Hermes Escapes! Thoughts on Chases and Dog Wrangling

See how cute I am? Now take off the leash and watch me go!

See how cute I am? Now take off the leash and watch me go!

Hermes escaped last weekend. Julian and I were up at his parents’ place canning tomatoes. Julian, his daughter and myself were slaving over a hot stove while his niece and son were on “tomato duty” – running out to the garage to bring in more tomatoes. The first time they went out, Hermes joined them. He sniffed around the closed garage a bit and came back in when they did. The next time they went to go out, they called him to come along. What they didn’t realize that someone had opened the garage door. Hermes saw the bright light and sunshine and took off like a shot.

Hermes has no recall. He will not come when called. When I got him from the shelter they warned me that I could never let him off leash, his little hound dog brain would be hellbent for smells – not for obeying. When we heard what happened Julian reassured me that his niece, who has two dogs of her own, is well versed in dog wrangling. I gave them some time, but after a few minutes when they hadn’t reappeared I threw on some shoes, grabbed Hermes’ leash and went out to help.

Julian’s folks have a huge piece of property. The front half is suburban house but “the back forty” is wild meadow and scrub. It’s so large that sometimes I just walk around the perimeter with Hermes for his nightly walk. He loves it – it’s hound dog heaven, full of bunnies and other critters, long grasses and weeds. I figured that’s where he’d head.

Sure enough, as I rounded the corner I spotted him trotting through the grass, the kids trailing behind. I shouted to Julian’s son to cut around and cut Hermes off, but he said “I can’t go that way – we don’t have shoes!” It turned out that they hadn’t been wearing shoes in the garage and when Hermes took off, they just followed him barefoot! Of course there are prickers and sharp sticks out there, so I sent them in to get their shoes and headed after Hermes alone.

This is us on a hike. This dog can run fast when he's on the scent of something!

This is us on a hike. This dog can run fast when he’s on the scent of something!

I nearly caught him twice. I had my hands on his little furry hips, but the snaky little SOB shot out of my hands. Now that he knew the game was on, he ran over to the edge of the property. The neighbors have a similar size lot, except their back half is a Christmas tree farm. In between the two lots is a kind of botanical no-man’s land of scrub oak, thorns and evergreens. Being low to the ground, Hermes zipped back forth. I had to jump over, climb under and sometimes just run through the vegetation just to keep site of him. Then it happened – he ducked under some vines and I lost sight of him. My heart dropped in my chest.

Fortunately a second later he caught the scent of… something. He started baying his little hound heart out. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. I ran towards him. Then I caught a glimpse of white tip of his tail – I was suddenly glad hunters had bred that into hunting dogs, because it helped a lot. I followed him over to the farm.

Out of the brush and into the Christmas trees, I could see him a lot better, but there were two problems: the long open rows meant he could actually run faster and he could easily run between the rows, well under the low branches. I, however, had to look for breaks I could jump through.

I finally had the presence of mind to back off. I stayed close, kept him in sight, but didn’t try to grab him. I kept thinking about people who hunt with dogs and tried my best to make Hermes think I was running with him after whatever critter he was tracking – not after him. It worked. He stopped for a second to take an extra sniff, and that was the opening I was looking for. I swooped down and grabbed his collar! Dog retrieved!

At one more than one point during this ridiculous chase, I found myself (still wearing a blue and white checked apron mind you) running full tilt after that dog. I was running as fast as I could. I couldn’t help but think that a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I couldn’t have kept up with him. This time, even though I felt like I had just completed an obstacle course, I wasn’t even breathing all that hard. I was more scared than winded. Truthfully, probably nothing would have happened to him if I hadn’t caught him – he was far enough from the roads, but that wasn’t what I was thinking at the time. I just really appreciated what this new body can do.

He’s home safe, and back on his leash, but now that I know how fast that little guy can move, I think I need to train him to go running with me!

 

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Falling Out of Love with Fall

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

Hermes admires some Fall decor.

I used to love Autumn. Summer was my enemy. It was always too hot, too sticky and too sunny. When the weather started to turn, I was in heaven. The cooler nights and walking through falling leaves made me happy. I felt settled. This year, all that has changed.

This year I embraced summer. I ran, hiked, biked, kayaked, swam – even tried stand up paddleboarding. For the first time since being a kid, I’m actually tan. I’ve loved being this active and being out in the sun. Autumn, however, has come very suddenly to the Midwest. For the past week or so it’s been cold, rainy and windy. Since getting a dog, I feel much more attuned to the seasons. I am outside every morning and every night with him and I notice the shortening of the days more than I used to. I see the fading flowers and the landscaping changing, and I notice the flocks of birds moving south. I keep an eye on the weather. I watch out for thunderstorms (since my pooch is petrified of them,) and I now have to dress for the temperature. I’m already adding more and more layers.

I’m finding my mood is getting dark too. I talked to my therapist about it and she suggested reframing the season, to find things to love about autumn again. I thought it was good advice – it doesn’t make sense to try and fight Mother Nature, she always wins. So, replaced all my desktop photos of the lake this summer at the cottage with photos of pretty Fall foliage.  I took my hot pink toenail polish off and replaced it with a silly OPI color called “Wooden Shoe Like to Know?” I’ve started putting funny little Fall window clings on my door – not as decor for people coming in, but to make me smile when I leave. I bought some new candles in scents called “Harvest Apple” and “Flannel” and have been lighting them when I get home. (No “Pumpkin Spice” though… I have to draw the line somewhere.) I’ve even started pulling out my favorite sweaters.

I’m trying. Sometimes “fake it ’til you make it” is all you can do. I am very grateful for my fitness classes right now, though. Last year I had trouble staying active this time of year, this year I am actually ramping up. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Yet Another Fitness Adventure!

Guess what I tried? Stand Up Paddleboarding!

If you are wondering what we are all looking at, the instructor is in the middle giving a safety lesson. Yay paddleboards!

If you are wondering what we are all looking at, the instructor is in the middle giving a safety lesson. Yay paddleboards!

Yep, it was another adventure! My boxing/fitness studio offered the class. The owner said that in summer fewer people go to the gym, so the studio offers some speciality programs to keep people motivated. Sometimes it’s high intensity classes in the studio and sometimes it’s one-off classes like this.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. The studio emailed us about the class back in June. At that time I assumed that by late July it would be hot. You know, the way late summer usually is. However, this has been a particularly cool summer here in the Midwest. How cool? Well, that morning when I got up, it was 58 degrees. We also had a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms that night. On top of weather concerns, I had “first class” jitters. You know what I mean – those silly butterflies that say things like:

  • You are going to fall in the lake many, many times, and unlike when you fail at other things, everyone will be staring at you.
  • You do not have balance. You do not know what you are doing. Why are you taking this class?
  • You do not know how to dress for this. The email said to bring layers… but you are on a board on a lake, what does that even mean???
  • It is going to storm.
  • The lake will be cold.
  • You will fall in, then lightening will strike your head.

(Okay, maybe I wasn’t really worried about that last one.)

But you know… I had said I would go. Plus there was a nonrefundable equipment rental fee. And the thunderstorm warnings were moved until later that night. So, I packed a bag with everything I could think of (two towels, water bottle, sweatshirt, spare shoes, etc.) and after work, headed to the lake.

I didn’t need worry. Standup Paddleboards are a lot more stable than they look. In fact, the only time I got wet was carrying my board out of the water to the shore. I never fell in, and even if I had, everyone was super supportive of the folks that took a swim. As one gal said, “Once you fall in, it stops being scary. What’s going to happen? I’ll get more wet?”

This class was awesome on a number of levels. First of all, one of my goals with fitness is to try everything. I am so, so new at all this. I hated sports as a kid and for most of my life, I was not athletic. I’m still learning what I like, and what I don’t. I figure that the best way to learn that is just to try everything. That’s also why I took Pilates the other day – it’s all about new experiences.

I’m trying to be anti-fragile. Nerd Fitness has a great article about that here: Becoming Antifragile: How to Prepare Yourself for Chaos. If I am going to make fitness a way of life, I don’t want to be locked into anything. I know myself, I can become obsessed. Then, if something goes wrong, I have a tendency to drop it like a hot potato. I don’t want that to derail me. Having a huge list of things that help me keep active that I love is much better than being obsessed with just one thing.

Another great thing? I got out on a new lake! This particular lake is really close to my house, but I have never had the opportunity to get out on it. We didn’t go all that far around, but even still I got to see the lake in a whole new way. I love that.

To my surprise, I was fairly decent at it. For most of my life I’ve been the slow one, the uncoordinated one, the one who didn’t understand the rules, the one who sat on the sidelines. Being picked last for kickball – after the kid with the leg braces – can be really hard on your kiddo self esteem. As an adult, I don’t mind it as much. I’m much better at accepting that I have a higher learning curve when it comes to physical fitness than others. I spent most of my life in my head, wrapped up in books and art, this fitness thing is all new to me. I can accept that and be comfortable with the notion that I can get better with practice. However, in this SUP class, I felt like I held my own. I wasn’t in the front of the pack, but I also wasn’t in the back. I’d say, front of the middle. At the end when we held a relay race, I did my part and felt great about it (there were some who were too scared to try.)

Which brings up another thing – I did it! Like I said, I was nervous about it, but I did it. (And I would go again in a heartbeat.) All this fitness stuff has given me a confidence in myself that I’ve never had before. I always knew I could trust my brain to get me through most situations, but I have never had that kind of faith in my body. SUP requires your whole body – from toes to head – and I felt good about it.

When I called Julian after the class he answered the phone with, “Hello Adventurer!” It was the best thing he could have said.

Do You Still Run?

Yes, yes I do. Flooded Heart trail

Just not as much.

I struggle with running. I like the fact that I can run, I just don’t like the running itself much. I keep hoping that will change with more exposure and increased skill, (but I have my doubts.) Nonetheless, my current workout calls for interval training, so off I go!

The other morning I packed my bag to run after work. I was feeling pretty good about it as the workout only calls for 15-20 minutes of intervals. That is certainly doable, (even though I haven’t run that much this year,) but by the end of the work day, I was feeling a lot less motivated. It was hot and humid and my inner voice kept saying “F-It.”

I’ve read lots of advice on how to work out when you don’t feel like it. Most say to at least give it 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes you want to stop, fine, but usually the hardest part is just getting started. Once you start, you’ll finish. So, I figured I’d try that. I also decided to stack the deck in my favor by going trail running. I love being in the woods, so trail running appeals a bit more to me. As a plus, the park where I like to trail run is right by the river – hopefully that meant it would be a little cooler and less humid.

However, despite the proximity of the river, it was still hot and pretty buggy. I was glad I slathered myself in bug spray, (the problem with trails: flying bugs and ticks.) My run time pretty much sucked, but that was okay, the important part was that I did it. Johnny Cash, Credence Clearwater Revival and Tom Waits kept me going. After all, you don’t tell Johnny Cash that you are going to quit. But near the end when Aretha Franklin came over the headphones, I slowed to a walk. Let’s face it, Aretha wouldn’t be caught dead running through the woods.

It might not have been my best run ever (or anything close) but the important part was that I got out, spent some time in the woods and I completed what I set out to do. That makes it a winner in my book.

Lake Dreams

lilypads

Dreaming of the lake

Last weekend I went up to the lake. I have a small cabin there, not much of a place – one bedroom, one bath, but all mine with 80′ of shoreline. It is, in a word, heaven.

Here is a breakdown of my typical day last weekend:

  • Get up at 7:30AM. Dress in walking gear and grab the dog. Hike a nearby rail trail with him for an hour.
  • Get home, eat breakfast.
  • Change into swimsuit and shorts, go take the kayak out before the lake gets too busy.
  • Get home, change into comfy clothes and take a nap.
  • Get up, grab a cup of coffee and read an old fashioned murder mystery while sitting by the lake.
  • Put on work clothes, clean up sticks and rake leaves for 45 minutes.
  • Back into comfy clothes, take another nap.
  • Get up, have lunch.
  • Back into work clothes, another 45 minutes doing yard work.
  • Head in for a glass water and a snack, then go sit by the water and read.
  • 6:00PM change into walking gear, take the pooch out for another hour hike on the trail.
  • Change back into swimsuit and head back out on the kayak once the “no-wake” time starts at 7:00 for a final quiet paddle around the lake.
  • Get into comfy clothes, make and eat dinner.
  • Have a glass of wine while reading more of my murder mystery.
  • 11:00PM go to bed.

When I am at the cabin, I change clothes a lot. I reuse them – I only have one pair of old jeans and a t-shirt for raking the lawn, one swimsuit for kayaking, and so on, but there is a lot of switching of clothes.

I also get a lot of sleep. I usually stay up later than I do when I am home, but I also get up later (as long as Hermes lets me. Sometimes my pup doesn’t quite understand weekends.) I always manage to get several naps in. There is something about laying on that couch – windows open, breeze coming in of the water… it is just too perfect not to nap.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

Most importantly, I am active. It wasn’t always this way. I used to get there and my only movement was from the couch to the lawn chair and back again. But now I find I want to do things. I love being on the water and hiking with Hermes. It seems like this is the kind of life I should be living. Oh, I know I have to work in there somewhere – the bills won’t pay themselves. But now that I have more things that I like to do, and I have more energy to do them, it feels right. I makes me happy.

There is another side to all this, though. I call it “re-entry.” Eventually I have to come back to reality. My life is very, very good and I have many things that I love here, but there is also all the stress and problems of everyday living that pop up. Suddenly I have to check my email and return phone calls. There are angry customers and annoying coworkers to deal with. There is a distinct lack of a kayak. I am very hard to live with following a cabin weekend. “Grumpy” is probably the kindest word I can use.

It eventually passes, but it is a good reminder of what I need more of in my life. I don’t need a big house, fancy gadgets or a nice car. I need a spot on a lake, a boat to paddle around on it, and a good place to walk my dog.

 

Winter

Status

Brace Yourself •Photo credit: Eric Lanning•

“Brace Yourself”
Photo credit: Eric Lanning

While it might sound like I am complaining about the weather, I’m not. It is what it is – and what it is, is hard. Those are just the facts.

I haven’t mentioned the house problems that I’ve had because of it: giant ice dams (my roofer said they were the largest dams he had seen in 23 years in the business), water leaking into my house, gutters ripping down because of the ice, (and slamming into the house all night long during a windstorm,) my front door being frozen shut, and of course, frozen pipes. The good side is that the roof didn’t collapse (I have a friend whose did), the gutter ripped itself off like an old band-aid, and the water damage is quite minimal. It is a pain in the butt and a filthy mess, but nothing serious. The pipes have (so far) all thawed with the generous use of a space heater and I don’t use the front door anyway. Annoying? Sure, but not all that terrible. A lot of people have had to deal with a lot worse.

There is even a silver lining to having to hire a roofer to work on the ice dams. He gave me some great advice. Adding more insulation and cold air vents will prevent some of this in the future and make my house energy-efficient. (Things you don’t want to hear from your roofer: “Is your house over a 100 years old?” Yes... “Thought so. It has 100 year old insulation.”) But then again, it’s an easy problem to solve – all it takes is money. Problems are not always so easy.

On the money side, I am still thinking deeply about my next career move. I’ve seen a few things that have caught my eye and that gives me hope. The job market was so bad for so long, I was just grateful to even have a job. Now I am starting to see signs that positions in my field are starting to open up. I’ve been working a lot on building an online portfolio of my work as well as brushing up the old resume.

All of this is part of my confusion. I’m just not sure what to focus on. My house needs repairs, I’d love to find new work, and at the same time I have loved ones and friends I haven’t spent enough time with lately. I also need to focus on myself. I was in a deep funk for a while, and I want to get back to feeling like a badass. If I do go looking for a job, having a little badassery on my side would not be a bad a thing at all!

I’ve also let this blog go and I miss it. I know that there are only so many hours in the day and blah, blah, blah, but still, when I write here I feel good. It helps me pick out the important things and I when I make commitments here, I trend to keep them. That’s good for my overall mojo. The trick is trying to put it all together. What does get dropped? How to I make it all happen?

I don’t know. Still working on that one.

March

Walking Hermes

The snow does not deter my dog in the slightest

Though it is March, it was -5 degrees this morning (colder yet with windchill.) With over 20″ of snow on the ground, it still feels like February. My city is constantly being ranked in the snowiest cities in the country – not just in the top 10, we are up in the top three. The other morning the wind was whipping fine snow spray everywhere. I felt this strange sensation… it took a minute to realize that my eyelashes were freezing together! Welcome to winter in the Midwest.

I don’t really mind all that much – snow shoveling is an excellent work out, as is slogging though snow. In fact, my dog walks are more like hikes – I end up climbing 4′ – 5 ‘ hills of ice and snow at every intersection. Even though I haven’t been working out like I was, I am still getting quite a bit of exercise. And I have to say, it has been a beautiful winter. Usually by now all the snowbanks are grungy and black and the streets are nasty, but this year everything is still as pretty as a Christmas card.

I’ve slowly been getting back in the swing of things. I’m back to making sure I get at least 15 minutes of exercise a day (over an above my hour a day dog walks) and tracking my calories with the MyFitnessPal app. I’m also trying to make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. It’s paying off, I have lost a couple of the post-holiday pounds I put on, and I am definitely feeling more energetic. I’m hoping to build on those three habits as we move into spring.

I’ve still got a lot on my plate. I am trying to figure out where to focus my attention: home, work, family, friends, writing, health… there is so much I want to do! I’m trying to find that mysterious work/life balance I’ve heard tell about, but it is like tracking down a unicorn. People talk about it, but has anyone ever actually seen it? I wonder…

Hermes Snow

Quit thinking! Let’s go for a walk!

Just an Update

I’m in part of the Midwest that is getting hit by all this winter weather. It’s cold and when we aren’t getting ice, we’re getting snow (and lots of it.) I’m not really complaining. I know it’s all just part of winter in the north, but I admit, I am starting to look forward to spring.

He looks like a crocheted traffic cone.

He looks a little like a crocheted traffic cone, don’t you think?

People had been saying it was going to be a bad winter all last fall. I didn’t really believe it, or rather, I just figured it would be the same as last year – no snow until Christmas, a wintery January and then right back into a dreary spring. That’s certainly not the case this year!

One of my coworkers knitted Hermes a sweater. I am usually anti-clothes for my dog, but as I write this it is -4 degrees with a -20 degree wind chills. So, a sweater it is. My coworker knows I am always concerned about visibility so she made it Hunter Orange. I’m not sure he is much more visible at night, but he certainly won’t be mistaken for a deer.

He doesn’t mind the weather at all. Honestly, he doesn’t mind much at all. All he really cares about is: food, walks, and fireworks. The first two he loves, the last one he hates. If a sweater means food and a walk (he gets a treat for putting it on nicely,) then he’s all for it.

Seriously, he loves this weather. Moments after this was taken he dove head first into a snowbank.

Seriously, he loves this weather. Moments after this was taken he dove head first into a snowbank.

Me? I’m having a little bit of a harder time. There is so much snow on the sidewalks that parts are almost impossible to pass through. A walk that usually takes 15 minutes took me over 40 the other night. Then, just as I am ready to call it quits, figuring it’s not weather fit for man nor beast, some runner comes striding past me …in tennis shoes and running clothes, nonetheless. (I bundle up like I am heading out on a North Pole expedition just to get the mail.)

I won’t lie, I’ve thought of pelting them with snow balls.

…it’s too cold though, the snow doesn’t stick together.

Me? I’m not working out, (other than snow slogging with the dog and snow shoveling,) and my weight is up a bit. Ironically, I made it through Christmas just fine, it was the days following the holiday that did me in. Ah well, every day I wake up and think, “Okay, today is the day I will do this. I will refocus.”

One of these days it will be.

 

A Quick Update

Mom! Let's go track some snowmen!

Mom! Let’s go track some snowmen!

I’ve been a bit MIA lately. I am working on a few new projects, and those combined with the holidays, is keeping me hopping! I might be posting a little bit less for the next couple of months. I am trying to get all my ducks in a row on some big things, and it is taking up a lot of my time and creative energy to write.

I’ve also not been able to exercise the way that I want to. I keep trying, but I think I just have to accept that in December, dog walking and snow shoveling is about all I am going to get done. I do have one small complaint, however. I wish RunKeeper (the app I use to track my walks) had a feature where you could input the number of inches on the snow along with a modifier for the percentage of negligent neighbors who haven’t shoveled! I don’t really mind that they haven’t shoveled, but want extra “slogging” credit on my calorie count! (Also, most of my neighbors aren’t really negligent, I know that those who don’t shovel usually don’t have the wherewithal to do so, but I loved the alliteration of “negligent neighbors.”)

Hermes and I are still out for about an hour a day. I’ve added ice fishing cleats to my boots and a few extra layers, but we’re still getting out as much as ever. He loves this weather. He jumps in snowbanks, buries his nose in it and always grabs a few mouthfuls. Even though I am bundled up like I am going on a expedition to the North Pole, it’s hard to be grumpy when he is so dang happy.

So that’s the latest. I’ve got lots of irons in the fire, but I’ll be around, I promise!

Snowflakes are Falling

winter wonderlandHere’s me, feeling festive! Like much of the Midwest, we’re getting a fair amount of snow. That opens up a whole other area of winter exercising – snow shoveling! Also scraping off cars, donning winter gear, and of course the ever popular sport of clutching the steering wheel white knuckled with fear. All good for the heart and respiratory systems!

The funny thing is that I have always loved winter. As a kid I had pretty bad seasonal allergies and winter was one of the few times I could play outside and not be bothered by pollen or dust. It’s also a lovely time of year. One of my favorite sights is fresh snow at night when it is like a big sparkling blanket.

I have to say though, that it’s a little different having lost forty pounds. Winter is still pretty, but brrrr! I am so very cold! Of course, Hermes the dog thinks this weather is awesome, so we’re still trekking through the neighborhood twice a day. I swear he deliberately looks for snow banks to jump in, silly little dog. I mean, I know he is wearing a fur coat, but the bottom of their paws is just skin – how is it that they don’t care? It’s a mystery.

I am so ready for this!

Yes! Winter!

I won’t be running in this, that’s for sure. I’m just too scared of slipping and falling. I even wear cleats on my boots when I am walking the pooch, so I don’t think I’ll attempt running. My new snow pants are awesome, though: “Bugaboo” by Columbia. (I got them at T.J. Maxx.) They much such a difference! They really are warm, and they keep the snow and damp off me, which is even more important.

What about you? What winter exercise do you do? What are you planning on? What’s the weather like in your part of the world?