Feb 26, 2016

A Very Toasty Post

So you know the thing people do when they have babies and that's all they can think about?  Yeah... I'll confess to having a little bit of "dog brain" after first adopting.  Sister2 and I adopted Maverick and Luke (respectively) around the same time and poor Sister3 had to listen to endless discussions about training, equipment, and pooping schedules.  I know it's not fun for non-dog owners, so I'll keep it as short and sweet as possible, and try to limit the volume of doggy posts.

I get so excited about each little improvement.  "Look!  Her tail's less tucked today!!!"  "She barked at the Roomba!!!"  "She walked on the leash and only quit for the last 20% of the walk!"  But I think you have to.  Because there's lots of little backslides, too.  One day she'll take kibble or a treat from my hand and then she stops.  She's getting braver and walking around on her own, buuut that also means she's brave enough to run away from us instead of just curling up in a ball and accepting her fate.

Speaking of which - she's already gotten away from me.  Twice.  The first time was my fault - I was holding her collar, preparing to clip her onto the long leash we had tied to the deck.  She yanked forward, the collar slipped out of my hand, and she darted to her favorite spot in the leaves in the back.  Fortunately she stayed there and let me retrieve her.

The second time was worse.  We implemented a "leash on before the door opens" plan, meaning that we put the regular 4ft leash on before we even open the door, and then clip the runner (we swapped the long leash for a legit cable that won't get tangled in the yard) on before removing the short leash.  But that doesn't help if the collar pops open, which it did.  This time she fled further, and didn't huddle into her "waiting for death" position.  When I got too close, she'd retreat.  So I stayed and watched her, while Ryan hastily donned some apparel (it was the first morning outing and he wasn't out of bed yet) and circled around behind her in the woods.  That was dicey, but we lucked out and she gave up after a couple more retreats.  Now checking the collar is part of the routine.

We're very careful to never run after her.  Both because we don't want to scare her more and because we don't want to teach her that running is an option.  Right now she flees from us sometimes, but we can generally corner her if we catch her in the right spot (or we wait until she settles down on the couch, which she has yet to "escape" from).  If she starts full-on running from us, we have no hope of catching her because ain't no human (especially not us) that can match a running dog.

Luke seems to be avoiding her less.  They're still not interacting much, but they've sniffed a few times and he's starting to recognize that going to get Toast is part of the going outside routine, so instead of acting jealous, he gets excited when I pick her up.  He still won't stay on the couch with her (if we're not there), but I feel like that's partly due to the fact that he was pretty solidly trained not to get on the couch (before it got quite so dilapidated), so he still doesn't know when or if he's allowed up there.  I'm hoping we can undo that training without confusing him too much.
She's sprawling!  Like she's actually comfortable even though I'm only 5ft away!!!
An unexpected plus: I started doing "training" with dog treats, mostly to build a positive connection for Toast with going outside and for her name (seriously, she acts like going outside and being petted are forms of torture).  Since the treats were out, I ran Luke through some of his old tricks and somehow between now and 5 months ago, he "remembered" how to roll over.  We struggled with that months ago and now he's just doing it like it's no big deal.  I'm beginning to suspect he never forgot; he was just too lazy to do it.

Her barking is weird.  I don't remember what Luke used to be like but at some point we accidentally trained him to do this weird whine-yelp noise instead (because it was cute and funny and we didn't realize we were encouraging him to do it more and more loudly until it was too late).  But Toast barks like a normal dog - a deep, warning bark, seemingly incongruous with her small size (she's only 27 pounds which looks pretty tiny next to Luke's 55).  She also growls, which made me nervous at first, until I realized that she's still being submissive and (I'm pretty sure) we don't have to worry about her snapping at us out of fear.  But yeah, so verbally she sounds super tough, and then you get up close and she is this absolute wreck of fear and shaking and no way in hell is she going to defend herself or anyone else.  I kind of think she barks to let us know there's a problem.  ("Handle this, humans, for I cannot!")

She freaked out the other day when Ryan burped.  It was an obnoxiously long and loud belch, but we had to laugh at her reaction.  She barked and growled, looking around for the intruder.  I think she barked more at that than she did when Roommate came home 30 minutes later.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about the situation.  Ryan's gotten frustrated a couple times and he keeps worrying that she's going to hate him whenever something happens that scares her (running from him and sliding on the hardwood stairs, having to retrieve her from thorn bushes and both of them getting scratched up, etc), but I think it's inevitable that we'll accidentally scare her sometimes.  We can't tiptoe around and not expose her to the normal sounds of our daily life.  She'll get used to the blender and the Roomba.  She'll get used to going up and down the stairs and learn not to run.

Even when she "regresses" it's just a small setback.  It's absolutely bizarre to think so little time has passed.  It hasn't even been 2 weeks!  And so, even though the progress we have is inconsistent and small, it's amazing for how little time we've had.  Just imagine what we can do with a month or two.

Perhaps the calmest she has been that close to a human so far.  It was my mom, of course.  Using her super mom-soothing powers.  I know, Toast, she calms me down, too.

Bonus: here is the list of things Toast is NOT afraid of:
  • Luke (or other dogs)
  • Birds
  • Food (although suspicious of treats)
  • The vacuum (I know - how???)
I hope to have a much longer list next time I write about her.


Have you ever adopted a rescue dog?  How about one with issues?  How long did it take for you to see improvements?

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Feb 24, 2016

Spark Joy - Alternately Titled "Jenn Rambles About Organization"

I'm reading Spark Joy, the new Marie Kondo book.  I know not everyone had the same love of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I did, BUT I think there are a lot of concepts that translate to everyone even if you don't want to be scolded about folding your socks "like lumpy potatoes" or told to speak to your possessions.

I followed through with the "tidy once" plan, and made a point to physically touch everything in the house and discard what I could.  I tried, especially with clothes and sentimental things, to really keep only the ones that brought joy, but there were tons of utilitarian objects that really just didn't make sense to get rid of.

Spark Joy deals with that stuff.  Kondo backpedals a little bit and says you can't really get rid of everything that doesn't give you joy but you can try to find joy in everything you own even if you're keeping it for a utilitarian reason.  And I like that idea a lot.  I don't love our tool kit, but I do greatly enjoy the paintings and décor we've hung with it, and I appreciate the problems we've been able to fix with it.  I don't love my socks, but I like having warm, unblistered feet, AND I do have a brand I prefer (Goldtoe, if you were curious).  I recently tossed out all my low-rise socks because I really do like the ankle ones better even if it's uncool to have socks visible past your shoes.

I liked a lot of the things Kondo said in the book, but there were also a few things that made me think, "Wow, now I see what everyone else was talking about when they said she was crazy."  At one point she's talking about using a ruler to screw things because she's gotten rid of her screwdriver.  A little extreme.  Though I agree with the basic point!  Maybe I have a dress I can't get rid of because it's my "special occasions" dress, but I don't really like it anymore.  If I don't have it, I'll just find a creative way to combine a skirt and shirt that looks nice enough for formal occasions.

But overall, I'm starting to think I'm not quite up to the full Kondo lifestyle.  There have been several occasions that I wished for something I'd discarded.  Some were my fault - I discarded it despite it giving me joy because I didn't use it.  And some gave me no joy but would have been useful later.

I don't want to hold onto everything I ever owned "just in case."  I think the vast majority of those things won't get used and will just take up space and be extra clutter to store and keep clean.  But I'm definitely struggling with anticipating my own needs and I like getting rid of stuff so much that I'm prone to clear out too much.

Here's where Spark Joy helped me.  I never really felt "done" after the first purge.  And, when we moved, it was a good opportunity to let go of a few more things that I hadn't been quite ready emotionally to part with during the purge.  I thought that was where my restless, need-to-do-more feeling was coming from.  But the feeling remained.  Here we have this giant, empty new house and I'm wanting to find things to get rid of!

In Spark Joy, Kondo says that if you don't feel done, it's because not enough of your possessions gave you joy and so even though you got rid of the joyless clutter, your home still isn't filled with the things you love.  She doesn't exactly advocating shopping, BUT this is the first time Kondo talks about acquiring rather than eliminating and she got into a topic I really like: color!

So I guess the point is that I'm giving myself permission to stop analyzing everything and prowling for more to get rid of, and taking Kondo's advice to start shaping my home into something that gives me joy.  Right now that's optimization projects, like organizing my cords.

But it also means no guilt for the new things coming in, as long as they give me joy.  Like everything on this rack in the basement bathroom.

Note: candle underneath of book is a bad idea!!!  Nothing burned, but scorch marks are a different story.
It definitely means shifting my attention to painting and not feeling guilty for the overly elaborate things I want to try, or the excessive hours of research I've put into the furniture we want to buy.  Although I could stand to be a little more lenient on myself, as well.  If we buy something and it ends up not adding joy, it won't be the end of the world.

I've changed up a few things since "kondo-ing" initially.  Way back in October, I had rolled all my clothes (my version of her folding suggestion) and I still do it for most of my stuff.  My winter and summer clothes now co-exist peacefully.

It's kind of a rainbow.  The left is short sleeves green to yellow/neutral, and the right is long sleeves in the same order.  The middle is white to black and encompasses both long and short sleeves.

I did give up on rolling my socks.  Too much work.  That wasn't a Kondo suggestion anyway.  In fact, she might actually approve of my new solution more.

E'erbody loves undie pictures, right?!
I stopped hanging my pants.  As much as I liked not having any clothes on the top rack in the closet, I really don't like hanging them.  Couldn't tell you why since I do it for all my skirts.  I'm also having some other closet issues.

I could not figure out a way to make all the bags up top look nice.  They lean against each other and it looks messy and blegh.  The shoes I had on the ground and then up top and now they're all over because neither solution was really optimal and my boot rack is so flimsy it falls over if there aren't clothes pushing it against the wall.  I was going to tape it to the wire rack up top so it couldn't fall and then realized I'm not quite tall enough to put my boots back on if I do that.  So I'm kind of stuck for solutions on that.  Anyone have a good boot organization solution?

I kind of want one of those cubby organizers with baskets for flip flops and open spaces for the other shoes, but they're not terribly space efficient and it feels like an unnecessary expense.  BUT it would give me joy, so maybe I can argue that and give myself permission to buy one anyway.

We'll see.  Our house is so big and open to possibilities it's almost overwhelming.  The guys have made a few design suggestions that I just can't quite envision and it's frustrating the heck out of me, but maybe if I start small and tackle one thing at a time, I can finally get to a place where I really do have a home that brings me joy.

Although I honestly don't know that I'll ever feel done.  I always find a new project.

Any suggestions for how to fix my closet quandary?  What have you done to add joy to your home?  Have you read either of Kondo's books?

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Feb 17, 2016

Introducing Toast!

Meet Toast, a Valentine's Day addition to our family (timing coincidental)!

Toast is 8-ish months old and so, so scared and sad looking.  She spends most of her time looking like this.

And she won't come with us unless we pick her up.  It's a good thing she's only 27 pounds or this might have been a bit more challenging!

When we met her at the shelter, she walked around a little bit, but I had to scoop her up and hold her in my lap to get her anywhere near me and it took a good 10 minutes to get her to stop shaking.  The volunteer was delighted that she stopped and relaxed at all.

I fell in love with her and knew we had to take her home and save her and show her that the world's not scary and not all people are bad, but at the same time it's a little heart-breaking to think about the situation that turned her into this in the first place.

So far we've carried her up and down stairs and outside for bathroom breaks, and she mostly just lets us and doesn't do much of her own free will.  Except eat!  But even then I had to go stand about 15 feet away and not watch her.

Luke is supposed to be her mentor to show her that people are good and how to relax, but unfortunately he's been a little stand-offish.  I thought he was jealous, but Ryan thinks he's getting a little anxious because this new dog is so, so afraid and he doesn't know why.  So basically we have two little scaredy-dogs who are going to needs tons of love and attention until everyone figures out that it's all ok.

But I'm sure we'll get there eventually.

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Feb 10, 2016

Ageism in Hollywood and the Everyday

I always knew, on some level, that we're a pretty age-ist society.  The older you get, the less your contributions in the work force are taken seriously and you're seen, not as someone who has contributed for a full lifetime to our society, but as an inconvenience.  Too slow, too backwards, not aesthetically appealing enough.

I had a conversation with friends about how the term "grandpa" is used insulting in the US vs respectful in Chinese and other Asian cultures.  And I think that, in the same was as the trend 10 years ago of using "gay" as an insult, is the best indicator of how our society views older people.  Whether we realize it or not, we have a history of discriminating against people as they age.

Watching the new Star Wars movie, I was actually kind of delighted to see the original actors used despite looking "old" vs subbing in new actors with young faces and grey hair.  But apparently people had complaints.  Not about Han Solo or Mark Hamill, but Carrie Fisher?  God forbid a woman age!

And then just the other day I read an article about all the criticism Susan Sarandon's received for daring to show some skin at age 69.  I would say age-ism affects everyone (unless you're lucky enough to kick it before the wrinkles show up), but when it comes to appearance, women bear the heavier part of the burden.

It's pissed me off for a long time that sitcoms persistently cast families with "funny" fathers who are usually pretty average looking (overweight, not attractive, older, whatever!) with a gorgeous wife.  To add to the disparity, the women are typically nice, responsible people, while the men are lazy whiners who seem to have nothing better to do than poke fun at their long-suffering spouses.  Everybody Loves Raymond, George Lopez, Fresh Prince, King of Queens, According to Jim.  Even cartoons!  The Simpsons, Family Guy, the Flintstones.

It's ridiculous!  Is it really that hard for us to accept the idea of an "ordinary" family with a father AND mother of average looks, typical body sizes, and sharing responsibility evenly?

I think the main question is whether this is an example of Hollywood culture teaching us at a young age that this disparity, and this treatment of older people is a norm.  Or is our media simply a symptom of a society that has so little concept of equality that we continue to struggle with such basic concepts?

I don't have a solution.  I'm as guilty of age-ism and even sexism as most other people.  I complain when I get stuck behind an old person driving, I'm more likely to ignore things my grandparents say if they seem "out of touch," and I can understand why a company might not be as invested in the growth and progress of employees that are getting close to retirement.  I've said judge-y things about other women or the way they were dressed.

And I think that's where I'll start.  I don't have the klout to change the world or start a cultural revolution.  But I can pay attention to what I'm saying and thinking and I can adjust how I view other people.  I've made huge progress in the last few years in feminism and being a better supporter of my fellow women.  And now I'm going to turn that attention to our older peers and making sure I don't discount them without giving them a chance to show their mettle.

Because, frankly, Betty White is still killing it.  As are Ian McKellan, Judi Dench, Samuel Jackson, Hellen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, and Carrie Fisher.  And actors like Christopher Lee prove that you can keep putting out awesome work until the very end (Lee died just last year at 93 and he was still making movies!).

What do you think of our society's take on age?  What's an issue you've changed your perspective on recently (intentionally or accidentally)?

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Feb 4, 2016

What's New/Currently/Climbing Out of the Pit

I'll be honest - I've been struggling to get back into the swing of things.  I don't typically do currently posts and I'm not a fan when people vaguely mention personal issues, but I'm going to disappoint myself and do both of those things (feel free to skip this post if those things irk you - I won't blame you one bit).

Something happened that hurt me very badly.  It was less than a week after I'd gotten back from Australia, 4 days after moving into our new home, and 2 days before I started my new work schedule.  Even with all those amazing things in my life, it's been a huge challenge to shake myself out of it.

But 3 weeks in I'm finally succeeding, and managing to enjoy life again and move forward (if you're curious, feel free to ask - I've already talked to a couple people about it).  I feel like the moment has kind of passed to do a trip recap or a "wow, we have a new house" announcement, so Kristen's What's New with You? linkup seemed like the perfect way to sum up all the changes that have been happening.

What's New?

We Traveled Down Under and Nothing Tried to Kill Us

I did a wildlife post shortly after returning (although I'll admit to writing it before I even left), but I never talked about the trip.  It was mostly good!  It was nice and relaxing to travel somewhere where communication wasn't a problem (unlike Europe where we were heavily reliant on our guidebook for basic communication).  We drove on the left, zorbed, saw Hobbiton and New Years Eve fireworks in Sydney, held koalas, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and ate SO MUCH FOOD.  We also spent too much time together, bickered, and made my aunt cry (by accident!).  But despite those ups and downs, we managed to get a lot out of the experience and we had our first ever sister heart-to-hearts about feelings and how to get along better, which is kind of a huge milestone for us!  So I have no regrets.

If you want to read more about the good stuff, we documented it on this Tumblr blog: wellsbellestravels.tumblr.com.  I also just revealed the not-so-secret identities of my sisters, but the whole "Sister2," "Sister3" thing is more because it's easier to know who I'm talking about in relation to myself if you haven't happened to read previous family posts than for any sort of anonymity.  Side note: Tumblr is the worst!

We Bought a House

Ryan, Roommate and I moved in the day I got back from Australia.  Yep, you heard that right.  Ryan picked me up from the airport, and we hustled around getting things ready for our awesome crew of movers who was scheduled to arrive 2 hours after I did.  Thank goodness for the pit stop in San Francisco between international and cross country flights or I might not have made it (we stayed at Sister3's apartment for 12 hours and got food and a solid nap).

It's a townhouse, but about twice the square footage of what we had, so our living room and computer room furniture all fits in the basement and our main floor is so empty is echoes a bit (the hard floor doesn't help).  It's absolutely gorgeous, and the seller had put in lots of little details that we love (came with curtains, and all the hardware is antique-y looking, which matches all our stuff).

It took a little while to feel like home, but now that we're finished unpacking and moving on to decorating and hanging I am so in love with this place.  We have plants (which I may or may not be able to keep alive), our stuff is on the walls, and I get to paint, which is a first since we've always rented.  Currently in the process of figuring out how to acquire a glaze paint for a marbling effect if anyone has knowledge in this area!  (Evidently Sherwin Williams stopped carrying it a couple years ago.)

My Work Schedule is Kickass!

I go in to my old job on Mondays and Tuesdays.  They were awesome and moved the ping pong table away from my desk, so with the reduced hours and that distraction removed, there is nothing to annoy me or dishearten me when I'm there.  The rest of the time I'm basically on call for whenever my clients or contract employer needs me.  I'm a contractor, freelancer, and employee all at once and I love it.  I get so much variety in my work and just enough stability that I don't have to stress about how to pay the bills.

That's It

That's all the big stuff.  The rest is the stuff of standard "currently" posts: reading the Mortal Instruments series (and missing my neighbor, who got me started and then moved back to NY), starting my 3rd class towards a Masters degree in Web Design, staying up too late because I procrastinated on my DE Fun-a-Day project and I had to do most of the project in 2 days instead of 31, researching a new puppy friend for Luke, and ogling all the beautiful home décor you can imagine.  (We just bought this painting, tell me that's not amazing!)

This year got off to a pretty rocky start, but I'm starting to find the good in that situation and I'm doing my best to embrace healing and growth.  I'm happy again.  Mostly.  And it's going to keep getting better.  I know that and I continue to work towards that.  Back to the usual programming next week.

What have you been up to this year?  How do you handle it when private life interferes with blogging?

The link up is with Kristen and Gretchen (I'm not actually linking up because of all the annoyingly vague personal stuff, but I like the idea a lot so I figured I'd share it with you guys!)

What's New With You

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