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.

IMG_1627-0

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!)

Advertisements

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.”

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

One month and some change

In one month of marriage, I have learned that Stephen whistles. A. LOT. I was aware of this whistling a month ago, but I had no clue of its frequency. He whistles when he’s cleaning. He whistles when he’s walking through the apartment. He whistles when he’s driving. He whistles when he’s checking his email. You get the idea.

This has been the quirky trait that has put me most on edge. I can even imagine some of the death glares I’ve given over the last five weeks due to the persistent whistling. I suppose I did it because I was annoyed (though, there is also a chance that I death-glared due to jealousy as my own whistling skills are abysmal at best).

I’m proud to say that I’ve (mostly) adjusted to the whistling now and that my death glares are far fewer in number these days.

This experience has convinced me that at least one of the marriage clichés I’ve heard is true: you know, the bit about the spouse’s quirks becoming much more annoying/magnified post-union/cohabitation. I can only imagine what I’m making poor Stephen go through. But the important part is, we’re going through it. Together.

Considering that I’ve moved to another state and started a job at a new school in the last month, I think it’s a little impressive that the whistling has been my hardest adjustment. So far, we have both been lucky. We are adjusting. We are learning. We are loving. We are having fun (small, meaningless annoyances and all!).

The end of a chapter

For those of you who don’t know this about me, I tend to put off dealing with my emotions. For those of you who have never been in the education profession, the end of the school year is a perfect time to have an excuse to put off dealing with emotions. Therefore, a lot of emotions from the last few weeks–even months–have hit me today.

Today marks my very last day at Anderson County High School. I just turned in my end-of-the-year checklist, and I’ve spent the day packing up my classroom. I’ve known this day was coming for a while, but it didn’t really hit me until today. Yes, I’ve been counting down and excited for the end of school, but today I also realize that this day means I will not be coming back. Today has been full of the tears that I haven’t dealt with in the days leading up to it. Packing everything up has a certain finality. Saying goodbye–something I’ve never really been good at–definitely makes things final. It has been a day of boxes–for packing up belongings and for pulling tissues from to clean up after teary hugs.

As I look around these walls for close to the last time, I realize that this classroom will always be special to me. It was the first classroom that was mine. And for the past two years, this school has been my home. I can’t imagine a more supportive and wonderful place in which to begin my teaching career. I will miss all of the people here–my terrific colleagues, and yes, even the students.

Today is the definition of bittersweet though, as while I’m sad to leave, I am also excited about where I’m going. This is the end of one truly monumental chapter in my life, but also the start of a whole new chapter to explore. I am so excited to be marrying Stephen in just over 6 weeks (!!!) and to be moving to Atlanta to start this journey with him.

So, I guess today is the first day of transition that I will experience this summer. Between moving, marriage, and a new career, it is hardly the last. But today, I will cherish all of the emotions I’m feeling: the sadness at leaving a place I love, the happiness for the future, and the gratitude to have had this experience.

Living Below the Line

As many of you are aware, last week I participated in Live Below the Line–a week-long activity of living below the poverty line to raise awareness for extreme poverty across the world. For five days, I lived on $1.50 a day for food and drink. Growing up, there were many times when money was scarce and food was not abundant. For this reason, Live Below the Line was a cause that was dear to my heart. Also, I–mistakenly–assumed that it would be easy for me.

Shopping for groceries wasn’t too difficult. I was able to buy enough food to eat over 1200 calories a day (which is above starvation level). My menu consisted of: a banana, two peanut butter sandwiches a day, and two servings of rice with three servings of black beans. I’m a bargain hunter on a regular basis, so figuring out how to effectively spend my $7.50 wasn’t too challenging. I will say, however, that there were several foods I thought I’d be able to afford that I DEFINITELY could not. I figured out how to spend the $7.50 pretty quickly, BUT my choices were faaar more limited than I had anticipated. Still, I spent $7.37 for the week, so I was a success.

The first two days of Live Below the Line went well! I was excited about what I was participating in and dedicated to the cause I was raising awareness for. The third day is when the first real challenge hit. The food I was eating wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t able to afford spices or salt in my budget and black beans/rice without salt or spices is pretty bleak. When dinner came around on the third day, I considered skipping the meal. Instead I forced myself to eat it. This was the second real epiphany of the experience. I kept telling myself I could eat anything for 5 days and be okay with it, but by day 3, I was already seriously struggling. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on not day 3, but on day 30 or day 300 or even year 3 and beyond! This was a temporary exercise for me, but on day 3 I was really forced to think of how this life must feel for those who experience it everyday. It’s not just that extreme poverty means having little money for food. Extreme poverty also means eating meals that might not taste good–and eating them a lot–but not complaining because at least you have food. It really started me thinking about how much I take for granted. I was upset over not liking the food I had to eat, when many around the world would be immensely thankful to just have that food.

Throughout the week, I also realized the abundance in my life in other ways. There were many days when I was still hungry or when I wanted a snack or when I wanted to add spices to my beans. On those days, I had options just sitting in my kitchen. Snacks and spices and food just sitting there. I never realized how much extra food and supplies I have until I wasn’t allowed to use them. It was a very humbling experience. I am a young professionally, making not-a-ton of money in my second year teaching, so oftentimes I joke about being poor, when from a different vantage point, I live a life of abundance. Something I was reminded of each day of Live Below the Line.

I know Live Below the Line is about the millions of people suffering from hunger and poverty around the world. It is a great experience to raise awareness for this group of people without a voice, and I can’t wait to participate again next year! However, it also showed me many things about myself–that I have it easier than I think, that I have more than I need, and that I have a life many people would love to have.

This experience left me with a refreshed perspective and some much needed gratitude.

Here goes nothing…

After much deliberation over whether my life was interesting enough for this, I have decided to start a blog. As of yet, I’m not totally sure what this will turn into. Those of you who know me (yes, I’m already addressing my as-of-yet, non-existent pool of readers) know that procrastination is one of my strengths while consistency is questionable. For this reason, I’m somewhat wary of how this blog will unfold.

However, my goal is to post about once a week with various updates about my life. For at least the next three months, I’m sure a lot of my posts will be wedding-related. I won’t be offended if you choose to skip over those, and I certainly won’t mind if you choose to peruse them at length. This is simply a disclaimer. Post-wedding, though, I imagine that I’ll write about books and cupcakes/confections and crafts and the new directions life will be taking me: a culmination of the things I love. So, one post a week. That’s my short-term goal.

My long-term goal is obviously to be found so charming as to ensure myself a book deal for my posts. So, please, if you find me at all endearing or entertaining, spread the word. I clearly cannot generate this level of hype on my own. Okay, so I’m probably joking about the book deal. Mostly…

Well, I think this sums up my introductory post. And even though I didn’t say anything, I think I already have the blogging bug! Maybe I’ll post something else tomorrow. Stay tuned for wedding wonders!