Have you ever prayed for your dog to pee?

Have you? (Hint: I have.)

Has your dog ever been scared by a butterfly, flinching and running away? (I am scared of moths, so I guess I can’t poke too much fun.)

Have you ever crawled across the floor on your belly to approach your dog without aggravating his submissiveness? (And yes, my clothes do get covered in dog hair in the process.)

Has your dog ever refused to eat unless you are also eating something as well? (To be fair, I guess he could just be very polite.)

If you answered “YES!” to these questions, you are either my husband (hello!), me (Whitley, stop reading your own blog!), or a fellow anxious dog owner.

Growing up, I never thought I was a dog person. But with a father and sister who are dog lovers, we almost always had a family dog (one that I, as the “non-dog-lover”, had never asked for so I got all the benefits of canine companionship without much of the responsibility). Fast forward to getting married and moving (far) away from home (and family dogs!) and I am struck with the realization that maybe I am a dog person after all.

Of three things Stephen & I were certain:
1. We wanted a dog.
2. We wanted to adopt an adult rescue.
3. We wanted a corgi/corgi mix.

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We were fortunate enough to find all three of those in “Buddy,” the corgi mix we adopted about 6 weeks ago who has since been re-dubbed Moose. Moose is 5, was abandoned as a puppy, lived outside in his first (and only other) home, wasn’t formally house trained, and was in the shelter for over 8 months when we brought him home. We figured there would be an adjustment period. And shew, were we right!

The first 36 hours we had him, Moose would not pee (hence the praying, but those were answered prayers as his bladder now seems to operate normally).

He is very shy and skiddish so pretty much everything outside can scare him (from butterflies to leaves to babies to a strong breeze, but he’s completely oblivious to cats and other dogs so it could definitely be worse).

About two weeks into being a part of our family, Moose began displaying submissive urination (Google if you want, but it’s what it sounds like) particularly when someone is putting his leash on (we have resorted to crawling up to him with the leash and this has fixed the behavior some/most of the time; plus, I get some quality floor snuggles in with my dog).

And yes, little Moose has to be prodded into eating (but we’ve discovered that he loves to eat when/where we are, so we are now enjoying daily family dinners).

Anxiety-included, he is the sweetest, goofiest little guy who never barks (unless he sees River Song on TV) and probably the perfect addition to our little family. (Happy, Stephen? I used the f-word!)

10 Things I’ve Learned in my First Year of Marriage

The title of this blog post is pretty self-explanatory. Stephen and I hit the one-year mark today and it has been a wonderful year, full of new experiences and learning about each other. Here are my top ten revelations:

1. Synchronizing lifestyles is hard: Having never lived together before we got married, there was a steep learning curve when it came to learning, adjusting to, and working with each other’s living habits. I knew this would be an adjustment, but didn’t think it would be a huge deal. Ha. Little things like where to put the toothpaste, how to divide up the closet, how/when do you clean up after dinner, etc. seem small when listed separately, but meshing two lifestyles of little quirks takes time and patience. We are still learning just how to best live together.

2. Synchronizing lifestyles is easy: I realize this is the exact opposite of what I just said, but there will be some ways that your lives just naturally fit together. For example,  we each tend to prefer cleaning duties that the other does not, so dividing household responsibilities was pretty easy. It also helps that we were both on the same page in wanting an egalitarian marriage, so we had the same expectations in how to organize our life together.

3. Going to bed together is important: This, depending on work schedules and whatnot, is not always possible. But if at all possible, I think it’s so important. It just helps to feel that you and your spouse are living in the same world, same house, same schedule. Plus, going to bed alone is kind of sad/lonely (especially if you also rise before your spouse).

4. Your spouse cannot read your mind: I know that so many say “communication is important” that it almost becomes a marriage-advice cliche, but it is true. There’s just no way around it. If you can’t articulate your thoughts and feelings to your spouse, then it creates a frustrating guessing game for both of you: your spouse frustrated that he/she never knows what’s going on in your mind and you frustrated that your spouse never addresses your (unknown) feelings.

5. Listening is key: Communication is so important that it gets two!! But really, talking is only half the battle. You also have to really, really listen to your spouse in serious and not-so-serious moments. Even if you’re tired, even if that smart phone is calling your name, it is so important to thoughtfully listen and really pay attention to what he/she has to say.

6. You won’t always like each other: I knew this going in, but I’ve learned that it really is okay. You and your spouse love each other and all, but your’e still only human. And humans annoy each other. And that is not the end of the world. Moments of annoyance (or sometimes days of annoyance) are, I think, pretty normal in the midst of your messy, beautiful life together. Using #4 and #5 in these moments can be helpful. 🙂

7. Marriage is different than you imagine: It is nothing like what I really imagined. I knew it’d be hard, but I imagined huge struggles that we would intermittently face, not that our troubles would be a million little things adding up with a million little things each of us is also processing individually. I also knew that I’d be happy, but I had no idea the amazing sense of peace it would bring me. It is so much more imperfect, real, trying, and rewarding than I ever imagined.

8. Laughter is important: This is another cliche, and something I knew before marriage, but it has been completely reinforced. These are the moments that create the best memories, the ones that bring you and your spouse together and solidify your bond. I really believe that cultivating the ability to laugh is about as close to cultivating actual happiness as you can get.

9. There is no more hiding: This was especially eye-opening to me–the fact that you cannot censor any part of your life anymore. If something upsets you and you go into ugly-cry mode over it, your spouse is gonna know. If you are trying to craft a super-secret birthday present for your spouse (in a 600 square foot apartment) it is really hard to do! For better and for worse, your life is pretty exposed. It’s both freeing and completely terrifying.

10. You’re stronger together: This one sounds a little cheesy (and maybe it is), but it’s my favorite. Whenever you are met with a life-thrown curve ball, you no longer have to face it alone. Taxes, car trouble, personal sorrows, work crises, financial emergencies, chocolate cravings, emotional breakdowns, you name it: from the mundane to the life-threatening, you always have a go-to, an emergency contact, a first phone call. Not having to face life alone is extremely empowering and comforting.

As I finish this post now, I feel pretty “wise,” but already know that this is just the beginning of what this journey will teach me. The first year alone has been full of learning and growing together, and in my finite-year’s-worth of wisdom, I think that’s basically what marriage is supposed to be about. I can only imagine what this next year will bring!

Weighing In: What Mothers Should Say to their Daughters

Last week, one of my friends posted on Facebook a conversation she’d overheard while in a Target dressing room.

Girl: “I need to lose weight.”
Mom: “No, you don’t.”

When I first saw the post, I liked it (emotionally and with the Facebook thumbs-up), celebrating the way this mother supported her daughter. In the days since, I have not been able to stop thinking about it, replaying this conversation over and over again in my mind. Beyond liking the post, I’ve now come to re-imagine how my life could have been had my mother said that to me even once.

Before I move forward: Full disclaimer and clarification. To be honest, I have been overweight most of my life. Honestly, to be my healthiest, I do need to lose a little weight. That’s something that I have been working on, and I can really say that I am leading a healthier lifestyle these days. That being said, I think there is a difference between the conversations/comments regarding needing to lose weight for health reasons and those regarding someone feeling badly about the way he/she looks. The former is a health issue while the latter is a self-esteem issue. The girl trying on clothing in that Target dressing room was having a crisis of self-esteem, and I believe that her mother responded exactly as she should have.

Growing up, most of my weight-related crises were connected to my self-esteem. How did I look? Did I look stupid? Could I wear shorts? Why can’t I fit into the same brand of clothing as my friends? How am I going to avoid swimming this summer? None of my worries centered around whether I was healthy or not, but on whether I looked okay. Whenever I would raise these issues to my mother, one of three things would happen.

1. She would agree and try to empathize with me. No offense to my mom (or to other naturally thin people), but she has always been extremely (sometimes-annoyingly-easily) skinny. She would try to tell me that she knew how it felt to be “chunky” (this label alone was enough to further my self-esteem issues) and that I would be okay. Ultimately, this just angered me. Because, while she might understand having body image issues (as most women do), she did not know what it feels like to be overweight and to hate your body in that way. Regardless, this response only reinforced what I believed about myself: That I was ugly and needed to lose weight.

2. She would agree and make diet suggestions to me. If I mentioned wanting to lose weight or feeling that I was too fat, she would just tell me some crazy diet I could try. The most popular regime was one her best friend apparently used that allowed her to lose about 50 pounds in a few short months. This meal plan was simple: eat sugar-free Jell-O all day and a salad with no dressing for dinner. This approach was hurtful in two ways: it affirmed my low self-esteem by confirming that my mom thought I needed to lose weight too, and it encouraged me to boost my self-esteem by doing something completely unhealthy for my body.

3. She would ignore it. This was probably the most common response to any of my concerns about my weight. It became a taboo subject after a while. She wouldn’t even respond to it beyond maybe a nasty glance or a short comment in a dressing room about how I needed a bigger size. This ignorance of my concerns left me feeling so isolated and alone that it eventually led me to near-anorexia, and over the course of my sophomore year in high school, I lost about 60 pounds. My mother knew that I wasn’t eating enough, but I was finally at a normal weight. So throughout the process, the warning signs were ignored, and I finally started to get compliments from her.

Even at a normal weight, can you guess where my self-esteem level was? Lower than ever. It took a few years and a looooot of support from friends to feel better about myself and to fix my eating habits. Now, I am once more a little overweight, but eating the healthiest that I have in my entire life and feeling okay about my body most days. But it’s taken me almost 26 years and many emotional, physical, and mental battles to get to this point.

I’m sure the journey with my self-esteem still would have been rocky even with my mother’s support, but I can’t help but imagine how my life could have been different had my mother been more like the mom in that Target dressing room. Had she said to me even once in my life that I didn’t need to lose weight to feel good about myself, I think it would have changed how I viewed my self-worth. I’m not saying that someone else’s comments can completely erase or create your problems. But I think that what mothers say to their daughters about their bodies is something that sticks.

So mothers (or women in general), when your daughter (or another girl you know) is in that dressing room, having a crisis of self-esteem, please help her realize that she is so much more than what she weighs. It’s as simple as this:

Her: “I need to lose weight.”
You: “No, you don’t.”

Book Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

 

Title: The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Genre: Humorous Fiction
Pages: 304

What is it about? If you’ve seen David O. Russell’s film adaptation of the novel, then you’re pretty familiar with the plot. The film very closely follows the novel’s story line: Pat Peoples is a former history teacher who is separated from his wife, Nikki, following a violent incident. Following the separation, he is hospitalized at a mental institution for a time before moving back into his parents’ house. Once home, he focuses all his energy on getting his wife back and ending “apart time” by working out, reading classic novels (his wife was and English teacher), and focusing on the “silver lining” of his life/movie. His memory is clouded during this time and he doesn’t remember what he did to cause a rupture in his marriage or quite how long it has been since “apart time” began. While on his mission to reunite with Nikki, Pat undergoes therapy, explores his challenging relationship with his dad, goes to a few football games, and meets Tiffany. Tiffany has also moved back into her parents house following the death of her husband. The two, bonding over their emotional/mental struggles, develop an unconventional friendship that is humorous, heartening, heartbreaking, and riveting to watch unfold. And also, they dance.

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What did I like? The narration style of Pat’s character is so easy to latch onto. The way his character speaks to the reader is very conversational, but also not very guarded. I felt that he was one of the most genuine first-person narrators I’ve ever had contact with. Reading through his eyes allowed me a level of understanding of his position and experiences even–and especially–when I wouldn’t have externally understood his choices. I also love the realism/messiness of this story. I have never been one to like forced/expected/unreasonable happy endings, and I think this book manages to avoid that (which is a little ironic considering the title). Overall, I found the novel–and Pat!–extremely relate-able even though I’m a 25-year-old domestic goddess reading through the eyes of a male, football fan.

What didn’t I like? I honestly don’t have many complaints about the novel. Some picky complaints are: 1) I wish the relationship with Pat and his dad had been explored/explained further, yet the open-ended treatment of it did seem more realistic in many ways, and 2) I wish Tiffany’s background had been explored a little more (I prefer her portrayal in the movie–and it isn’t just a J. Law thing!)

Who should read it? If you’ve seen the movie and have not read the book, I would definitely recommend it. The two are similar, but very different in a few key ways. The narration of the story in the novel makes the plot all the more effective. In addition, I think this novel does a great job of portraying mental illness, depression, and emotional problems realistically without glossing over the nasty details. This is an issue many can relate to–whether personally (as I do) or through the experiences of loved one (as I also do). I think it’s a great read for anyone looking to connect carthartically with some serious, yet humorous, treatment of some real-world personal issues.

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Final Rating: I can say that I enjoy this book equally to and separately from its movie adaption, and that isn’t a frequent happening. I laughed, I cried, I cried, I laughed, I would read it again in a heartbeat. 9/10

Recipe Review: Peanut Butter and Banana Bread

I think it is safe to say that I have a little bit of a Pinterest Problem. A few weeks ago, I also had the problem of having a few, too ripe bananas on my hands. Luckily, my Pinterest Problem came to the rescue and I found this great recipe for Peanut Butter and Banana Bread.

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I followed the recipe pretty closely, and it turned out great! I didn’t have the walnuts or chocolate chips, but the bread was wonderful without them. I can’t wait to try it again with the chocolate chips; I think it would be phenomenal. 🙂

When I was done with the bread, I made a peanut butter topping/spread for it. I just softened up a little peanut butter and mixed in some confectioners sugar until I liked the taste. I would definitely recommend the topping or a peanut butter glaze if you’re a PB fan–the PB taste isn’t very noticeable in the bread itself.

Overall, 5 stars out of 5. Delicious banana bread that helped me use up some otherwise wasted bananas. 🙂

Book Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

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Title: Jellicoe Road (On the Jellicoe Road is the Australian title)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 419

 

What is it about? Jellicoe Road is two stories–one past, one present–woven beautifully into one. The present story centers around a 17-year-old girl named Taylor whose mother abandoned her at a gas station when she was eleven. She attends the Jellicoe School (sort of like a boarding school) and has been chosen as her school leader in her last year. As leader, she is in charge of leading her school in the territory wars with the Townies (students who attend the local high school) and the Cadets (military school students who spend the season in Jellicoe for outdoor training). In navigating the territory wars, Taylor is forced to deal with issues and people from her past, as well as the sudden departure of her only adult friend/mentor, Hannah (a sort of counselor at the Jellicoe School). This story is woven between snapshots of a past story line. The latter story focuses on a group of kids who attended the Jellicoe School about 20 years ago. At first the bursts from the past seem interesting, but disconnected from the main story. Yet, over time, the two stories connect and become one.

 

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What did I like? This is my second Melina Marchetta read, and having loved Saving Francesca, I went into Jellicoe Road with high expectations. It most definitely did not disappoint. When I first read the Cadet/Townie/Jellicoe School territory-war synopsis, I was skeptical about the premise of this book. As silly as it may sound, this rivalry was a great backdrop for developing friendships and for characters exploring themselves.

Taylor’s journey in the book is especially compelling, as is that of her male-counterpart Jonah Griggs. Unlike many young adult novels with undeservedly-tortured protagonists, I found that Taylor and Jonah had, not only difficult and unique life stories, but believable ones. In this case, I felt I was reading about teenagers who have, in many ways, experienced much more heartache than I have or ever will. This made their actions and emotions seem valid and real. As a narrator, Taylor was emotional and connected to the audience without being too whiny or indulgent. The ease of development in the two main characters–as well as of those making up the supporting characters–made this a smooth novel to read.

This book was also extremely emotional, dealing with themes of love, abandonment, developing self-esteem, searching for identity, and searching for a home. The themes are dealt with in both stories, helping the overlap between past and present seem even more seamless. In connecting the two stories, the book isn’t super mysterious. However, though I figured out most of the connections before they were revealed in the plot, I found the characters themselves more than compelling enough for me to continue.

 

What didn’t I like? I thought the book was a little slow to begin, but this is a frequent and forgivable problem. It does take (or took me at least) around 75 pages to really be hooked, but after that point, I found I couldn’t put the book down. Also, as is par for  the course with most young adult novels, there is a predictable romance in this book. I found the romance between Taylor and Jonah to be a little cheesy at times, and it definitely did illicit a few eye rolls from me. Still, the romance is not the focal point of the novel, so I found that fairly easy to look past.

 

Who should read it? I think this is a great book for teens and adults alike. Obviously, if you are a Melina fan, I would recommend this book (if you haven’t already read it). I would also recommend this to fans of John Green. I don’t enjoy Marchetta’s writing as much as I enjoy Green’s, but I think they have a similar approach to the young adult genre. Both write about real-life, heavy problems from a teen perspective in a way that the confused and daunted part in all of us can relate to. I would also suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of YA literature and is looking for a reprieve from YA fantasy/distopia. This is a well-written, interesting, and touching voyage into realistic young adult fiction.

 

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Final Rating: Though I didn’t love every moment about this book, I found the two-plot construction to be extremely engaging and it kept me guessing through most of this emotional novel. 8/10

My love letter to Lexington

I’ve seen this link floating around the internet for the past few weeks now: A love letter to Lexington, Kentucky. If you haven’t seen the original, I’ve posted the link below. As I read it for the first time, tears came to my eyes–not necessarily because I agreed with the letter (in fact, I have very little in common with the writer), but because I too love my hometown and am just now coming to realize how much. In the weeks since I’ve read this, it’s popped up several times in my thoughts and I’ve decided to write my own love letter to this beautiful town.

Link to the original: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/love-letters/love-letters-lexington-ke_b_3859638.html

Dear Lexington,

I have never really “owned” you as my city, though I was born and raised (mostly) within your city limits. In fact, I often complained about you, which I believe was really unfair of me to do. I’d like to apologize for that. Going outside of your familiar walls has made me realize just how great we had it and just how much I took you for granted. You really are a gem of a place, and I have memories from throughout my life that make me fondly appreciate you.

I’m not sure if this is true, but I tell people I was brought home from the hospital in a UK outfit. Actually, I’m almost certain it isn’t true, but I’ve seen pictures of myself–as a very, very tiny baby–in a UK jersey, so it isn’t that far from the truth. I say this to illustrate that UK basketball has been a part of my life from basically day 1. I know basketball + Lexington is kind of cliché, but I can’t avoid it here. I am not really a sports fan. I enjoy sporting events in person and will gladly go if it’s someone else’s idea, but UK basketball is the one sport I will watch of my own accord. To me it represents family bonding, bluegrass pride, and the first time I cussed in front of my dad. Basketball is integral to your culture, and I think that’s great (except for the crazy, burning-couches people, but that isn’t your fault, Lexington).

When I was in fourth grade at Meadowthorpe Elementary School I was assigned a project about Kentucky history. The project required me to visit all sorts of historical landmarks around Lexington and make a sort of scrapbook. At the time, I remember being extremely annoyed, because the project took up three good Saturdays of my youth with driving around taking pictures of “old houses.” Looking back though, I saw a lot of beautiful places I might not have seen otherwise. Even as an annoyed 9-year-old, there was one place I loved: Ashland, Henry Clay’s Estate. It is a beautiful historic home in the middle of a neighborhood right outside of downtown. But once you’re on the property, you become completely unaware of the modern civilization around you. Even younger me could appreciate that.

I attended middle school at a school downtown. Though middle school is not a time I would repeat for ANY amount of money, I think this is when I really became familiar with your inner workings as a city. I saw the construction on the new Courthouse on my way to school each morning–a building that I still find so lovely and impressive today. I rode past Triangle Park and the library each day as well–two more downtown treasures. Triangle Park brings back memories of art fairs, henna tattoos, fourth of July fun, and a giant lit up Christmas tree. The cycles of festivals and decorations going through that park marked the cycle of the year as much as the changing seasons and the weather. I will miss that Christmas tree this year–the one that could mark the onset of Christmas season, even and especially in the years when Kentucky weather didn’t get the memo.

Looking back, Lexington, I realize now that you are the perfect blend of beauty and convenience. You’re big enough to have restaurants, shops, and neighborhoods galore! But not so big that it takes more than 20 minutes to get anywhere. And you are a city, with all of the modern amenities expected of that title, but you are so much more than that. You have beautiful parks woven throughout you and even a lovely nature preserve. I still remember the first time I hiked to the overlook at Raven Run. Who knew that a place with so many McDonald’s restaurants could also have a view like that? I am missing the easily-available green in my current surroundings. You were the best of both worlds in that regard.

Speaking of green, can I just say how much I enjoy Keeneland? I always loved how the two open seasons corresponded to mine and Hayley’s birthdays, but I doubt that that is intentional, so it probably doesn’t deserve much merit. But growing up, I felt that Keeneland was open especially for me, which is a feeling that a young person especially appreciates. I know many people enjoy Keeneland for the races and entertainment and dressing up, but I like it for other reasons. Getting a teenager out of bed on a Saturday a 6 a.m. isn’t easy, but Keeneland was enough for me to gladly do that. I cherish the foggy Saturday mornings I spent there, walking around, eating breakfast, and really enjoying the land and horses before the crowds show up. I think that is a hidden side of Keeneland more people should experience–I know it’s something I always loved, but also took for granted.

Now that I am away from you, I realize just how great you were. I’m sorry that I never fully appreciated you while I was with you, but I’m beginning to realize just how lucky I was to be raised in a place like you. I’m adjusting to my new home, and it is pretty great in its own way, but I think I’ll always have Kentucky roots. I wouldn’t really have it any other way. Thanks for the memories, Lexington, and I’m sure we’ll keep in touch.

Love,
Whitley