Monthly Archives: February 2013

Wild Rumpus

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Charlie

Charlie

You would think without marathon training, I would have oodles of leisure time on my hands, but my life has taken a new turn with the addition of The Puppy.

The first few months are crucial for dog training, and I want to do it right for a change, which means we are one busy family at the moment.

My days are filled with feeding, exercising, teaching, cleaning-up after and correcting the pack, which also includes the kids.

When we first brought The Puppy home, our Havanese wouldn’t go near him, preferring to snarl from under the table, rather than play. But now that ‘Charlie’ has been with us for two weeks, Pepin has relaxed to the point where he will now sniff at Charlie when the pup is asleep, no doubt checking for vital signs. This is progress.

Charlie plays hard and sleeps hard. When he plays, he is a whirlwind, when he sleeps, we can hold him upside down and he doesn’t even twitch an eyelid. He sleeps so soundly that one of the kids worriedly asked, “Is he okay?”

Charlie also loves the snow. He will roll in it and shove his snout through it and lay down in it and eat it.

Charlie and Bailey

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

Charlie has a lot to learn, but I can see the wheels turning in his mind as he works at something new.

At ten weeks, not only will Charlie sit and lay down on command without me having to say a word, but he will also go from laying down back up to sitting (9 times out of 10) when I use only hand signals. We are working on ‘stay’ and ‘leave it,’ with excellent results. He is by far the smartest dog I’ve ever owned (no offense to Pepin–our ‘grumpy old man’).

I have to admit, I am having fun training the dogs. It’s a challenge for me, and if you know me at all, you know I love challenges.

Bailey (the Awesome Chocolate Lab who started it all) is currently staying with us, and thus, our week has been filled with wild rumpus moments where you know EXACTLY where the Wild Things are (in your room, eating your socks) and scenes so tender they could have been scripted by Hallmark.

Always something new to learn

Sweet moments

It has also felt a little like doggy boot camp here in the German countryside as I try to emulate the Dog Whisperer, but I love looking down and seeing those lovely faces staring patiently at me–waiting for their post-walkies carrots.

Will work for carrots!

Will work for carrots!

But something about the way Charlie follows me around the house, sitting nicely and staring at me with his gorgeous eyes makes me wonder:

Am I training him, or is he training me?

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I Remember Being Fourteen

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There were many changes in my life when I turned fourteen–a new school, the kind of friends who stay in your heart forever, and glimmers of adulthood. Now my oldest daughter is fourteen, and even though she has been taller than me for over a year, the number ’14’ seems so grown up.

Instead of needing a babysitter, she IS the babysitter.

When did that happen?

Katie amazes me with her wit, kindness and her ability to do mathematics (my own personal weakness).

She has changed in many ways over the years, but she still retains that lovely spiciness that can either be very very good or very very bad, depending upon how she utilizes it.

I am immensely proud of her and am thankful that of all the women in the world, God chose me to be her Mom.

Here is a video birthday card in honor of Katie’s fourteenth birthday.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! I love you!

Sweet Chocolate

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Charlie

Ever since I fell in love with my friend’s chocolate labrador, Bailey, I’ve been pondering the idea of getting a running partner of my own. But I was too busy with winter training to even think about adding to our family. So when we decided to NOT do the Jerusalem marathon, I began to drown my marathon sorrows by puppy shopping.

I emailed a breeder and waited. Later, I would find out that she deletes a lot of emails, and because of my “weird” German (learned mostly in University), mine almost hit the trash bin. But then her husband suggested that perhaps I wasn’t from Germany at all. She ended up responding to my email, and I gave her a call.

The breeder said she didn’t have any females available, but she had one boy who was smaller than the others and rather “feminine.” Then she sent pictures of him wearing a pink collar. Apparently, he is confident enough in his manhood to wear the color we Americans traditionally associate with preschool Princesses.

We didn’t really care if we had a boy or a girl: the most important things were that the dog have a good temperament and that the breeder was honest and genuinely caring about the animals. We found that at Mustang Valley.

At our first meeting, the pup was mellow, friendly, curious and playful. He would roll on his back and let you rub his belly (something our Havanese NEVER allowed). And he tipped the scales by frolicking around with the family’s Chihuahua.

We knew it was “meant to be” when we realized we could pick up the puppy on the very day of our 19th wedding anniversary.

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The Best Anniversary Present Ever

Even though I was enamored with “Charlie” at first, I knew for certain he was ours while driving home from the breeder. He sat on my lap, whimpered a little, whereupon I gently shook him by the neck, and then fell asleep. Not only did he snooze in my lap while we drove 120 kmph down the autobahn, but he rolled onto his back, nearly upside down, and drooled. Perfect!

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Puppies sleep 18 hours a day–but rarely at night.

Charlie devours his food just like Bailey–with all the gusto of a participant in a hot dog eating contest, and he follows us around the house. He likes to pounce and play, and when he is tired, he flops down on the big dog pillow in the living room. He does not understand why Pepin won’t play with him, but hopefully our spoiled Havanese will relax in time.

And now the real marathon begins. Our first night, Charlie was awake every two hours like clockwork. I would take him out to do his business and then he would settle back down in his crate, as long as he knew I was there. Last night went better. He slept for three hours straight, and I felt refreshed. He’s not had an accident in the house so far, and usually if he has to ‘go’ he will go up to the glass door and whimper. Brilliant!

I have dreams of obedience training and running through the countryside with him, but those dreams are locked in a sort of sleep-deprived haze at the moment. But puppyhood doesn’t last long, and I know that I will look back fondly at these early days.

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My blessings

Charlie is sweet, funny and brings great joy to the house. I want to train him well, so that he can fully enjoy life and also be a blessing to others.

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Charlie isn’t offended by pink toys

Having Charlie here (and discovering a show called “the Dog Whisperer,” which I didn’t know existed), has taught our family about the importance of obedience. A dog who obeys his master will be able to go places and enjoy things that his undisciplined peers can not.

This lesson in joy through obedience is a striking one. Am I like the dog chained up in a courtyard, yapping at every leaf that blows by? or am I hopping eagerly into the car with a smile, trusting that wherever my master leads, it’s going to be good?

Oh, the things we can learn from the animals!

It will be a long time before Charlie can run with me. We both have a lot of work to do in the coming year. But I am sure we both will learn a lot from each other.

I hope this post is coherent. If there are mistakes, I hope you will forgive me–I’ve been intoxicated by puppy breath.

Doldrums

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One of my wise children said, “Runners are like farmers–they’re never happy with the weather.”

It’s almost true.

  • When the weather is hot, I complain about getting up early to run before the bugs and manure trucks awake.
  • When the weather is rainy, I complain about getting up early to run because it’s dark and my feet get wet.
  • When the weather is snowy, I complain about getting up early to run because it’s STILL dark, and I have to wear ten pounds of gear.
  • When the weather is perfect, I complain about getting up early to run.

I’m sensing a theme here.

Though I usually have something to complain about on any given day of the year, I’m finding that winter marathon training is extremely challenging.

The snow was okay in November–even quaint and lovely, but by January I was ready to pack up my Amphipod and move south. The snow has melted now, but I’ve been living in a wind tunnel for weeks–and it is trying my patience.

On a recent 18-mile run, I could lean my body to a 45 degree angle and the wind would keep me in position–even running DOWNHILL was hard. As much as I hated slipping on snow and ice the previous week, I would have traded it for the wind.

On a usual day, I get up at 4 or 5 am and run 8 or 10 miles. But lately, I’ve felt that the particular combination of elements has made running that early simply miserable, not to mention a little dangerous. I can run through snow, on ice, in rain or high winds, but to willingly combine those with the dark seems crazy–and I’m not an ultra-marathoner yet, otherwise it probably wouldn’t phase me.

I find myself longing for the doldrums so I CAN get up at 4am and run.

It's all about perspective.

When I lived in Alaska, I came to the conclusion that Alaskans have a special appreciation for spring. Winter is so cold and dark up there, when the temps get above freezing, people wear shorts outside.

Every little thing gives Alaskans hope: birdsong, a robin, two extra minutes of daylight, or seeing the top of your patio table emerge from the snowpack you thought was ground-level all winter. When the seat of your child’s swing is finally freed from its icy prison, you rejoice and kick the kid outside with a pair of rubber boots and some knit gloves.

The least little niblet of spring is savored.

Likewise, I think runners who train in the winter will enter spring with a new appreciation of the world. A little mud? Who cares? A  rain shower? No big deal–that’s why we have rain jackets.

At least it’s not icy.

At least the wind won’t make me feel like I’m lolling the wrong way on a moving sidewalk.

Right now I am both longing for and fighting the doldrums.

You may know that the word can simply mean a period of calm: horrible for sailors, great for runners. But it can also mean a depressed state of mind, and it is incredibly easy to let it swallow you up.

I looked up the word doldrums on the fount of all knowledge, WikiPedia, and “The term is derived from dold (an archaic term meaning stupid and -rum(s), a noun suffix found in such words as tantrum.”

I HAVE run in the wind, but I hate it so much, I’m having a ‘stupid tantrum’ about it–and it is something I need to guard against.

I can shake my fist in the air and yell, “Fine! I won’t run at all.” But the wind wouldn’t care. It would keep blowing branches off the trees and probably fling something at me in the process.

I trust that God has a reason for all this–I just can’t see it yet. My part is to just keep doing what I do (praying, reading scripture, staying active and eating a little chocolate) and trust that the patience I learn will refine me into something better.

I’ve gotten ‘creative’ by doing the elliptical in the basement (marginally better than running in high winds) and my sanity has been preserved by CrossFit, after which, I always feel better.

As things stand, I won’t be running a marathon on March 1st, as I had hoped, which takes away my motivation to do hard things like run in foul weather.

I find myself fighting against the doldrums.

I hope God gives me the strength to win.