The benefits of being “a dog person”

The benefits of being “a dog person”

I have a dog. I didn’t always have a dog. Actually, until I was 10, our family pet was no more than a goldfish. Then my parents allowed me to adopt a kitten. That was it though. They liked to travel and a cat allowed for more flexibility. Plus, a cat didn’t need to be walked at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather.

I considered myself a cat person. I adopted a cat when I finally had my own place that allowed pets. When I got engaged to my husband who had a severe cat allergy, I found a new home for the cat. That never sat quite right with me, because he got to keep his dog (who was his from a previous relationship). I decided I was never going to like that dog!

Since we lived in a building that wouldn’t allow dogs, the dog stayed at my mother-in-law’s and he went there to care for it. I didn’t. When we got our first house five years later, Cody, a Miniature Schnauzer, came to live with us. I was ambivalent. Then that first morning with the dog in the new house, that damn dog was so excited to see me get up! I immediately thought, “okay, dogs are different.”

In the days and weeks and years that followed, this dog tried so hard to make me love him every chance he got. And I started to care for him as much as “his dad” did. I was a dog person! Now more than 20 years and two more dogs later I have Enzo. Enzo is an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd-Poodle mix (Aussie-Poo, Aussie-doodle, or designer mutt depending on who you’re talking to).

I absolutely love this dog! When my life was taking so many difficult turns, he was there. I am never completely alone because I have him. He never quite became a runner like my previous Wheaten Terrier, Malachy, but he is so special in his own way.

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Malachy and Me. As we appeared in the May 2006 issue of 201:The Best of BergenPhoto Credit; Ted Axelrod

I have learned that having a dog is really good for people. Dogs force people to move. Walking my dog is a big part of why I’m able to make my step goal on days I don’t run. Have you ever noticed that people shopping at all-night grocery stores are buying pet food? We won’t make the effort for ourselves a lot of the time, but we won’t let our pets go without. That’s why dogs are so good for the elderly and people who live alone.

Most of the people I have met in my building since moving to Chicago are fellow dog owners. Even people in the street walking their dogs are so much friendlier and more approachable. Our dogs give us something in common immediately. With the severe cold snap we had in Chicago a few weeks ago, the only people I saw out in my neighborhood (although for only five minutes at a time) were dog owners!

There are times when having to take a dog out at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather can be a bit of a drag, but that is offset by the unconditional love they give us. He is always – 100% of the time! – absolutely happy to see me! If you live alone – or have teenagers – you need that.

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Enzo’s first visit to Lake Michigan. Chicago, Illinois. July 2018.

 

Make Valentine’s Day about giving

Make Valentine’s Day about giving

My feelings about Valentine’s Day have fluctuated over the years. When I was a kid, it was great! It meant being greeted in the morning with chocolates from my Dad and then receiving little Valentine’s from all my classmates. I went to a small Catholic school and all the kids gave everyone in the class a little card. All was good. No bad feelings created by anyone feeling left-out.

In High School Valentine’s Day became a fundraiser. The student council or some similarly enterprising group sold carnations in a variety of colors to represent the relationship between the sender and recipient: Love, Like, Friendship and the dreaded “Secret Admirer.” I never had a boyfriend in high school. I exchanged flowers with a few close friends and remained grateful for that.

Through college and my single years, whether or not I looked forward to Valentine’s Day was directly linked to whether or not I had a significant other. I don’t recall anything I did all of those years that was particularly special or memorable. By the time I got married, I didn’t really care anymore, except to make it special for our daughter. When making Valentine’s Day about giving rather than receiving, I found special meaning beyond the commercialism created by Hallmark and FTD.

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My Daughter’s first Valentine’s Day; wearing a gift from mom and dad, her first piece of jewelry from Tiffany – a necklace she also wore to her prom. River Edge, New Jersey. February 2001.

Any Valentine’s Days that came up short, I realize now are the times I lost sight of that. I had expectations about what I should be receiving, rather than just focusing of what I was giving, and what, beyond tangible gifts, was positive about the relationship. I think part of my issue through the years was the expectation those first Valentine’s Days created. My parents always exchanged lovely, thoughtful cards, flowers, candy and other special trinkets. My Dad set the bar pretty high. Although so did my mom.

I found a nice summary on The History of Valentine’s Day on history.com. The conclusion is that 85% of all Valentines are actually sent by women – hopefully women who have no expectation of getting one in return. That tells me that perhaps women, in expecting men to take the lead, may be setting themselves up for disappointment. The strength of any relationship shouldn’t be judged by what you do or don’t do on February 14th. Every day and any day can be Valentine’s Day.

Now, with my truly amazing boyfriend, I seem to do just fine – today and every other day! One of the things I cherish in this later-in-life, second chance at romance, is that I believe we are both very conscious of things that may have been taken for granted in our previous relationships. We are more mindful and present perhaps. Although I think that might just generally come with age, too.

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Finish line at the Surf City Half Marathon. Huntington Beach, California. February 2019.

This year for Valentine’s Day my boyfriend and I will not have 800 miles between us. That alone is a gift I will cherish. I do have a small little trinket as a symbol of my love that I am looking forward to giving him. What are your plans? I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts about Valentine’s Day now?  What differs from when you were a child, teen, and young adult? Are you doing anything special? As an empty-nesting parent, do you feel more connected to your partner on Valentine’s Day than you did when the kids where at home? If you’re single, do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you care? What remains important about this day to you?

Whatever your plans or relationship status, know that you are loved and appreciated. Thanks for reading.

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The Surf City Half Marathon Reviewed

The Surf City Half Marathon Reviewed

I have run the Surf City Half Marathon (there is also a full marathon and 5k) for the past several years. Huntington Beach, California is a great place for a winter destination race even on a weekend when locals would characterize it as “cold.”

I continue to go back because, well, for my boyfriend and I, it has become “our place.” I recommend it to anyone looking for an early February race getaway. The event is well organized and has all the amenities runners look for in a half marathon or marathon. It’s also Super Bowl weekend every year, which adds a party dimension.

Packet pick-up was easy. The long sleeve tech shirts are always outstanding. This year we were also recipients of “Longboard Legacy Club” shirts because this was our third consecutive year running. The expo also has a great selection of commemorative race gear for all price points. This year we picked up beach towels. There were also a good number of sponsors represented with lots of products to try.

One thing I love about Surf City Expo is the fun photo ops from Surf Boards and big beach chairs, to Vintage VW buses. On Saturday there is usually a contingent of real customized classic VWs and Woodies on display.

The expo is held under two connected large tents in a parking lot off the Pacific Coast Highway adjacent to the beach and embraces everything “Surf City USA” has to offer. The Expo, as well as the Start/Finish, is conveniently located near both the Hyatt Regency (where we stay) and the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. The Pasea Hotel & Spa and Kimpton Shorebreak Resort are also on the PCH within a short walk to everything.

I recommend arriving on Friday, doing a short shake out on the beach path on Saturday morning and venturing over to the pier and Main Street. That’s where you will find the surf shops, nice boutiques, bars and many great restaurants. There’s also a nice outdoor mall, Pacific City, that has some typical mall chains as well as a few unique local shops, plus a nice variety of bars, restaurants and entertainment. Try Sancho’s Taco’s on the PCH for lunch. For our pre-race dinner, we usually go to Duke’s.

Race Day! The Marathon start is 6:30am, 5k: 7:00, Half: 7:45. So theoretically it’s possible to do both the 5k and Half. If you’re into that sort of thing. There were 1238 finishers in this year’s Marathon, 8147 in the Half. The race course for both is essentially out and back on the PCH with another out and back up to Seapoint View for the course’s only real incline, then north on the PCH with a turnaround in Bolsa Chica. From there, the half is a straight line of about 5 miles to the finish. At about 16.5 miles the marathon goes north again on the beach path until about 21.5 miles for the last turnaround. Marathon runners are then back on the PCH with a mile to the finish.

In that respect, the marathon probably has some better beach views. I’ve only done the half. Running along the beach and under palm trees is good for the soul. This year it was overcast, and we had some light rain mid-race. Some years we’ve had high 70s and sunny. While that may be more conducive for a post-race nap on the beach or by the hotel pool, the cooler weather this year was ideal for running.

One event they added this year was the Cowabunga Beach Challenge, a one-mile run on the beach on Saturday. All participants got a cape and finisher’s medal. Rain was in the forecast for the 11am start. The view from our room didn’t look good: high wind and people in winter coats and hats. We said to ourselves, “well it’s only a mile, let’s suck it up and get out there.” When we walked out of the hotel lobby, we were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t cold at all. Everything is relative, right? The previous week’s -21-degree days in Chicago where we saw wind chills of -50 prepared us for this. Donning shorts and singlets, we were Chicago strong!

As we ran that mile barefoot in the wet sand, the rain coming down, against 30mph winds, I found it exhilarating! It helped me remember what I loved so much about running. Running has brought me so many memorable challenges and unique experiences. Even when you go back to do a race over and over again there is something new about it.

The Surf City Marathon weekend never disappoints. It’s a new experience every year! Race organizers do a great job making it easy for runners to come back. There is always a new shirt design, incredibly unique Surf Board finisher’s medals, and lots of creativity! I’m already signed up for next year -actually the Marathon! It’s my Plan B in case I don’t BQ in Chicago in the fall. Or maybe I will and drop down to the half. And maybe we’ll run the 5k too. Whatever it is, it will certainly be a new adventure in our (same old) place.

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A windy, rainy mile on the beach. Huntington Beach, California. February 2019.

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Four ways to make the best of the treadmill

Four ways to make the best of the treadmill

This has been a tough week. It’s cold AF in Chicago.

I started a part-time job a week ago at the running retailer Fleet Feet Chicago. Since then we had some sort of snow every day. Plows and salt are barely making a dent. Nothing is melting. The temperature hasn’t risen above freezing in well over a week. This morning it was minus 21. Yes, that’s Fahrenheit. And yes, that’s the actual temperature. The wind chill was said to be about -53.

And yet we run. Read more

More on Goal Setting for the New Year

More on Goal Setting for the New Year

My goal has always been to publish this blog sometime mid-week. Everything I’ve read about blogging and social media tells me that is the best time to assure the most readership. My analytics would support that. And yet, here I am posting this over a weekend – on a Saturday night, no less. And I haven’t made my goal once this year!

My daughter has been home for 3 of the last 5 weeks on winter break. There were holiday commitments and celebrations. One of those week’s I was in New Jersey. Yesterday she had her wisdom teeth removed. Today it snowed. Lots of excuses, I know.

I read a couple of articles this week that friends shared on social media. They were spot on about goal setting for the new year. I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions per se. These articles outlined better approaches to new year goal setting. This one discusses the idea of giving yourself “permission to pause.”  The author argues that immediately following the stress of holidays might not be the right time to see success with the intentions we set for ourselves.

“Most of us go through life jumping from one thing into the next. This is just the way life is, and it’s the way society is. We believe it’s acceptable to be busy all the time and spread thin across all of our daily activities. We work hard, and forget to play. We take care of others, and forget to take care of ourselves. For some, they experience chronic stress that is dulled by stimulants, like caffeine or pick-me-ups, like sugar and alcohol. For others, they simply burn out and have a hard time getting through the day.”

Agnew, K. (2018, February). *8 Warning Signs You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted” Retrieved from www.theheartysoul.com

Another article suggested that New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t go into effect until March.

“The end of the year is a great time to reflect on where you are in your life. Thinking about what you haven’t yet accomplished, and what aspects of yourself you’d like to improve, are natural to do when one year ends and another begins.

The trick is to separate the decision to make a change from the day that you are actually putting yourself on the path to change. So take that resolution you made and give yourself the next eight weeks to figure out how you are going to achieve your goal.”

Markman, A. (2019, January). “Why you should start your New Year’s Resolutions on March 4” Retrieved from www.fastcompany.com

I think this idea of pausing after the stress of the holidays is important. Plus taking into account the time it requires to plan how we are going to achieve our goals is paramount for success as well. We need more time for decompression, self-care and reflection before we’re ready to commit. I decided that January is a month of reflection and re-grouping and once I’ve set some intentions, February is a practice round to get a feel for what I need to do and to tweak things so I can be more successful. As a runner and coach, this works really well since it becomes a lot easier to commit to running come March than it is now.

Another thing that filled my social media feeds this past week was the 10-year challenge. One of my friends posted, “Let’s try something different than what you looked like 10 years ago… What were you working on/trying to accomplish? How’d it work out?” It just so happened that it was 10 year to the day of my first interview for a job that I got which took my career to the next level salary-wise. I had accomplished a goal that set me on a new path.  How did it turn out? Admittedly, it wound up being a rough 10 years, but, as I responded to her, I am drawing on the memory of who I was then – at my best – to become an even better version of myself this year.

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