I thought I would be an expert at this by now.

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I had it in my mind that if I did something for 800 hours I’d be an expert at it. Turns out I was wrong. It’s 10,000 hours.

I guess it makes perfect sense that I am a tired, bored, frustrated dog walker because I’ve only been doing it for about 800 hours. EIGHT HUNDRED HOURS!! I’ve probably done more because I’m not doing the math. I roughly figure that I take two 45-minute walks a day and we got the dogs last April. That adds up to something near 800, give or take. See how I did Core Curriculum math there? Estimating!

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I LOVE my dogs. But man are they a pain to walk sometimes. They pull me down the street. They see a squirrel and lose their minds and pull me through mud puddles. Cody is strong so you can imagine how that goes. I’ve actually cried real tears on dog walks before because things just went to hell.

They are not always bad. They are getting better and better at minding me and listening to me when I call them but they still have their moments where they try my patience regularly and I feel like I am the worst dog-owner ever.

Yes, we’ve taken them to training and Payam is pretty good at making them mind him but I’m not an alpha by nature and I think the dogs know it. They think Mom is great for a really good time and they like to show me a really good time no matter what brush, bramble or mud puddle it might take me through. Of course, I have been known to take them to the nature park and let them off leash to chase a bunny or a squirrel so it’s really my own fault that they don’t walk beside me calmly. I know this. And they are puppies. So really everything is progressing the way it’s supposed to.

Dog walking can be a chore. It is a chore!  It’s not just a walk in the park on a sunny day. It’s a walk through and around the park on hot days and cold days and rainy days and days when you have so much work to do you can’t believe you are spending 30 minutes untangling yourself from leashes when you really need to get back to your desk already and make that deadline!

Dogs are like having babies all over again.

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When I started my whole dog-walking experience by walking Payam’s dog, Ty, (who passed last year) I thought, This will be great exercise! I’ll do it everyday. How great! It was great for about a month. Then it got really really boring. You can only watch a dog sniff so many sign posts and pee on so many trees before your mind starts to wander and you pull out your phone.

Then when we got the puppies we practically dragged them down the street because they didn’t know how to take walks yet and it was SO FUN! They were so cute!!! That lasted about three months. The novelty wore off.

Now, nearly a year later, it is the bane of my existence. Now I pull out my phone whenever I can and just when I’m sending an important text or titling a really good instagram shot, Cody pulls me sideways and I drop my phone and then Whiskey runs around me, tying me up with his leash and licks me in the face and everyone else out walking their dogs stare at me like, “What are you doing using your phone and not paying attention to your dogs!!”

So I put my phone away and compose blog post after blog post in my head that never get written. I spend a lot of time thinking and not doing anything because of those blasted dogs.

Obviously, I started to resent the dog walks. Especially because I always end up greeting other dog-walkers and it’s always this crazy confusion of my dogs jumping all over their dogs and me using all my strength to hold them back. I feel bad because everyone just wants to say hi and I’m terrible at controlling my dogs. It just felt like a daily exercise in failure.

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I’m learning. Failure after failure and eventually I learn. I am only 800 hours in after all, just a mere baby dog-walking expert.

So what have I learned?  I’ve learned that I can look for the good in these walks. There is so much good. I’ve learned to watch the skies and take my walks when the sun starts to set because it’s about a thousand times more fun to walk and enjoy nature during the golden hours.

I’ve started taking the nature trail near our house that isn’t as busy with other dog-walkers. Of course this trail holds other challenges like that one time the fire engine sirens set off all the coyotes in the park howling and scared the crap out of me. There were literally ten coyotes surrounding us on all sides and I had no idea they were there before the sirens went off because they were hidden in the brush. It was so terrifying I had to split and hide out in a nearby apartment complex and call and ask Payam to come get us. I took several months off from walking in the nature trail after that happened but I’m back to it because the beauty pulls me. Also, Cody is so big these days. I’m pretty sure a full pack of coyotes wouldn’t mess with us. But believe me, I do not let them off leash if we are deep in the nature trail or it is anywhere near twilight.

I’ve also started using headphones. Not when I’m in the nature park of course, because obviously I need to be fully aware of my surroundings but when we are on our lake walks where all the other dog walkers are. It’s amazing how much more patient I am with the pulling and the sniffing and the taking forever to take a crap when I’m listening to classical or piano music. I am truly amazed at how much music can alter my mood. Headphones also kinda keep the other dog walkers from engaging me, which is great. Headphones rule.

There are also the rituals the dogs and I have created. They always sit with me on the benches near the lake. They jump up on the bench before I even get a chance as if to remind me, “Here is where you have to sit and take a moment, Mom.” They let me pet them while I sit and stare at the lake. I am actually very grateful that I have the luxury to take dog walks. They force me to slow down. They force me to sit and think about what I’m thankful for instead of getting mad that I’m not heading home already.

We live in a moderate climate (outside of this crazy rainy year) and I have two pretty places to walk to, that’s a lot! I do wish I could take them to the countryside and let them run to their heart’s content. I do wish the dog park would dry up and stop being a mud festival. But for what it’s worth, I have a lot. And maybe if I remember my headphones or remember to walk when it’s a pretty time of day, I’ll get through the rest of my nine-thousand hours and finally be a calm, peaceful dog-walking expert!

Slow Living Part 3: Slow Working

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Speaking of Slow Living, I think this might apply to work too.  I think I am the slowest worker ever. My mind goes a million miles and hour but I can never seem to make those ideas happen as fast as I want them to. My actual productivity during the day-to-day is always about half of what I expect it should be. Everything I do takes forever!

For example, I’ve been working on my latest book, “Happy Birthday Little Hoo” for about two years now and poor Little Hoo is getting older than my illustration of him. If I don’t hurry up and finish this book he’s going to twenty before I’m done. Just kidding. But it feels that way sometimes.

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This slowness could be attributed to a few things. I often put my books on the back burner in favor of quicker jobs that pay the bills right away. I have open-ended deadlines on my books and I don’t get paid when I finish them. I make quarterly royalties that add up over time instead. In the long run the books actually make me more money than my small jobs but I always forget about that because I’m living paycheck to paycheck and I’m more concerned about the short term. It’s silly Brenda-style accounting that makes no sense. But basically it works out that the squeaky wheel jobs get worked on and since my books don’t squeak at me they get worked on the tenth of never.

Another reason I work slow is because I have to go with the natural rhythm of my creativity. Creativity is something that can be frustratingly fickle. Many times I find myself doing methodical, boring work instead being creative because my brain just isn’t in gear. Sometimes I think I get stuck in that plodding-along boring mode because I’m focusing my energy on household chores and making sure my loved ones are taken care of, which is important too. It’s all a big juggle. And I’m lucky that I even have the choice to do either.

Back in the beginning of the year I went to a doctor for a real physical, something I don’t think I had done since I was like eleven. I got all my blood work done and all my levels came back amazingly healthy. (Thank you regular yoga routine!) This was great news because I was worried I was pre-diabetic and probably had bad cholesterol and who knows what else could be wrong. I’m at that age where people start comparing ailments when they get together at parties so I was expecting something bad coming. Turns out I’m healthy and I don’t need to take any medication for anything EXCEPT that I am alarmingly low in vitamin B12. I don’t know why. I guess it’s common in women my age and my doctor made a note for me to get my thyroid checked this year, which I totally intend to do.

I sat on that bit of information for six months. I don’t know why. Laziness probably. Just this month I finally bought a bottle of vitamin B12 at our local drugstore and started taking them. And guess what?!!! I’ve illustrated four pages in two days. More than I’ve done all year! Pathetic I know. But maybe I was just stuck in a brain fog and I didn’t even know it. The doctor said that was the usual symptom of low B12.

So the message of this post is sometimes work is slow. Sometimes that’s for good reasons and SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO TAKE VITAMINS! Who knew!

We’ll see if it sticks.