Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Can I be honest with you?

I've been suffering from some pretty gnarly anxiety.

The kind that stops you in your tracks.  The kind that makes it hard to breathe.  The kind that leaves you unbelievably exhausted by the end of the day, yet also leaves you feeling like you've accomplished nothing.

What am I anxious over?  Pretty much everything.  I'm anxious that things won't go well at the kennel.  I'm anxious over an upcoming trip.  I'm anxious about how I'm raising Anna (which then makes me cranky and then makes me anxious because I'm cranky).  I'm anxious over the thought that something might happen to those I love.  I'm anxious over my health.  I'm anxious over the weather.  I'm anxious over the dogs and their health and how the weather is affecting them.

Running usually helps, and on the days that I run I feel exponentially less anxious.  On the days I run long distances I'm significantly happier.  On the days I run long distances and follow it up with a relaxing breakfast, I'm over the moon.  However, that only happens a couple times a week, and I'm anxious every day.

Honestly, I don't think there's much of a point to this post.  I just have to take a moment to recognize and confront this anxiety.  I also want people to know that, even if you see I strong, confident woman (and I sincerely hope you do), I'm often a hot mess on the inside.  I'm also human, and it would be wrong to assume that things in life don't affect me.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Last week, we found out that a former employee committed suicide. 

How's that for an opener?

This person worked for us for 2 years, but was fired 5 months ago due to erratic behavior and inappropriate interactions.  Incidents from 5 months ago were the final straw in a long list of issues.  Looking back now I see them for what they really were: the beginning of a downward spiral.

We all knew she was spiraling.  Every one of us had tried to help her, to be her friend.  Every one of us had supported her in whatever way we could, but her demons were too great, the struggle to hard.

The reactions among the staff are mixed.  Some are angry, some feel bad for her family, and some just feel bad.  There's a lot of emotion.  It doesn't really matter what the emotion is.  There's just a lot of it.  I think we're all in shock, but we're not necessarily surprised.  It's not that we didn't see this coming, but there was nothing more we could do to help her. 

So many feel like they just didn't do enough, but how do you help someone who doesn't want help?  At some point you have to save yourself.

This whole thing, though, has really made me think about suicide.  What causes it?  Is it a purely selfish act?  Is one who commits suicide destined for an afterlife of despair?

I can't speak for everyone.  I only know this one person.  I remember her from 5 months ago.  Troubled, but filled with so much potential.  She had so much life to live, but she also had some extremely dark demons to battle.

It's true that the final act of suicide is an individual's choice, but there's a lot that leads up to it.  I don't know of any happy individual who just wakes up one day and says, "Well, I'm done with life today."   Most don't have to find a reason to keep living.  They're happy to continue on.  This individual, however, battled every day.  Would today be a good day or a bad day?  What demons would she have to confront?  She saw herself as worthless and unwanted, and so she assumed the worst of others as well; always assuming they were judging her or scolding her.  Her defenses were always up.  In fact this was a conversation she and I routinely came back to.  I wanted her to try to view others in a more positive light with the hopes that she would eventually view herself in a more positive light.

Many people did, in fact, accuse her of being a selfish individual (long before last week), but I think selfishness is the wrong word.  I'd choose scared, uncertain, anxious.  Her "selfishness" was a defense mechanism.  It was false-bravado in a world she was certain was out to get her.

I can't condemn her to Hell because of this final act.  First, it's not my place to condemn or judge.  But even if it were, forgiveness would be in order.  I truly believe she just couldn't fight anymore.  She was tired, she was worn down.  Would you blame a cancer patient for dying?  Would you say they were selfish by not fighting anymore?  Would you blame yourself for not being there for them enough?  Actually, I can say first hand that you might.  Survivor's guilt is real, but if you speak to anyone they'd tell you this isn't your fault.  In fact, they'd probably say it's no one's fault.  The battle was just too hard.

Forgiveness is important.  It's just as important for suicide victims as it is for cancer victims.  We have to forgive ourselves for not being able to give more.  We have to forgive the victims (yes, they're both victims here) for no longer fighting.  We also have to realize and accept that the person is no longer in pain.  The daily pain, the daily struggle is over, and we can only hope that they're at peace.

In the mean time, I will continue to pray.  I'll pray for anyone struggling with disease, whether it's mental or physical.  I'll pray that they find peace and love in their lives.  I'll pray that, no matter what the end is, they know in their very final moments that they're never alone.  I will pray.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Running Isn't a Choice For Me

Hey all!  If you've read pretty much any of my posts, you'll know that I love running.  I've run multiple marathons, I ran through 35 weeks of my 37 week pregnancy, and I routinely run at least 3 mornings every week.  In order to do this, I wake up at 4:30 every morning (sometimes earlier).  It leaves me tired and hungry, and I often have people ask me why I do it.  Why do I feel the need to wake up at 4:30 am to run 4 miles when I've just pulled a 13 hour shift at the kennel that had me on my feet all day?  Why do I wake up early Saturday morning, when I could be sleeping in, to run 18+ miles?  After a long run, I physically hurt and often require some recovery time.  Why do I put myself through that?  Well, let me tell you, it isn't easy.  I don't always make it out.  Sometimes illness or just over-fatigue wins out.  It requires a lot of support from a very understanding husband.  And sometimes I just don't want to.  But, quitting running isn't an option.  Let me give you some background.

First, you should know how I got into running.  My dad was a high school / college track star, so running was always kind of glorified in my household.  However, I was never really into it (I was much more the book nerd, and I wasn't particularly fast anyway).  In college, however, my lack of physical activity caught up with me.  I gained weight quickly, and it wasn't long before the scale climbed over 200 lb.  I first started running as a way to lose weight.  I ran on the treadmill, and the only goal I ever set was to run 1 mile without having to walk.  I think I achieved that goal one time before I was in a car accident that caused some bad whip lash and set me back considerably.  It wasn't until 2011 that I started running again as a way to exercise with Cody.  That's when I ran my first 5k.

In 2012, though, I had some weird health things going on.  First, I really started struggling to breathe.  The best description was air hunger.  I just couldn't get a deep enough breath.  It wasn't constant, but it was regular.  It would happen at least once a day, often multiple times, and it could last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours.  In addition, I developed a bad rash on my leg.  It was mildly itchy, but more than anything it was unsightly.  The doctor suspected sarcoidosis and order a barrage of tests.  X-rays, an EKG II, ultrasounds, and a dermatologist appointment ruled out sarcoidosis, but it didn't give us an answer.  I continued running.

Since my 5k had gone fairly well, I was interested in a 10k, so I started increasing the mileage.  The day I ran my first 6 miler was such a huge achievement.  I was SO tired afterward, and I felt I could barely move, but I'd run the whole way (even up a steep hill), and Cody had run with me.  At the end of the night, I realized something.  I hadn't had any trouble breathing that day.  Keep in mind, I'd had issues with air hunger every single day for 6+ months, and all of a sudden it was better.  That was huge.  So, I kept running.  My breathing issues stayed gone, and as I changed my diet to better fuel my runs, my skin got better too.

All stayed well until 2015.  That's when things got really bad with Mom.  On the days I didn't run, I had trouble breathing.  Sometimes I had trouble breathing even on days I did run.  But the long runs always saved me.  Pretty much anything over 12 miles meant I'd have a good day breathing.  If I couldn't run far, I'd run hard.  Harder, faster, stronger meant I'd be more tired, but I'd breathe better the rest of the day.  Those runs carried me through the loss of my mother.

If you haven't figured it out yet, we've determined my breathing issues were a form of anxiety attacks.  I was too wrapped up in my head.  Running exhausts me to the point where I can't get that worked up, and it allows me time to meditate in my own way.  Now, running is helping me in another way.  It's allowing me to actually feel my emotions.  My really long run days (16 or more miles) I generally end up crying before bed time.  It's not from physical pain, but rather mental.  When everything else is out of the way, and I've run to the point my guard is down, my body and mind allows my heart to feel things it normally can't.  Some people go to therapy for this.  I go for a run.  It's what works for me.

Last month, I suffered a minor injury, and it had me side lined for a few weeks.  Let me tell you, I was not a happy camper.  I was sluggish and grouchy, and I hurt.  Oh, and that air hunger came back with a vengeance.  Coming back to running has been a wonderful experience.  So, as I said, running isn't a choice for me.  I have to do it.  I love doing it, and stopping would cause me more pain than the act of running itself. 

For those who ask why, the answer is that running has saved my life. 

Friday, August 4, 2017


There's plenty I could talk about when it comes to politics; health care, marriage rights, simple diplomacy, but there's one issue for which I have particularly strong feelings: Immigration.

It's important for you to know my family's past.

Sixty-seven and a half years ago my father was born in a displaced persons camp in post WWII Germany.  My aunt was 4 years old at the time.  My grandparents, neither of whom were Jewish (just to clarify), had suffered through unspeakable atrocities, many of which they kept secret until the day they died.  My Baba (grandma) had a scar on her chest that 50 years later the doctors told us was most likely an acid burn, but she wouldn't tell us how or why it was there.  They hadn't seen their families in ages, and their options were very limited.  My great uncle immigrated to Australia.  Returning home most likely would have meant death as the Ukraine was overtaken by Soviet Russia.  My grandparents looked at the only option they had...some cousins who lived in Philadelphia.

Neither of my grandparents were particularly fluent in English.  Both were blue collar workers.  The only connection they had was family.  Not a son, daughter, mother, or father.  Just cousins.

My father came to the US when he was 6 months old.  Ukrainian was his first language.  When he started school, his mother would study along with him, learning the language through his Kindergarten homework.  My grandfather opened a barber shop.  My grandparents were hardworking, responsible individuals.  My Baba eventually got a job at a bookbindery.  To get to work, she walked a mile to the bus stop, and then rode the bus for an additional 3 miles.  She did this every day, regardless of rain, sleet, or snow.  When she returned from work, she would cook and clean for her family.  My grandparents kept their kids in school and off the street.

My father excelled at basketball and track and field in high school.  Thirty years after graduation, he was inducted into his school's Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in track and field.  He studied at the University of Tennessee and later the University of Maryland on a scholarship.  Some time after school he started a successful auto body repair business until a car pulled in front of him on a busy highway and he suffered serious injuries.  After he recovered, he was unable to do heavy physical work, so he joined my mom in her accounting business, which he still runs today.

My father (and mother) made sure I studied hard and respected my teachers.  My Baba instilled in me a solid work ethic, and she taught me the importance of confidence and self worth.

I now own a very successful dog kennel.  I employ 15 people, and we're growing.  I've been featured as one of the top 40 individual under 40 years old in my city, and my facility is routinely voted as one of the best.

I share all of this with you to say if the policies the current government is trying to put in place were in effect 67 years ago, my family would not be here.

I can't say what would have happened with my family, but we wouldn't be in the US, and we wouldn't be working to keep America the great nation that it is (we don't need to to "make it great." It's already wonderful).  We didn't have strong connections in the US, we didn't have valuable skills, we didn't speak the language.  We were poor refugees from a war-torn nation, and yet we were still given a chance.  We were given a chance that many people now a days are being refused, and I just don't get it.  I don't understand how anyone can support such policies.  I know I can't.  I hope that this post reminds people who do support these policies that they're often talking about their friends, neighbors, and own family members.  I'll leave you with that and this quote, written on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

America is a nation of immigrants.  Let's not refuse to help those who need it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Energy and TV

Anna has a ton of energy and no idea how to manage it.  I've known for a while that she's an energetic child, but the complexities of this really hit me this past weekend.  Until she was two, the rule was pretty much no TV.  Then it became that screen time only happened on weekends.  That's still the rule, but we'll bend the rule for mid-week sitters on if one of us is sick and just needs couch / bed time.  The problem is that weekend TV was starting to mean a week's worth of TV crammed into 2 days- hours and hours of TV.  By the end of the day, Anna was tired but she still had pent up energy.  She'd release this energy by screaming, fighting, and being kind of awful in general. 

So, this week, we changed the rule a bit.  We allowed some screen time as we were running errands in the car, and we watched some TV for about an hour on Saturday morning, but otherwise we were outside doing things or inside being creative in the playroom.  The change in Anna was amazing.  Anna was getting the attention and the stimulation she so desperately needed, and she was really fun to be around.  At the end of the day, she still protested that she wasn't tired, but she got ready for bed anyway.  There weren't tears or screams or fighting.  

A big change for us was church.  Anna tends to not enjoy church because it means that she has to be still and quiet for an hour.  That's hard for any 3 year old.  This weekend, though, we cut the TV and played with her before our showers.  Then we took her and all the dogs for a walk.  Lastly, I told her if she was really good during church I'd let her watch her favorite show on the way to lunch and I reminded her of this a few times.  She was absolutely perfect.  She sat quietly and colored the whole time, she participated in the few parts of the Mass she's familiar with (Our Father and Sign of Peace), and she easily listened to directions during the Mass.  At the end, she clearly remembered what we'd promised, because she said, "IT'S OVER!!!  I can watch my show?"

I know it's just one weekend, and it may have just been a fluke, but the difference was amazing.  Meals went smoother, she was eager to try new things, there were fewer tears over everything.  Honestly, the biggest difference was that we did something other than TV time.

In the future, I need to remember this.  I need to remember that TV may mean some time when I can sit.  Where I can distract my child long enough for me to get a break.  However, it also means that I'll want the break more because every other interaction with my daughter will be fighting against her energy and her demands.  Instead of turning to TV when I'm lost as to what to do with her, maybe I'll take her for a walk.  Maybe I'll take her to the pool.  Maybe I'll grab the crayons and a coloring book and color with her.  Whatever I do, by keeping the TV off, I'll keep my daughter and my family happier.  That's definitely something worth remembering!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

10 Years

Cody turns 10 today.

I'm not quite sure what to write.  Words don't come easy to me, and I cannot begin to stress to importance of this dog in my life.  For someone who has never owned a dog or who has never been effected by a dog, you can never understand, and I can't explain it.

Cody came into my life right after college.  In most respects I was happy.  I was back home, I was newly married, and finances were decent.  I didn't have too many commitments (part-time job, volunteering, etc), but I really wanted a dog.  Hans and I lived with Dad at the time (hence the decent financial situation), and he was completely against a dog.  So, I proceeded to beg.  I researched breeds and breeders, I consistently cleaned the entire house, I did extra work for him, all with the hopes that he'd see this and consent to a dog.  Well, I have a pretty awesome dad, because my plan worked.  Two weeks before my birthday, Dad told me he'd consent to me getting a dog IF I got a doodle (he thought they were cool).  I'd figured that would be the case, so I'd been researching, and there was only 1 breeder in the area who had a dog available before Christmas.  Since my birthday is in October, I wasn't willing to wait that long.

I called the breeder immediately and told her I'd be there in 2 days, when both Hans and I could take the day off work.  The second I saw Cody, I dropped to my knees so he'd come to me, and I fell in love.  He was clearly nervous, but he let me hold him and he snuggled.  It wasn't until the next day when, after a few treats and little sleep the night before he crawled into my lap and fell asleep.  That started the most amazing relationship.

Cody has completely shaped my life.  Since the second I got him, everything I've done has been with him in mind.  The ease with which I trained him encouraged me to pursue training as a career.  Caring for him and playing with him eased anxiety in a variety of situations.  I became more social, more comfortable around others (particularly kids).  He helps to keep me educated on health issues because I want to know more about what's going on with him.  One of the reasons I started running was to give him more exercise!

Cody has been with me through so much.  He's seen me through long days at the kennel.  After our first week open, he slept for 36 hours straight!  When I was first pregnant with Anna, one of the things that made me wonder if I was pregnant was how he acted around me.  He was super-protective and would constantly lay across my mid-section.  So, yes, I'm certain he knew I was expecting before I did.  He was there for me when Anna was first born.  There were a few occasions when I couldn't get Anna to stop crying, so I'd hand her to Hans, take Cody to the bathroom where I could have a moment of uninterrupted silence, and I'd just hold Cody, calming myself down.  He was there for me when Mom got sick.  He let me cry, he didn't ask for anything when I was too tired or too stressed to walk him, and he accepted her dogs as new and welcome members of the family.  When she eventually passed, he came with me as I went hiking, trying to escape my situation, and he stayed in bed with me when I was too grief-stricken to function properly.

Cody has always been my easy dog.  Sure, he's not perfect, but he's my easy dog.  I've loved every moment I've had with him.  He's the best dog for career days at elementary schools because he's friendly, he's fluffy, and he does tricks.  He comes with me to shows.  He's fun to groom.  Saying I love this dog isn't enough.  I'm not sure there are words to express all that he's meant in my life.

So, today, Cody is 10 years old.  He's past middle age.  He's a senior citizen.  I know he won't be in my life forever.  One of the great tragedies of life is that dogs don't live as long as humans.  But he will forever shape my life.  My wonderful, beautiful Cody.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Past Week

Guys, so much has been going on this past week!  I'm exhausted, relaxed, and happy.

First, we had Anna's birthday party.  She turned 3, and we decided to invite her entire daycare class thinking maybe 5 or 6 would come.  Somehow we ended up entertaining 20 toddlers and their parents!  Luckily we had rented out a space that could accommodate everyone.  We hosted the party at a local farm, so all the kids had a blast.  We played pin the tail on the donkey and horseshoes, we had delicious cupcakes, and everyone got to feed goats at the end.  Anna came home and slept for a long time.

That said, she now does not understand that not every party is for her birthday.  Sunday was my best friend's birthday.  When we told Anna, she got a little pouty and pointed to herself to say it was her birthday.  When a character in a book we're reading to her celebrated a birthday, she told us, "No.  My birthday!"  Ah, the joys of an only child.

In non-child news, did I mention we're expanding the kennel?  The big move in day is this Saturday, and I'm so excited.  It's really just an expansion of our grooming and training, but it will give us a lot more space to work, and it will allow us to have more than one groomer.  That's huge!  So, we're spending a lot of time prepping for the move in, and we're busy planning an open house, so that's all keeping us on our toes.  I'm a little nervous as to how everything will work out, but I have the feeling it will all go really well, even if there are a few hiccups along the way.

That said, I kind of have to get back to work.  So much to do, but I did want to give y'all an update!  Talk to ya soon!