind Group that I'd blog for seven minutes today and post it. And then text him that I did. Accountability, yo.

Newsy Updates:

My garden is out of control. The front yard has gone all ghetto (which means it needs to be mowed and weeded and the carport needs to be organized, dusted and swept.) It's embarrassing to walk up or drive up to my house. The others around me are charming.

I might be insane enough to can some dill pickles this Saturday. I'll let you know if I do. And I'm going to start up the kombucha and jun again. Hooray!

I went on my first ever writer's retreat, which was divine. I had days and days of reading, napping, and revising my manuscript of Herbal Junction. And I got to re-connect with a lovely lady that means a lot to me.

My teens are starting up high school again next week, and I'm so glad to get back to my more regular routine. I love FALL!

What are your newsy updates?

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Writer

This post is not because I think my life is so super interesting, but rather because lately I've been wondering what other writers' days look like. And in my wonderings, I started looking at my own days.

My hope is that this post will spark others who blog to capture what An Ordinary Life of a _______ looks like. [Insert: plumber, ballerina, lawyer, landscape artist, et cetera.] There are always people who are interested in your lifestyle choices and how it works for you on a daily basis.

For instance, when I home-schooled my children, I poured over home-schooling/creativity blogs to gather ideas of what to do with my own kids at home.

Maybe it's because we are all voyeuristic and nosy, but the fly-on-the-wall-cam is one most people I know would sneak peeks at from time to time.

So, without further adieu, here's what last Friday looked like for me:

  • alarm rang at 6:10 a.m.; hit snooze twice
  • let dogs out; woke son for school
  • showered and dressed
  • fed dogs
  • made lunches for three people
  • checked the garden to see if it needed water
  • made myself tea and toast; checked emails
Okay, that was the boring part. Here's where it gets more writer-ly:
  • drove my son to school, then went to a coffee shop to meet a friend for chatting
  • read a couple blog posts and articles; re-posted them on my author social media sites
  • opened up Scrivener files and wrote on novel manuscript while I waited for my friend--1000 new words!
  • visited with my friend for an hour
  • went home and snacked; read a magazine article and Facebooked a teeny bit (Honest!)
  • worked on a manuscript review for a client for two hours
I tried working in the office, but the dogs stood and stared at me until I joined them on the couch.

That was my "work" part of the day. Here's the crazy mom part: (Please note that my work day is considerably shorter than the crazy mom part, which begs the question, "If the majority of my day is spent doing one thing, how can I call myself another thing? I don't think my business cards would be as accepted if they said Valerie Willman, crazy mom.)
  • picked up my son and his friend from school
my son, the plague doctor

  • stopped at the farmer's market on the way home and picked up my raw juice order
  • when home, called the vet because one of the dogs ate my vitamins and supplements that I'd set out to take that morning, and forgot
  • vacuumed all the floors in the house--except my children's. You just don't go in there.
  • took a ten minute break with wine
  • greeted oldest child fresh home from school and watched them perform a dance routine they are learning at school
  • lead son and his friend in a snack-finding mission
  • unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and wiped down the counters
  • fed the dogs
  • started dinner
  • texted with a friend trying to get a group of us to go to the movies that night
  • watched oldest child again (different dance routine section)
  • aided oldest child in snack mission
  • checked on dinner
  • started baking bread in the bread machine
  • contemplated mopping the muddy dog prints off the solid surface floors but yearned for the hot tub long enough that the urge to clean was mostly passed
  • swept the carport instead, and took out all the trashes
  • wondered if I should clean off the dining room table, but--it being 6:00 p.m.--decided I was too tired for anything boring like that and yearned for Netflix and Hulu alternatives.
  • Remembered the hot tub...and then that I was taking my oldest to a play a student friend was performing in, and that I still intended to henna my hair that night. Nix on the hot tub.
  • Drank more wine in hopes of an evening plan forming.
  • Acknowledged the swiss chard still needed to be prepped for dinner and silently whined to myself. I took another sip of whine--I mean wine.
Here's where I deteriorate into madness--but in a jolly sort of way:
  • Craved chocolate; had a small can of peaches instead.
  • Craved chocolate and ate two handfuls of chocolate sprinkles out of the baking cupboard.
  • Noted that this was all because I wanted to get in the hot tub, but couldn't yet--hot tubbing requiring nudity, and nudity and driving my kid to the Wildish Theater didn't mix.
  • Checked the chicken and rice again.
  • Tried to find a game for the younger teens to play. They ignored me and listened to weird military cadences on their smart phones. They decided to give the Wii a try.
  • I pulled the chocolate sprinkles out of the cupboard, because I hadn't actually eaten them yet, just written about it because it seemed like something I'd so. Recognized that since I hadn't actually eaten them, I could still make the healthy choice to NOT eat them, but told myself that since I'd already written I had, I needed to be true to the original sentiment of the daily entry, and ate them. (That's impeccability of word for you. Isn't that one of the Four Agreements?)
  • One dog looked at me as if asking to go outside; I remembered about the chard again. I didn't want to make it. None of the kids would eat it, I was sure. Did I want to make it just for me?
  • I let the dogs out.
  • I went on a hunt for batteries so the boys could both play with the Wii.
This is what peace and quiet for crazy moms looks like.

  • Closed the back door. Remembered my propensity for locking dogs outside and checked the house to make sure all three were inside.
  • I marveled at the teens all talking and hanging out together without freaking out and smiled at my 14-year-old's deep voice, then worried that he said "bitch" to his video games too much.
  • Checked the dinner again. It was done.
  • Decided it was too late to make the chard. Felt lowly and guilty for not eating my healthy greens and hoped that my healthier partner wouldn't find out I ditched my veggies out of laziness again.
  • Informed the kids that dinner was ready and convinced myself that my parenting duties were fulfilled for the day and I could be done. WooHoo!
  • Closed the back door, because somehow it was open again.
  • Checked the house for all three dogs again. One was missing. I let him in. He was looking in the window of the living room for me. <3
  • Ate dinner while watching the last half of a West Wing episode I'd already started.
  • Dropped off my oldest at the play.
  • Knew that this would be a perfect time to henna my hair, but wanted to watch another episode first.
  • Craved chocolate again, so I shifted from wine to hot chocolate with marshmallows. 
  • Watched two episodes of West Wing waiting for my kid to text me they were done with the play.
  • Washed dinner dishes and wiped counters again.
  • Changed t.p. roll in the bathroom and took recycling out.
  • Henna'ed hair.
  • Picked up oldest from the theater.
  • Sat in hot tub.
  • Showered to wash the henna out.
  • Went to pick up partner at airport at midnight.
  • We visited a little, then brushed our teeth and went to sleep.
Imagine this, only at 1 a.m.

I was pleased with the day. It really was one of my favorites. I think this was because it was so well balanced. It was long, and I didn't sit down much--except for the West Wing part--but most of the aspects of my life were lovingly attended to. 

I was creative and worked on my book. I socialized. I worked on client work. I hung out with my awesome kids. I cleaned and cooked, looked after my dogs and garden, and still had time for personal grooming and relaxing. It was great! Here's hoping to re-creating that type of balance in future days. [sound of wine glass clinking with a hot chocolate mug]

What do your days look like?