Friday, July 27, 2012

I Lead, You Follow

The Gentle Leader is a miracle product.  I could sell it, no problemo, and I hate salespeople.  I cannot believe how much it has changed our life with our once crazy lab. 

The first time we used this clever leash contraption, we did not watch the instructional DVD.  And, it was a complete disaster, albeit pretty funny.  Whenever we approached Miss O with leader in hand, she would first bark like a mental case, as she slowly backed away.  As we stood our ground trying to feed her a piece of cheese and slip the nose strap over her little snout, she'd start leaping around on her hind legs, spinning in mid-air.  As we continued to stand there helplessly, she'd start running around the condo at top speed.  We were frustrated, to say the least, and without having even listened to the DVD for instructions (shame on us), we put the miracle leash away.  And, I stopped taking her for a walk.  And, my husband no longer took her to work. 

This summer I have been trying to train the crazy dog.  I would love to get my exercise and hers in all at once a couple of times a day by taking a lovely walk.  My husband would like to take her back to work but only, and I know he will only let her back, if she can learn to greet customers with a "high five" or a "namaste" vs. an "I'm gonna get you" Cujo-like lunge and bark.

It has been harder than I expected.  I have not been able to teacher her, "I lead, you follow."  It just did not compute in her canine head.  I have tried using all behavioral strategies our doggie trainers taught us.  We have gone through a lot of cheese bites, I have been firmly commanding her to "heel."  Despite all this,  I spend most of my time on our walks, dragging her away from an enticing smell, turning around to avoid any dog withing a 5 mile radius, or yanking on her leash and commanding her to, "leave it" when any man came into view.  Our walks have not been fun for me or her. 

We were half way through the summer.   What we were doing wasn't working.  Ding, I remembered the Gentle Leader in the drawer.   This time were are approaching "leadership" differently.  Both Ken and have I watched the entire DVD instruction "manual" and are working it together. At first I tried one of their suggested techniques, offer food through the lead, but Miss O does not like anything coming at her head on.  No matter how many pieces of cheese, how many spoonfuls of peanut butter, or how many little bites of food I encouragingly offered her through the lead as it dangled at the tip of her nose, she could not relax.  And, so last night we just did it.  We took the leash, held the dog and put the *^%% thing on.  And, it went on easily, which is the good, fantastic, great news!  Who's your mama and papa I wanted to shout!   To our surprise, she pouted until bedtime.  And though we both felt bad for her, the DVD instructions warned that some dogs would lay down and act like life just ended.  A couple of friends have advised that we put the leader on an never take it off.  However, feeling badly for our mopey dog, we took it off her last night right before bed.  We certainly would NOT want  Miss O to be awakened in the middle of the night by nightmares of black straps encompassing her body, losing all control, and having to actually listen to her owners :P

This morning we matter-of-factly put the Gentle Leader back on.  I gave her a treat and off we went in the misty morning rain for a trial walk.  And, I can't believe I'm writing this, we had surprising and amazing, thank you Lord, success!  No longer am I using arm strength to restrain her when she sees a barking dog and lunges, hears a man jingling his coins in his pocket and raises her hair up, or is just dying to roll in some disgusting smell and won't budge.  Nope, with one gentle tug she can't help but turn her head and follow my lead.  True, when she saw another out-of-control dog pulling it's owner along, she wanted to join in (hey lady, try this miracle leash, I wanted to yell at her) but I just tugged on the leash and she followed along as we turned and headed off in another direction.  Success! OMG, success.  I relaxed, she relaxed, and we had a very nice walk, thank you very much. 

Although it is true Olivia looked pretty sad, maybe humiliated and certainly like a broken horse newly reigned in (see above) when we first successfully put it on the leader on her last night, she has since given in to not being in control any more, even in the house without the leader on.  Which I guess is the point, Gentle LEADER.  I am the leader.  I am the pack leader, Ken is the pack leader and I think Olivia has no choice but to fall in line.  Ceasar Milan would be proud.  And maybe I miss the wild horse personality of my dog as she used to leap about the condo like a crazy dog, but I feel she is much better off not being in the "red zone" anymore. 

Miracles come in small packages........and this is most certainly one! For less than $13 our life and our dog's has changed for ever :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Castles and Moats - Adventures with a New Dentist 

I don't like dentists, I don't like the hospital (if I am in it) and I don't like physicians.  I like to be in control all the time and would like my body to be perfect.  OK, now that you have stopped laughing I have to tell you this is the truth!  

Yesterday I went to a new dentist.  I have been OK with my current dentist but he's well over a 1/2 hour away and his office is in a different state, near a university I have long ago extricated myself from.  Plus, I think his techniques could use some updating and I don't see that happening as he is about to retire.  I asked around at the gym and got a referral to a new dentist,  located in my own state, just 15 minutes away.  After morning yoga and meditation I felt ready for my first visit :P  

The ride to the dentist was quick.  There was very little time for me to obsess over what pain and suffering I was sure to encounter as I drove along tentatively trying to listen to the "navigator" on my phone commanding me to, "Turn right, turn right.  Bear left, bear left," all the while being mindful to not jump the curve.  When I entered the building, the office women were very friendly; the waiting room very small; and the 3 dental spaces were of the open-space concept model (a little curious but it didn't bother me).  In short time I was called to the blue, chaise-like dental chair to meet my dental hygienist.  Although she spent most of the time talking about some crazy bat flying around her home at 3am the night before and her 90 year old father trying to harness it, she was generally very calm. Importantly, she gave me what I needed, information.  When I am at any doctor's office, to be as calm as possible I need to have the facts, just the facts.  I don't respond well to, "Just sit back and you'll be fine, dear."  What works and always has, is lots of detail about what's happening.  I love my gynecologist because she used to be a research scientist.  Once she pulled a Nabothian inclusion (a once and only random cyst of no concern) out of my netherlands and promptly showed me what it looked like, with a full description.  Nothing calmed me down more than to see and learn all about that curious blob.

In response to my immediately telling my 57 year old, curly headed hygienist that I was a bit nervous as I settled into the ominous blue plastic lounge chair, she stepped back against a cabinet and began a speech that I know she has given over and over and over again to nervous patients.  "OK," she started, "I want you to know that if something falls out while I am cleaning, it's probably ready to fall out."  I nodded.  That made sense to me.  This lady understands that what I fear the most is her inadvertent popping out an unsuspecting filling with one little tug of dental floss, causing me serious and unexpected pain and suffering.  "If anything pops out it is probably loose already and has bacteria under it and you are better off that it comes out while I am cleaning," she went on in a matter-of-fact tone.  I was being managed but it was OK.  I got it and I liked this lady.  

Next she started to tell me about my teeth with surprising enthusiasm, "Well, I like to think of teeth as little castles and the spaces around them as moats."  Lady, we are on the same team.  Not only do I like lots of information, but I respond to visuals.  Castles and moats, OK, a little strange but OK.  Her love of teeth made me feel comfortable.  I work with troubled kids and love my work.  She works with teeth and is genuinely intrigued by them, gets excited when she finds some "debris" in between teeth 29 and 30 after I told her I had already flossed.  Castles and moats....who other than this somewhat odd, most likely germ-phobic woman who appears to absolutely love teeth would refer to my pearly whites as giant structures encircled by protective water?  This is going to work for me, yes indeed. 

As we settled in, she handed me my sunglasses (I have to grin when I put these on, feeling like I am in a scene from Men in Black) and began to ease me back in my blue lounge chair.  And, back and back and back I went!  At any moment I felt I was going to slip right off my chaise and into a head stand.  "Excuse me, but am I supposed to be back this far?"  "Oh my God.  I am so sorry. I had my foot on the pedal!" she apologized as she reversed the direction of my slippage.  "I was wondering what kind of position you people put patients in," I laughed. 

My hygienist went on to poke and prod in my mouth, find a place where a molar left a space with the depth "score" of 9 when it should have been 1, 2, or 3.  "9!" I yelped, feeling like I had failed an exam.  "What are you, an over achiever?" she asked.  Lady, you have no idea, I privately smiled.    Having a gum "hole" with the depth of 9, the dentist later told me, was because I had my molars removed when I was nearly 50.  Past 30, apparently, most bone does not grow back in to fill up that big open space left by the absent molar.  His exact words were, "Most old farts, not that you are an old fart, but most old farts don't grow bone to fill up the space left when molars are removed."  Not inspiring confidence, he went on to tell me he's not sure how the periodontist will handle that.  Oh boy, another fun dental appointment with uncertain results.  I remembered my morning yoga and took 3 slow and deep breaths in.

My hygienist continued to scrape and clean, and even took a panoramic photo of my teeth at one point (never had that done before), as we chatted away for 2 hours.  At the end of my marathon cleaning, my new quirky but kind, intelligent and well-tanned, if not handsome, 40ish dentist donned a pair of silly-looking nerd exam glasses with little black magnifying tubes extending out about 6 inches from each lens.  He pointed and laughed at the glasses as he put them on and then commenced to poke and peer around in my mouth, even having me open and shut my mouth while he felt my jaw bones and neck.  Needless to say, I felt very well and fully inspected as we finished up my appointment.  We set up a future session for a broken tooth and a tiny, tiny cavity on another tooth (seen, I am sure, only by the mini microscopes that protruded from his special dental exam glasses).

I think for the first time ever, I will not be managing a panic attack as I drive to my next dentist appointment.  Castles, moats, and nearly slipping backwards off my blue lounge chair notwithstanding, I think this new dentist will be just fine for me.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Return to Yoga*MK1G5iNzO6r0B8Rd4RW8M76dezpkkNvwR*DemxT7oyGK82hJ6zJ-ebQErIb1ueZrWaNPg3jBUhLiIxU/yogacats3.jpg

This summer I am into weight lifting and moderate aerobics as well as changing my diet, many thanks to my trainer, Stacie.  I know that's all good for my body as I can feel myself get stronger and slightly leaner.  And it is good for my mood and stress levels.  When I push 20 pounds up over my head I can feel the blood rush into my shoulders as I grunt and groan, straining with that one last rep.  I seem to keep a lot of feelings and thoughts in my upper body.  When I lift weights and my arms tremble with exertion, the tension melts away.  Even though it's hard, every time, to drag my reluctant body into the gym to ride the bike for 30 minutes, step up on the bench 36 times, squat with 10 pounds in each hand, and lunge across the gym floor, I am always so happy when I walk out the door, exercise done for the day. 

But, I forget, frequently, that I am a certified yoga teacher at the 500 hour level.  I have been through 5 years of yoga and meditation training.  I know how to settle (vs. grunt and groan) my body with mindful movement and thoughtful breathing.  I have missed the grounding, early in the morning, that yoga gives me.  The silence meditation offers me sets me up for whatever might occur in my day, even during summer.   For example, today I am off to a new dentist.  I HATE all things medical including the dentist.  But, I will try to remember to breathe and loosen my shoulders as I pull into the parking lot for my cleaning.  Things go crazy, I seem to be able to come back to my quiet place if I have practiced yoga and meditation in the morning.  

And, so this morning I began with my morning routine again.  I stretched in different yoga poses, enjoying the pull on my muscles, particularly in the back of my legs.  I always imagine I am a cat in yoga poses, just letting the stretch play out.   I feel so much awareness of my body in a gentle way as I hold Warrior I and then move into Star Gazer.  With weight lifting my heart beats fast as I scrunch up my face and lift that one last time, hoping the weights aren't going to drop loudly to the floor.  In yoga I move easily, steadily, flowing here and there, gazing out at the river that I am lucky to view out my back door.  

For me, I see now that I need both of these activities.  I vow from today forward to get back into my yoga and meditation routine each early morning as the sun rises; work out with weights in the gym in the late afternoon and take a speedy daily walk with my perfectly behaved dog-in-training :P    In that way I feel I can really take care of my body and so, deal with that persistent muffin top, slight case of osteoporosis and arrhythmia...the joys of aging!   And I can take care of my mind....all the time becoming strong and flexible, relaxed and lean (well, that's the goal!).   

I think, sometimes, I would fit well into Kurt Vonnegut's Utopian future world (in Unready to Wear), stepping out of my body most of the time so I could just live out my mental and emotional life.  Yes, I could live the "amphibious" life most of the time!  It seems so much more natural to me.   And, yet I wonder how I would saw, hammer, and dangle in my ears the enameled earrings I love to create and wear; pet my soft and crazy yellow lab; feel the warmth of a kiss with my wonderful husband....without a body!

I love your ideas, Kurt Vonnegut, but don't see us upping and leaving our bodies behind in the closet on a daily basis as any option for me in the near future.  My mind matters.  My emotional life can determine my happiness to a great extent, but my body matters, I am learning, as much.

I feel my growing arm strength when I pull back on Olivia's leash as she bolts across the street to chase a cat daringly staring her down.  My denim Capri's seem just a tad looser on my legs and thighs.  Thank you weight lifting and medium-level aerobics and 6 meals a day.  And this morning I feel peaceful and centered thanks to yoga and meditation.  Well, I feel that peace right now...that may wane as I pull into the parking lot of Dr. Amadon's dental office today at 2:00! 

Namaste I say to myself, namaste! 

Monday, July 23, 2012


My insurance this year will only pay $150 for the gym.  They used to pay the full amount, $300.  They now pay $150 for a class or trainer.  And, so, my husband and I decided to hire a trainer to help get our 58 year old *&^s  in shape. 

The biggest challenge for me has been changing my habits.  I survived a crazy childhood by being smart.  I like to know I can do things on my own.  So, trying to get in shape  I used to spin like a fiend on the run 3 times a week, eat healthy food (whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta) most of the time, and I became certified in teaching yoga and meditation.  I even taught yoga to kids.   Alas, the muffin top resting over my capri jeans, maintains. 

And, so, I thought I'd see what the trainer might offer.  The hardest thing to get used has been that my thinking was wrong.  What works is 6 small meals with a carb and protein, lots of veggies and fruit.  What works is weight lifting 3x a week.  Too much spinning isn't good, burns muscle.  Bread, even whole wheat is discouraged.   I am still in the change-up phase.  I try to eat multiple meals and a big, big breakfast.  I am still trying to stop snacking on nuts and raisins before bed.  I try to drink 32 ounces of water each day.  That's not so hard as I just fill up my green bottle twice.  And, I try to get 3 weight lifting workouts in.  I think I need to be more scheduled about the aerobics as walking with the dog just doesn't seem like enough. I think my new thing will be 30 minutes of aerobics following weight lifting and 3 other days of the week. 

I wonder if I would ever look like my trainer with toned arms and a flat belly.  She tells me it's unlikely as she has been working out with weights and eating the mini meals for 20 years.  And, what size is she, 0?  I am trying to just see where this little venture takes me.  Hopefully I won't look like #7, Miss Hard Fitness, above.  Spose there is no fear of that ;p

Sunday, July 22, 2012