Friday, August 30, 2013


This month has been filled with changes: to our schedule, to our neighborhood, to our parks.

This is how Bar feels about change.
For the last several weeks, we've been shuffled around between agility classes.  First, there was the expulsion from our Monday night class after the incident with the small dog.  Then we skipped a level and moved up to the more advanced class; that class was good, but we weren't quite ready for it skills-wise.  For the last two weeks, we've been in a new class with a new instructor and it's been amazing!  Our classmates are so good about giving Barley her space and one of Barley's old friends, Annie the lab, from our Monday night class is in there.  Annie snuck up and sniffed Barley, and Barley just wagged her tail like she was the kind of dog who would let anyone sniff her.
Soth's not crazy about change, either.

I also went back to work this week, so Barley and I have been torn from our lazy days of lounging, walking, and reading.  My students are amazing so far--engaged, enthusiastic, curious--which makes it a lot easier to stick my girl in her crate and run out the door every morning.  I always forget how exhausting it is to be back in the classroom after a break, though, so we've been slacking on our walking goal for the month because napping's sounded more appealing that walking. We have to get 9 miles in between today and tomorrow!  We got in 2 and 1/4 this morning, so as long as the weather cooperates, we should make it, but we're cutting it close again!

We tried to make the most of our walks in the days before summer vacation ended and we were surprised to find out how much has changed in our neighborhood and our favorite parks.  A couple weeks ago, I noticed that a fence around an old football field in our neighborhood has been taken down and there's a ton of wide open space now. I'm hoping this means there will be less broken glass on the sidewalks in that part of our walk since bottles won't hit the fence and then drop down on to the sidewalk anymore.  Then a few days later, we noticed that this row of rundown cottages had been torn down.  I guess the neighborhood is getting spruced up!

A few days ago we went to the State Park for the first time in ages (we avoid it during tourist season) and saw that the big grassy we like to romp around in was torn up and there were huge mounds of dirt everywhere.  I'm not sure what they're doing to the park, but they didn't touch my favorite picnic table and tree, so that's ok.

With our crazy summer schedule, we hadn't been to the Arboretum since May, so we took a trip there on Sunday since it was our last day of freedom.  Since our last visit, they've opened the Rhododendron Discovery Garden.  It's really pretty with a nice overlook building (although I'm not exactly sure what it's overlooking).  The last time we were there, they were still working on the garden, so it was fun to find a new place to explore.

How cute is this owl?
 We had a great time saying goodbye to summer vacation at the arboretum--until we saw a turtle.  I'm not sure what it is about turtles that makes Barley lose her mind, but she was having none of it.

There's something in the woods!

This little fellow had Barley terrified.  The closer we got, the lower her tail got and the flatter her ears got.
Despite our run-in with the turtle, we got to see a lot of pretty flowers.  Warm weather took so long to get here that nothing was really blooming yet the last time we were there.

In addition to the changes in our neighborhood and our parks, we're changing our method of carrying treats on our walks.  I ordered a treat pocket from Cody's Creations on Etsy (the same store we got our I Need Space leash from).

The pocket is awesome!  There's a snap at the front to keep the pouch closed, there's a clip so you can clip it to your belt look, and there's a zipper pocket on the back that fits my phone perfectly--the whole reason I bought the pocket.  Since I upgraded from my beat up, non-smart phone, my pockets aren't big enough for keys, treats, and the phone.  We walk fast enough that the phone keeps trying to slip out of my pocket unless I keep one hand on it the whole time, which is not practical.  

We gave the pocket a test run this morning and it worked beautifully.  Barley thinks it's pretty awesome, too.

I hope that those of you who have gone back to school/work this week have enjoyed the week as much as I have!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Make Friends With What You Are"

After my sophomore year at Queens, I spent the summer doing an amazing internship in the sports department of the Observer.  It was the first time in my life I'd ever really been alone--after all, I got a dog when I was two, a sister when I was three, and a brother three years after that.  My best friends had all gone home for the summer and my family was 5 hours away, so I had a lot of time to figure out who I was.  I had a few friends on campus for the summer, but when you work in sports journalism you're going to work while the rest of the world is getting home on days you have games to cover and when I was editing my typical shift was from 4 p.m.-12 a.m. (this is part of the reason I decided to just keep going to school instead of looking for journalism jobs) and I rarely saw those friends.  So, I started going to movies by myself and getting coffee (and staying at Starbucks) alone, among other things, and I loved it.  

Then I moved to New Mexico--27 hours away--from my parents and by the end of my first year there I had three of the best friends a girl could ever ask for and I really spent very little time alone.  When my friends left and I stayed for another year, I kind of freaked out.  I'd forgotten how to be on my own.  So, I moved closer to my parents.  

They've humored me and gone to things like the Wine and Walleye Festival, The Big Tap In, Beer on the Vine, Indians games, new restaurants, the list goes on.  My siblings have also made trips to go to concerts and a Cavs game and to check out trails that might be good for Barley before I got Doggin' Cleveland.  Then once I got Doggin' Cleveland, I adventured with Barley, but Barley can't go everywhere I want to go.  With the exception of a few movies, I haven't had to do much on my own.  But here's the thing--my parents are moving 11.5 hours away from me in a month.  And I don't want to move again.  I love where I live (with the exception of my actual apartment).  Most of the year, the temperatures are perfect for my dog to get the exercise she needs (even if it does get a little colder than I'd like for it to get).  There are so many incredible trails that are free within very short drives.  I have a job that I love.  So, that leaves me with the choice of leaving a place I love living in or learning to be on my own again.
I took the first big step last night.

A few months ago, I found out that John Mayer was coming to Cleveland on Aug. 6.  I haven't missed a John Mayer concert near me since my first one in 2003.  I was bummed to find out that the concert was the 6th because that's my daddy's birthday.  I knew he wouldn't care if I went to the concert--he had to work all day and goes to bed like 2 hours after getting home, so I'd see him long enough to have a birthday beer--but I also knew I wouldn't have anyone to go with because there was no way my sister (who has been to see John with me 3 out of 5 times) would miss Dad's birthday for John.  The dates in Pittsburgh and DC wouldn't work because they happened after school starts back.

I spent months being bummed that John was going to be in town and I wasn't going to be there.  Then when Barley and I were going to switch to Tuesday night classes, I was less bummed because we'd be in class so at least I wouldn't be sitting at home wishing I was at the concert.  When we got switched to Thursdays instead, I decided I was going to the concert even if I had to go solo.  I realized it was incredibly stupid to skip doing something that I love doing just because I didn't have anyone to do it with.  So, last week, I splurged and ordered myself a 12th row ticket.

It was one of the best, most liberating experiences of my life.  The universe aligned and I think John is using this tour to do the same thing I was using the concert to do: grow up.

One of my favorite parts of John Mayer concerts is the fact that he goes on these random tangents between songs.  At Red Rocks, it was one about the number of eggs you need for baking at high altitudes.  At my last concert, it was about how he loves the smell of skunks (I do, too) because it reminds him of pot (for me, it reminds me of driving to my grandma's house as a kid).  This time, his tangents were a little less random.  They were about being honest and open to new experiences and growing up.

In the middle of the show, they were changing the background and rolling away the fake buttes that had been behind the band (Thanks for bringing a little bit of Red Rocks to me, John!).  The rest of the band went away and John said he was going to play a song he hadn't played on tour yet because he made a promise to himself that he'd be open to whatever his heart was feeling and he wanted to play this song tonight.  I'm not sure if he was telling the truth about not playing it yet, but I'll pretend that I do because it was "Comfortable"--my favorite song (I have three different versions in my iTunes library).  In the past, "Comfortable" has been the encore song, but it was in the perfect spot last night.

After the set change, John dove into his first long story of the night.  It was all about living in the moment and doing the things that mean something to you and about how he knew that when artists start going in the direction his last album (and his upcoming album) have gone in it tends to be career suicide, but he had to stop caring about what other people wanted and make the music he needed to make, that he needed to grow up. He went on about how there's not music for people in their 30s on the radio anymore and that's the kind of music he's going to be making now.  And I know I'm only going to be 29 this year, but I spent half of the last year thinking I turned 29 on my last birthday, so I am close enough ;)

I'll be honest--Born and Raised is not my favorite John Mayer album.  I adore Continuum and love Battle Studies.  I liked several songs on Born and Raised, but I hadn't listened to any of them on repeat like I had with "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" or "Edge of Desire" or "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye."  This was the first concert where I didn't know every word to every song (although he did play 4 songs off of Continuum--thanks for that, too!), so I got to just kind of sit back and really listen to the songs since I couldn't just switch to something I liked better.

"The Age of Worry" is one of the songs I always really liked off of Born and Raised, but after last night I like it even more.  John went on and on about being comfortable with yourself and then when he got to the song and sang, "Don't be scared to walk alone.  Don't be scared to like it.  There's no time you must be home, so sleep where darkness falls" it hit home. Even though I'd heard the song many times before, I'm not sure I'd ever really heard it before last night and I needed that.

The whole drive home I listened to John Mayer (Thank you Nissan for putting the awesome iPod connector in my car and making it possible to have every song in my library at my finger tips!) and I think I get Born and Raised now.  It's still not my favorite album, but I think it's a necessary transition to Paradise Valley (I've already listened to "Wildfire" more than any song on Born and Raised and the whole album isn't even out yet, so I'm beyond excited for August 20!). John's music has grown up with me and I wasn't ready for Born and Raised, but I think I've caught up now.  From the quarter life crisis in "Why Georgia" (or me adopting a cat because I was sad my friends were leaving) to the desire to stop time and not have to face growing up in "Stop This Train" to being "Perfectly Lonely," John's music has made sense to me and I am so very excited to embrace putting my feet up and watching the "water line get higher and higher."

After last night, I am certain that I'll be fine without my family close by--I mean, it's less than half the distance that was between us when I was in NM and I can always load up the pets on a long weekend and make a (really long) day's drive south if I need to.

So, friends and family, should you want to see John Mayer with me in the future you'll need to let me know as soon as the tour's announced because I'm going and I'm ordering the closest tickets I can get the day they go on sale :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Broncos, Babies, and Beer

When I lived in New Mexico, I was only a 5-hour drive from my grandparents' house.  It was my first chance to really get to know them since when I was growing up it was hard to get a family of five across the country for any significant period of time and when we did I spent most of the time playing with my cousins.  Since I moved here, I haven't been back to Colorado (not that I didn't want to go, but between car payments and vet bills there was no money for plane tickets).  Since I had a little extra money this summer, I figured it was time to get out there: my cousin has had two babies in the time I've been gone, my grandma can't travel anymore, and I've gotten two new 4-legged cousins.

My aunt and I took an impromptu tour of the Broncos stadium one day.  We had spent all morning working in her classroom and sorting her classroom library.  She wanted to run up to the stadium store to get more Broncos gear to go with her newly painted blue and orange shed.  When we got there, they had just a couple spots open on their final stadium tour of the day, so we signed up.  Even though I don't care about football, it was really interesting.  I learned a lot of neat things about the stadium design.  Did you know that not including domed stadiums professional football stadiums are built North -South so that players are never running into the sun?
In the Kids Room in the Colorado Sports museum at the stadium. Aunt Shell makes a great lacrosse player!

Since I've left the southwest, my cousin and his wife have had two babies.  I hadn't met either one and the oldest turned two on the day I arrived.  Those who know me know that I'm not a kid person.  I don't do jam hands or glitter.  I don't do crying.  I am not good at nonsensical conversations.  I get really stressed out when parents are afraid to discipline their children or tell their children no.  But, my cousin's kids are awesome.  Their little boy is so well behaved and polite and sweet.  (And he wasn't sticky!)  I adored him.  Their baby is only a month old, but she hardly fussed and was a generally happy baby.  She was also adorable.  When she did fuss, my cousin's wife said, "Sing to your sister" and their son sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and she was silent.  It's clear she adores her big brother already!  I won't post pictures of them since the Internet is a strange place and they aren't my kids, but just know that I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with those sweet babies.

I will post pictures of my four-legged cousins.  I spent the most time with Sofie--who knows what she is, but the shelter said great dane mix.  She's definitely all legs.  She reminds me of an awkward, gangly teenage boy.  She had no idea what to do with her paws and would slap anything that came near her.  I left black and blue, but she was cute, so it's ok.  My other aunt's dog, Harley, is a deaf dalmatian.  She loves to play fetch and sit in laps.  She was also one of the softest dogs I've ever pet.  
Sofie sticking her tongue out
Harley with her ball
It was nice to have dogs around while I was so far away from my baby girl.

Colorado has a pretty big craft beer scene.  My aunts know how much I love trying new beers, so they (and my aunt's best friend) took me on a beer tasting adventure one day.  We drove up to Fort Collins to visit New Belgium and Odell.  I've had plenty of New Belgium before, but I don't think it's sold in Ohio so it has been a while. They had their regular beers, but they also had a list of single batch beers and a Hop Kitchen collection.  Since I figured I have a better chance of trying the ones they bottle some day, I decided to try the interesting ones they only have at the brewery.  They had an Ales for ALS, so I guess it's something lots of breweries are doing--I preferred the Great Lakes one, but it wasn't bad.  We also tried some IPAs (yum!) and a biere de garde (I like Flying Dog's better, but maybe that's just because the dog on the label looks like Barley).

I'd seen the labels for Odell before and maybe tried a beer or two, but I definitely wasn't as familiar with their beers.  They had three different kinds of tasting flights, so we got one of each and shared them.  Some were really good, others I was not interested in.  I tried to warn my aunts that milk stouts are NASTY, but they tried that one anyway.  I was smart enough to skip it.  I did really like their nitro porter.

Seriously, how cute is this hops bike rack?

I'm a hop head!
We had grand plans to go to several other breweries, but I'm a flatlander and the altitude got to me before the beer did.  Since we'd shared all our samples, we hadn't even had two full beers each, but I got dehydrated and had flashbacks to throwing up in rental cars on trips to Colorado as a child, so we quit after two breweries and then I watched the aunts do a wine tasting while I drank a massive bottle of water.

While my aunt and I were visiting the Broncos stadium, we also made a trip to Coors Field to visit the Blue Moon tasting room.  I'm not a huge Blue Moon fan since I don't love Belgian beers, but I was surprised by a few of them.  I absolutely loved the Pine in the Neck IPA.  I was surprised that I enjoyed the seasonal Agave Nectar Ale so much, too.  I was kind of dreading it when my aunt ordered it, but I ended up claiming it as one of my two favorites to finish out of our 4 samples.  I did not love the Right Field Red, but then again I don't love any red ales--and at least I was drinking it at a ballpark.  It would probably have been wrong to not try that one while at the Rockies stadium.

Overall, it was a great trip, but it flew by!  I did get to spend a little bit of time with my grandparents, though.  We had breakfast together and I watched a Rockies game on tv with my grandpa one night.  While we ate lunch one day, we got to watch a good old western tv show--something I have many fond memories of doing with my grandparents during my time in NM.  They also came over to my aunts' for the cookout when I met the babies, so we had some quality time together despite the constant running around.  We crammed a lot into a very short amount of time.  Hopefully it's not another 3 years before I can make it out there again.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Breaking-All-The-Rules Dog

When I was in kindergarten, I had to move my clothespin to the naughty circle because I couldn't hear my teacher telling me to stop at a certain place when I was the line leader and she was at the back of the line.  I was traumatized and she let me move it back before my mom came in for parents' night.  When I was in 5th grade, I was scolded for putting my paper in the wrong bin on my first day at a new school (even though I just did what my other classmates who had been there longer did with their papers).  I also had to move my bone to the dog house because a classmate talked to me (and I dared to listen) during a math lesson.  I have not gotten over any of these incidents.  I have always loved school and I have never had any interest of breaking the rules.

Before I ran away to visit my grandparents in Colorado (more on that later), Barley and I had a breakdown in class.  I wasn't sure if we could continue training at our center.  The short version of the story is that Barley had to do far more than just move her bone to the dog house; we had to switch classes altogether.  

On Wednesday, the owner of the training center left a voicemail saying she'd like to move Barley to a new class.  We emailed back and forth a few times, and then emailed our current trainer a few times, and Barley and I have switched to a different class.  Everyone agreed that since Barley now has a history with the little terrier, it was better for everyone if we switched immediately instead of waiting until next week for the new session to begin.

We had two options for switching classes.  We could go to the next level up with a new trainer, but some of our old classmates that Barley is comfortable with (and this is what we had planned on doing for the next session anyway).  Or, we could go to the level above that and stay with our current trainer, who knows Barley and has been beyond helpful with dealing with Barley's issues. 

Even though staying with our trainer means a more difficult class, it also means we don't have to explain anything about Barley to our trainer.  She knows what she's getting into by allowing Barley into her class.  She can help us avoid problems and manage them when they do happen.  So, we're sticking with our trainer.  She assured us that she wanted Barley to succeed and that she didn't mind having us in her class again (I have a feeling Santa will be very good to her this year!).

Last night was our first night in the new class.  We had a substitute since our trainer was out at a trial with her own dogs, but she had been given instructions that when Barley was on the floor all of the other dogs were to be in the crate room and she told all of the other classmates not to let their dogs say hi to Barley.  It was nice knowing that everyone else in class was going to be in control of their own dogs, so I only had to worry about mine.  I was more relaxed, Barley was more relaxed, and we had a great session.  Not necessarily in terms of improving our agility skills, but in terms of focus and control we made a ton of progress from last week.

So happy to be back together that we couldn't hold still long enough to take a non-blurry picture.
Since we switched classes immediately, we got to stay at my parents' house for a few extra days.  They're moving a full day's drive away from me in a month, so we stayed to help clean and sort before the realtors came to appraise the house.

Look who we found while cleaning and sorting! My three favorite Pound Puppies.
Barley and I had to vacate the house on Monday while the realtors visited the house, so we took another adventure out of Doggin' Pittsburgh.  We had a great time, but we'll save that for another time because I need to go to the store--I had to settle for pasta and butter for breakfast because my fridge is empty!

Please send good vibes, prayers, or anything else positive you might believe in out into the universe that Barley and I continue to succeed in our new class!