Category Archives: Life

Find what works and do that – a strategy for life goals as well as writing

Over the last six months I’ve lost 35 pounds.

Because of a variety of factors, over the last ten years my weight had slowly crept up to… a lot more than it ever was before. I decided I was ready to make a change. It’s been a hard journey and I still have another 15 pounds to loose to get to the goal weight set by my doctor.

I’m fortunate to have a number of factors working to my advantage. I have minimal emotional triggers related to my weight. Like most women (and many men) I’m impacted by the unrealistic expectations of society and the (false) assumption that healthy automatically equals thin (despite long-standing research and medical finding to the contrary). But I have not struggled my whole life with unsuccessful diets and toxic weight-loss expectations, as many people do.

My privilege includes:
– access to good healthcare,
– access to fresh quality food and the means to buy it,
– living in a neighbor where I can safely walk for exercise,
– possessing the means to pay for and go to a gym.

With all those advantages, my basic weight-loss strategy has been to exercise more, sleep more, eat less, and eat better. I record every single thing I eat, every day. There are a lot of good Apps around for keeping track of diet. I use one called My Fitness Pal. It’s free, although I paid $50 for a year without adverts. The food database is extensive and I rarely need to use the add-new feature, and the recipe add is easy. It’s basically a calorie-counter that (depending on settings) awards additional calories for activity – which motivates me to exercise. I sync the app to my fitbit and let it figure out how many calories I’ve burned.

I anticipate reaching my goal weight in another 3 to 4 months, then a few months more to figure out maintenance.

This is what has worked for me. I think the key to any sustainable life change, like a writing practice, is to experiment. Find what works for your unique self and do that.

Oh, and here’s the obligatory photo:

Miriah Hetherington hand

Still tight, but for the first time in years I can wear my (real) wedding ring.

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Stories we tell

I’ll skip the obligatory confession/excuse paragraph about not blogging in… forever.

Lately I’ve been thinking about stories and narratives in a wider sense. Not just the ones that are published after having been selected and vetted by editors. The ones you hear in news/opinion media. The stories your friend tells you over coffee. The family history conveyed by your grandmother. The anecdote you overhear in the line at the post office. The stories our leaders tell.

Stories are important.
The stories we tell ourselves
    shape our understanding of who we are.
The stories our loved ones tell
    shape our understanding of what matters most.
The stories our community tells
    shape our understanding of the world.

Cragside, UK, August 2017, Owl sculpture, Miriah Hetherington

Owl carving at Cragside, UK

Volunteer time

Another distraction to add to the list of reasons I hadn’t updated my blog (to continue from my last blog post) was my volunteer work with Slighe nan Gaidheal and the every-other-year Fèis event (a five-day festival) in June.

I have been Slighe’s volunteer treasurer for almost six years. My second, three-year term on the Board of Directors ends on October 31st. And then I will retire.

The Scottish Gaelic language, or Gàidhlig (sounds like GAL-ik) as it’s called in that language, fascinates me. I feel that understanding the gaelic languages gives me a window into the Celtic mind and heart.

Gàidhlig was very nearly wiped out, in the systematic way that languages spoken by the poor and powerless often are (*). But in recent years the language is experiencing a resurgence. That is due to several factors including UK government support and the willingness of many families to enroll their children in the new Gàidhlig emersion schools. Also, all over the world there are individuals and groups learning to speak Scottish Gaelic. For the last twenty years, Slighe nan Gaidheal has nurtured a persistent community of Gàidhlig learners and speakers in the Pacific Northwest.

So after my husband and I began taking classes in Scottish Gaelic through Slighe’s excellent education program more than seven years ago, I wanted to give back to this little community. So I enthusiastically volunteered to help with the 2010 Fèis. Then I ran for and was elected to the Board of Directors.

The treasurer position is not difficult, insofar as anyone who can balance their checkbook and learn to use QuickBooks could do it. The critical requirement is consistency – checks have to be deposited and bills have to be paid on time. Slighe is a small non-profit with no employees, so there are not that many transactions to keep track of. Except during a Fèis – then it gets insanely busy and sorting out the financial end of things can easily take up every spare minute for several weeks.

My enjoyment in working with this volunteer organization has been strongly influenced by the dedication and attitude of the other volunteers. When all the volunteers show up for meetings and do their jobs to the best of their abilities when they say they will do them, it can be a wonderful and energizing experience.

I don’t enjoy this volunteer gig anymore.

I feel that the best reason to volunteer my time to an organization is because I love what the organization does or stands for. For almost six years I have accomplished an ongoing task that is critical to the continued existence of Slighe nan Gaidheal, so I feel good about that. Slighe has many responsible and devoted volunteers whom I have enjoyed working with over the years.

It’s time for me to retire from the Slighe board. Three months left to go.

Fort Worden, June 2016

Fort Worden, Fèis 2016

(*) The majority of Scottish Gaelic speakers are, now and historically, white. In my opinion that is the main reason it survived compared to, for example, Native American languages.

Still here and blogging (sort-of)

Reasons I have not updated my blog in four months:

1. I was putting all my writing energy into finishing the Novel.
(And on 5 June 2016 I DID finish the 115k-word, zero draft!)

2. End of school year chaos.

3. My husband and I took our twins on a family vacation in northern India for three weeks.

4. The illness I picked up in India came home with me and has been hanging around for one-and-a-half weeks (so far).

5. My oldest daughter is getting married four weeks from now.

More blog posts to come…

Miriah Hetherington visits Tak Thog Gonpa, photo 15 July 2016

Statue at Tak Thog Gonpa, photo taken 15 July 2016

Another Teddy Post

Yes, this is another blog post about my dog.
My kids occasionally entertain themselves and me by saying what they think our dog, Teddy, is thinking. Speaking in a voice that sounds to me like Dexter in an animated show called “Dexter’s laboratory.”
Now I find myself imagining what Teddy is thinking.

Teddy:
Where is boss-Mom going? The room where they keep food! I will follow her.

What are you doing? What is that you took from the big cold box? Is it peanut butter? It’s PEANUT BUTTER isn’t it? I want some. Give it to me. I want some.  Please. Please. Please.

Yes!

Oh. Ugh. What is this awful green thing Boss-Mom has fed to me? Celery. Yuk. I will leave it here on the floor. No, no, don’t pick it up. I will eat it later. If I get bored.
Listen, Boss-Mom. If you must eat green stuff, I will hook you up. There is a nice patch of grass outside in the back yard. I will share it with you.  Long blades of grass. Nice and green.
But while you are out there, do not eat the rabbit poo. I will not share. The rabbit poo is mine. All mine.

dog_teddy

 

Life with Dog

We’ve had our dog Teddy for over two months now. One thing I can say as someone who’s never owned a dog before – it’s not what I expected.

My twins had been begging for a dog for years. Finally, they persuaded my husband and I to get one. At 14-years of age, they convinced us that they would be responsible for most of the care-taking.

Miriah Hetherington's dog Teddy

Teddy in the backyard

I imagined life with a canine companion… a long pleasant walk with him in the morning, whilst thinking about my current work in progress. Followed by sitting at my desk writing as the dog slept peacefully at my feet. In my day-dream, after school one of the twins would take the dog for another walk. We’d all get more exercise.

Any parent reading this knows exactly where this is going…

Sleeping-in on the weekend is right out. Somebody has to let Teddy out of the crate for a potty break, and that somebody is me, the mom.

I hardly ever see our two cats anymore, and I miss them. They come out of hiding only to eat and use the litter box. There is no doubt in my mind that Teddy would kill them if given the chance. I asked the private rescue organization if the dog had been tested for compatibility with cats, and they told me “it’s all about how you introduce them.” I should have known what that really meant was: “He loves cats, he just can’t eat a whole one.”

Walking Teddy is hard work, and requires constant attention. So of course, it’s my job. He weighs eighty pounds and lunges away at the least whiff of a rabbit, or the sight of a bird or squirrel. Teddy’s current body count is two: he’s killed one rabbit and one bird, so far. We’ve been working on leash-walking in obedience class. He’s getting better, but walking him is a long way from a pleasant, relaxing experience. In fact, for now training means no long walks at all – I’m stuck in ultra-boring up-and-down our street mode.

Teddy with one of my kids

Teddy with one of my kids

Other than his enthusiasm for murdering small animals, Teddy is a very sweet guy. He’s very gentle with people and doesn’t pay attention to other dogs. He’s smart and quick to learn. He’s motivated more by attention than treats. Except for the cats, we all love him.

I have hope that eventually, he will get used to our cats and see them as companions rather than potential chew-toys.

Do your pets help or hinder your writing efforts?

Canine Adventures, part 2

Four questions I wished I had asked in advance when we adopted Teddy from a private rescue organization:

1. Are your dogs neutered or spayed before being adopted out?
Teddy’s estimated age is two years and he was not neutered when we adopted him. Public animal shelters like the Humane Society always neuter an animal before putting it up for adoption. I was surprised that wasn’t the case for private rescue.

2. When will my dog be neutered and by whom?
All of the information regarding the neuter was in the adoption contract. This private rescue organization utilizes a local veterinary technician college, and the pet owner is not allowed to interface with the vet tech college at any time during the dog’s four-day stay there. The rescue organization has until the date hand-written on the contract to arrange to have the neuter/spay done. In our case that was three months after the adoption date.

3. Why haven’t you sent me the adoption contract (in advance)?
The contract was emailed to me exactly 75 minutes before our appointment, a thirty minute drive away.

4. What arrangement do you have with the high-kill shelter(s)?
I don’t know the answer. The dogs on this organization’s web site are all attractive, much more so than the ones at my local shelter, and they have a lot more puppies. I like the warm fuzzy satisfaction of believing my dog might have been killed if he had stayed at that Nevada shelter. I just can’t help but wonder if these dogs are really “the cream of the crop” instead of “unwanted on death row.”

It was not in Teddy’s best interest or ours to wait three months, so we had Teddy neutered by our regular, licensed veterinarian. The private rescue organization is doing a very positive thing, and they are sincerely dedicated to their mission. I’ve asked around and discovered that private rescues are becoming common, and if that means more homeless dogs find forever homes, then the net result is a good thing. We love Teddy, and are happy to have him join our family.

My advice to potential dog-owners considering adopting from a private rescue: ask more questions than I did. Carefully read anything hand-written on the contract after you signed it, before leaving with your new dog. Clarify all information conveyed verbally and check for consistency with the written contract.

Here’s a photo of Teddy a couple days after he was neutered.

Miriah Hetherington's dog

Teddy in the car, wearing the “cone of destruction”

If you adopted your dog from a private rescue, did everything go as expected?