Tag Archives: exercise

Progress Report!

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update post on my physical health, so guess what?  Today is your unlucky LUCKY day!  Actually, I’ve been waiting to post about my health until I’ve had something good to report.  Recovery can be so incredibly slow, sometimes it feels like you’re not making any progress at all until one day you wake up, put on your jeans and find that HEY, today the zipper is going up while the swelling is going down!  Yay!!

Actually, more importantly than jeans fitting (I’m loving my yoga pants too much these days) is my stamina increasing.  This week I achieved a milestone and captured it on Instagram:

 

This is a photo of me wearing my giant Elton John-style sunglasses along with my hiking companions.  We just finished my longest walk/hike since surgery: 2.75 miles!  Brulee was particularly excited for me – can you tell? 

The best part?  Very little fatigue afterwards.  Translation:  no zonking out on the couch as soon as I walk back through the door.  Progress!! 

Here are a few more shots on the trail over the past week or so:

 

 

The above shot was taken earlier last week, before the rain from Hurricane Sandy sent the remaining leaves falling to the ground.  (By the way, if you’re on Instagram and like me to follow you, just leave your username in the comments section. If you’d like to follow me, my username is:  ellenbrennemanstudio)

 

All in all, I am happy to be feeling more like myself.  I still have to plan carefully, though.  I can’t seem to get to yoga class on the days that I hike; it’s simply too much.  I’m incorporating both back into my life, but alternating accordingly. 

Taking these long walks has been great for my mind as well as my health.  I think about new ideas for paintings, listen to music, and when I’m ready to focus on something else, I’ve been listening to Rob Lowe’s book, ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’.

Initially, I wasn’t really interested in this book. Despite the fact that he’s been around as long as I have, I just recently became a Rob Lowe fan thanks to Parks and Recreation.  The audiobook I wanted was checked out, so I grabbed this one instead.  I have to tell you, this book has been such a great read.  Narrated by Rob, he is a master storyteller, and he leaves no stone unturned.   Even if you aren’t a fan, I think you’d enjoy it.  I just finished it today and was sorry that it ended – a sure sign that you’re reading a great book!

My plans for the weekend are pretty much laid out for me.  I’ve been painting tiny three by three inch canvases and turning them into ornaments for Christmas by drilling a hole through the stretcher and stringing through ribbon.  I decided that I’m going to paint them until I no longer enjoy doing them; then that will be it.  I don’t know how some of these Etsy sellers can churn out identical wares over and over again.  I admire them, but I’d go mad working that way.  Anyway, this is the result of what my weekend will look like:

Anyone else have specific plans this weekend?  I hope you all have a good one!  See you back here next week Smile

XO,

Ellen

Scattered Thoughts for Today

Yesterday was my first post-op appointment since my hysterectomy on June 5th.  I am happy to report that I am finally beginning to feel an improvement – as in, the debilitating fatigue is beginning to disappear.  I can actually feel like progress is being made, and because of this I am totally fine with the fact that my body will only allow me to choose ONE thing to do per day; that’s it.  The rest of the day it’s all belly icepacks and rest.  Tonight my husband and I are going out for a nice dinner with some friends we haven’t seen in quite a while, and I’ve already picked my ‘one’ thing for tomorrow: Craig is taking me here:

It’s a lavender farm and I’ve always wanted to go but for one reason or another have missed cutting season, which is when you get a pair of scissors and a ribbon in exchange pay $5.  Then you head out into the fields where you cut and bundle your own lavender.  I’m told that they may have chickens this year. Ooh!  One can only hope!! (I swear, it takes hardly anything at all to get me excited these days!)  ;)

You can bet that I’ll be taking loads of photos for next week’s post.  Maybe I’ll allow Craig to take one or two of me and share it with you.  I haven’t been feeling very photogenic lately.  My lack of strength would surely put me at risk if I were ever being chased by zombies.  On the bright side, my confidence of being chased by zombies means that I’m getting meatier (meaning, my appetite is coming back).  I’ve put on almost 2 of the 13 pounds I’ve lost. 

One thing that I never, ever imagined would happen is that I’d be completely uninterested in food – sickened by it on many days.  Early on, I had so many initial problems that people were trying figure out how to sneak calories into my body.  I overheard my husband and mother collaborating on how they could get me to drink a milkshake.  Craig presented me one that he made with protein powder, bananas, blueberries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I promised to try it, but one sip left me sick and pushing it back across the table.   While chatting last night he said that he ‘knew something was wrong when you didn’t want anything sweet.’ 

The body has a way of knowing what it needs to heal, I think.  When I finally did begin eating again, all I wanted was one egg and toast for breakfast; this was interesting because I cannot stand to eat eggs.  I don’t even like the smell of them, but I think my body just craved the protein.  Then a spinach salad with plainly grilled chicken for lunch, and generally a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and some Fage yogurt for supper. 

As the days passed, my appetite increased but I opted to eat small meals throughout the day.  Now, I’m pretty much eating normal though slightly smaller meals. Even my sweet tooth came back.  But I am completely satisfied with one small piece of chocolate.  Good lord, what on earth did they do to me in that operating room??

 

My next task will be to begin incorporating exercise back into my life.  No yoga or any torso work for at least two more weeks, but doc says I can work arms and very gently, legs.  Actually, I’m just thrilled that I can begin stretching again.  That has been one of the hardest things to avoid.   Definitely no hot yoga for a while – who would want to?  It’s been unbearably hot here this week and we’re in for more of the same next week.  It’s been too hot to sit outside but that’s fine really, because our creek is slowly drying up and I can’t bear to watch it happen.  We need water desperately (anyone BFF’s with the rain gods, per chance?) 

Lastly, I am working fast and furious to set up my Etsy shop – and by fast and furious I really mean slow and deliberate.  But I’m getting there.  I’m truly grateful that I have something to keep my mind occupied when it’s not being occupied by visions of sleep. 

Before closing this post for the weekend I thought, now, what kind of spontaneous and scattered post would this be if I didn’t include strange photos of my dogs?  So, here you go:

I can’t remember what it was that he was holding but as you can see, he held it for so long he was starting to fall asleep.  That’s about the time he drops it and breaks for a nap. 

 

Have I shown you this yet?  If so, just skip this paragraph.  For those who haven’t yet, since Emmie has issues with loud sounds (thunder, fireworks, cars backfiring, etc.) I bought her a Thundershirt.  it velcros around the neck and then around the belly and fits snugly, pressing against pressure points that are relaxing to animals.  Wearing this doesn’t completely eliminate her fears, but it makes them more tolerable.

Have a good weekend, everyone.  I hope you can find a nice place to get away from the heat if you need to.  See you next week!

 

XO,

~Ellen

Who Do I Think I am, Anyway?

Sometime in late August I took the dogs for a walk around our local county park this weekend.  We walked the same trails that we used to run back in early Spring. 

We walked along the river, across the wooden bridge that crosses the water and up the steep hill, where I paused for a moment.  Both dogs turned and looked at me, wondering why we’d stopped.  “This,” I thought to myself, “is how far I could run before having to stop for a break.” 

While finishing my walk with the dogs, I kept thinking, if I hadn’t stopped running I’d probably be signing up for 5K runs by now. 

I was pretty bummed the rest of our walk together.  I couldn’t get away from my thoughts which kept reminding me that I’d tried yet another exercise on which I never followed through.  More on this in a moment. 

While in my twenties, I was having a conversation with my practice husband. I don’t recall what the conversation was about, nor do I remember what I said to him exactly, but I made a comment about referring to myself as an artist. His response to that statement was, ‘just because you work on art, that doesn’t make you an artist.’ In that moment I caught a glimpse of what he thought of his wife as well as what he didn’t think of her.  I just stood there, feeling exposed and confused.  I’ve never forgotten it, and for a long time afterward I felt stripped of a title that I felt comfortably described in part, who I thought I was. 

It’s many years later and do you know that as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I still find myself struggling to find words that describe me?  Yes, I am considered a sister, daughter, friend, acquaintance, caregiver, and wife.  But, don’t these descriptive nouns reflect more about what I am to others? What words define me?   This is a tough exercise, and one worth exploring for anyone who is going through life trying to find his or her place within it. 

Back to my thoughts about running.  It was during that walk that I suddenly realized I wasn’t bummed because I didn’t run anymore – I certainly didn’t miss it;  I think I was just secretly hoping that by trying my hand at running, I’d stumble across a solid, stable word to keep tucked away in my private ‘Who Am I’ resume.  I was bummed that I couldn’t add, ‘I am a runner’ to my list. 

Now, I know the first rule of blogging: don’t compare yourself to others – we are all different and each have our own strengths. Still, I found myself wanting to stumble across what many other bloggers seem to have already found – like Laura, Lynn and Jenn for finding their passion for running. Or Sharon for her love of hiking; Roxie and Jill for the enormous amounts of joy their bicycles give them, and Tim for his unwavering determination to walk and walk – and walk!   I envied those losers/maintainers who found a passion for their exercise of choice. 

Why this need, you ask?  Well, I think it’s because it wasn’t until I actively began losing weight that I started to see what my body was physically capable of.  I’ve been at this exercise game a long time now.  Isn’t it about time I am committed to something?  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you know I’ve tried many different things, some for the first time on this blog: hula-hooping, retro-walking, kayaking, running and biking.  Kayaking could have been my ‘thing’ if I lived in a warmer climate, but it just doesn’t seem right to lay a claim to something that I’m only able to do a few times during the summer months, so I didn’t really feel like I could count that. 

 

 

There is something I want to share, though.  Something is happening within me and it has to do with my involvement in yoga (remember when I walked into the yoga studio for the first time as part of a comfort zone challenge?)  That was back in August.  I haven’t blogged much about it since then, but I’ve been keeping things quiet for a reason.    I wanted to fully explore the classes, compare the good with the bad, and then share my thoughts with you on what it’s meant to me.    Like other things in my life, I don’t want to have to question myself anymore as to who I am or what I do. 

 

I want to be able to write with complete confidence the things that I know defines me: I am a confidante. A nurturer.  A sometimes risk-taker.  A protector.  I am an artist.  I actively practice Yoga.

And I love it. 

Comfort Zone Challenge: Yoga!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been good in exercise classes.  In grade school when teams were being chosen for kickball, I was one of those kids who was always picked last (and you thought that was just made-up movie stuff, didn’t you?)  It’s true.  I sucked at sports.  I was such a girl.  Dodgeball was terrifying and I’d cower instead of run when someone had me in his sights.  In my defense however, kids are downright mean.  Who stands 3 feet away from you and throws a ball at your head with all their might?  I’m pretty sure that I went to school with a bunch of repressed sadists. 

Then came middle school.  Volleyball wasn’t any better.  I wasn’t aggressive enough to run after the ball and lob it back into the air.  There was always someone else who wanted it more, so I thought it was more polite to stand back and encourage my teammate to be the best she could be (how’d you like that clever excuse??)

Softball in high school?  Nope.  Always ended up in the outfield where I spent a lot of time by myself singing Michael Jackson songs and learning how to make that cracking sound with my gum. 

Last but not least, Thursdays were generally saved for gymnastics.  We’d drag out those smelly blue gym mats and had to practice cartwheels, somersaults and headstands.  Even though I went through the motions, all I could think about was, ‘but, what if I land wrong and my neck snaps in half?’ 

I ask you, is there truly any wonder why I still don’t know how to ride a bike? I think not. 

Here is the interesting thing: I am finding that summer 2011 is turning into the Summer of Me, (which I know, sounds like a really bad title to an Afterschool Special).  My weight may not be exactly where I’d like it to be, but sweet, supportive readers of mine – I’m doing some serious movin’ and shakin’ over here, and can honestly say that I’ve done more mentally challenging things in the past couple of months than I have, literally, in years.  Kayaking has shown me that I’m not some uncoordinated doofus; taking a fairy garden taught me to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves,  and becoming friends again with my paintbrush has me reconnecting with my creative side. 

Adding to that list, I want you all to know that I DID IT.  I signed up for Yoga Classes.  And not only did I sign up – because truly, a girl can always just ‘sign up’ and then turn around and talk herself right out of something, am I right?  Well, I wasn’t going to take any chances.

I paid ahead. 

For a month. 

And classes don’t carry over. 

So in other words, if I don’t go, then I’ve just agreed to give my yoga instructor a seriously generous tip for doing nothing more than entering my credit card information into her computer system (which seems a bit forward since we just met).  Voluntarily taking an exercise class is a HUGE comfort zone challenge for me – and rightfully so, given the awkward, gawky tweenage memories I shared above. 

I got out of my car in the parking lot on Monday, I shut the door and repeated out loud, ‘I’ve blogged about this.  Can’t back out.’  Let me tell you, it got me into the door.  And, I know that once my first class is over, I’ll feel tons better.  It’s the initial fear that can be such a manipulator!

My first class begins next Wednesday.  I’m looking forward to the day when I can calmly look a bully in the eye and say, ‘Don’t mess with me, buddy.  I’m very bendy.’

My month-long hula-hooping experiment

Well, it has been almost a month since I started my hula-hooping experiment.  I have been hooping faithfully for 20 minutes a day since January 7th, take away 4 days for not feeling well.  When I posted my two-week progress post I mentioned that I would be giving an update on my measurements.  I can happily report that I have lost 1/2 of an inch around my hips.  My waist and my stomach measurements haven’t budged, but hey – a half inch still isn’t bad, right?  I honestly don’t attribute that loss on any other exercise, either.  I’ve been measuring my hips, waist and stomach for ages and my hips have always been stuck on the same number.  Hula-hooping is the only thing I can think of that would have caused a loss in that area because that’s where I’ve been targeting that exercise.  So, overall I’m pretty pleased. 

Several posts ago I also mentioned that I’d checked out a hula-hooping dvd from the library called Hoopnotica:  Hoopdance Basics for Beginners:

If you are a true beginner – as in, are unable to get the hoop to stay on your hips then you would benefit from this dvd.  Among other things, this dvd explains the following:

  • How to keep the hoop moving around your middle.
  • How to move the hoop up and down your torso in a fluid motion.
  • How to turn in a circle while hula-hooping.
  • Also, how to side-step and spin around while hooping.
  • Beginning tricks used for hoopdancing.
  • Also, after each lesson a troubleshooting guide if it’s ‘just not working’.

There are other dvds as well although I haven’t seen any of them.  I would imagine they are more advanced and incorporate dance routines using the hula-hoop.  Truthfully, at this moment I’m completely satisfied just doing an occasional spin and side-stepping while using my hoop.  If I should ever decide to join a band of gypsies and tour North America for money then I may decide to mix up my routine a bit.  Until then, I’m good. 

Final Review:

It’s still easy, still fun and still doesn’t feel like exercise even after a month of use.  I’ve leveled off my calorie burn, which is still around 76 calories per 20 minute session and I’ve lost 1/2 an inch.  By the way, my stomach muscles are a lot tighter than they were but I cannot say if the hoop contributed to that (although I’m sure it didn’t hurt any) because I’ve been doing a lot of core work the last couple of months.

Overall, not bad for a $26 investment.  I’d recommend this exercise for anyone who is recovering from an injury and/or needs low impact exercises for a specific reason however, make sure to ask your doctor first if this would be all right as part of your exercise routine. 

Two weeks on the Hula-Hoop

As promised, I am here with an update on my hula-hooping experiences.  I am going it alone as of right now since Karen (my unofficial hula-hoop partner) over at Waisting Time  is recovering from surgery and is out of commission until further notice.  Get well soon, Karen!

As some of you know, I received and christened an exercise hoop here on my blog on January 7th.  Except for two, I’ve been using it twenty minutes a day for the last 12 days and I thought I’d give an update on how it’s going.

First, the good:

1.  I absolutely love the idea of being able to pick it up and just start doing it; I don’t have to change clothes, go anywhere or have any other special equipment.  Just pick it up and get moving.

2.  Since it’s low impact, I don’t get all sweaty afterwards so I can hoop whenever the mood strikes me – whether it’s all at once or in short bursts throughout the day.

3.  It doesn’t feel like exercise.  It’s actually easy to forget that I’m doing it if I’m watching TV; who wouldn’t like that?

4.  It doesn’t interfere with my heart rate monitor’s chest strap so I know exactly how many calories I’m burning.

Some other things I’ve noticed:

1.  The better I get, the fewer calories I burn unless I get creative.  At first, I wasn’t used to working those muscles and it took more of an effort to keep the hoop moving.  Within a few days however, I was able to hoop without much effort which of course, reduced the number of calories burned.

2.  I’ve had to choose my location carefully.  Using my hoop requires  more room than I thought.  In order to get the most benefit out of the exercise I need to move around while using it: turning in a circle, side-steps, moving forward and backward, etc.  This requires  an 8’x8’ space or better.  If you don’t have that much space you can certainly still do it, but you’ll be limited as to what kind of movements you’ll be able to accomplish.

3.  It takes practice.  Just because I could make mine spin around my middle right away doesn’t mean that everything was all easy-peasy.  I don’t want to get bored so I’ve been concentrating on moving the hoop up and down my torso without it dropping to the ground.  If you get frustrated easily, be prepared unless you’re a natural. 

A few other thoughts on calorie burn:  I am currently weighing in at 132 and am 5’2”.  when I first began I was burning 76-78 calories per 15 minute session.  Now, I am burning around 76 calories over a 20 minute session.  Obviously, the heavier you weigh the more calories you will burn – really, the more uncoordinated you are the more calories you’ll burn;  moving around more (bending over, moving your hips more, etc.) will give you a better workout.

Now, having said all that, I can increase my heart rate by getting creative.  Like with any other exercise it’s good to keep challenging your body.  I’m doing things like maintaining a slight squat while hooping – good for the legs and rear-end.  Also, I’ve started holding onto 2 pound weights in each hand while hooping – good for the arms.  If that isn’t enough, I also spend half my time hooping clockwise, then the other half counter-clockwise.  That gives it a completely different feel altogether and challenges the mind as well because I’m going against my natural desire to move a certain way.

I’ll report back in another couple of weeks when I’ve been at this a full month.  At that time I’ll compare my measurements from when I started and let you know if I’m noticing any physical changes….right now it’s just too soon to tell, really. 

Overall, I don’t regret getting my hoop for a second.  I use the same mantra that I had when I was 235 pounds: every bit counts.  If I can burn calories while having fun, regardless of how few or how many – it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading today.  Wiggle those hips.

Chest Strap Included.

A hodge-podge of thoughts today. 

First up, I finally broke down and bought a heart rate monitor a month or so ago.  I did NOT want one with a chest strap – no way.  I didn’t care how reliable they were; I dug in my heels.  A pain to strap on.  Uncomfortable.  Wet the strap first?  Uh-uh.  I researched high and low trying to find a wireless one that was accurate.  After countless hours of reading reviews, (yes – hours, I was that determined) I finally accepted the wisdom of others who knew: the wireless ones were good, but not as accurate in calculating calorie burn as those with a chest strap. 

I threw myself onto my knees, had a major tantrum and when I pulled myself together enough to dig out my credit card, I ordered a Polar Heart Rate Monitor…  chest strap included. 

There is a chest strap laying around here somewhere.

Now that I’ve been using it for a while, who cares about the chest strap?! I can’t imagine exercising without it.  The main reason for this is that I no longer trust myself when exercising.  Before the monitor, I spent 90% of my time on the treadmill working my way up to an incline of 15 while walking at a fast clip.  I figured that since I was pushing my body as hard as I could, then I was obviously burning my maximum amount of calories, right?  Not hardly.  Once I started wearing the monitor and comparing my calorie expenditure with other exercises – in particular several workout dvds, I learned that I could do interval training with short periods of rest in between and burn the same amount of calories. And before, I had zero idea how many calories one can burn while using weights…until now.  And it’s a lot. 

My workout program has completely changed because of this; I am no longer a slave to my treadmill; I don’t have to exercise myself half to death in order to feel good about my workout anymore.  The chest strap is a small price to pay for this information.  Best news right now:  I can hula hoop with no interference at all, which is good.  I plan a full post on my hooping experiences next week. 

On to other things: many thanks to all of you who recommended what to buy at Trader Joe’s yesterday.  I came home with a good variety of foods to try, including various soups (sweet potato bisque), cereals (Barbara’s Peanut Butter Puffins – thanks Michele!) and some frozen goodies as well. 

IKEA was an unbelievable stop.  Even my husband was impressed.  I didn’t buy very much only because I didn’t really need anything, but I did get a few things to make my kitchen a bit more organized.  We arrived right before they opened and thanks to all of your comments, if I ever go back – it will be on a weekday as they are opening their doors.  I even heard a few shoppers mention how much they dislike being there when it’s crowded, so I feel lucky to have planned it the way I did. 

One more thing before closing.  Something happened while at the Blue Man Group on Sunday evening.  In case you’re wondering – no, I did not get picked by one of the blue men to come on stage and perform (although that would have made a cool post, wouldn’t it??).  No, it was actually something better.  I had a kind of ‘breakthrough’ during the show that is in direct relation to this month’s Hate-Loss Challenge.  It’s almost two weeks into it and I can honestly say that I am making progress in that department.  I can’t wait to share it with you on Thursday. 

Have a great Monday Tuesday, everyone.  (I’ve been doing that for the last two days)  Taking Monday off has my whole week messed up.  Does that happen to you, too?

Monday Musings: Readers, help me get my groove on!

I have about as much grace while exercising as an elephant in high heels.  You know this if you read my little rant about exercise DVDs.  I’ve been trying to get more creative by doing the retro walking that I posted about a couple of weeks ago but I still needed something else to get me through this slump I seem to be in. When I walk I usually start my incline at 7 as a warm-up and then do intervals from incline 7 to 15 for around 20-25 minutes.  My speed ranges from 3.0 miles per hour to 3.9 which is as fast as my short legs will allow before I would need to break out into a jog. 

For those of you who are new to this blog, I have degenerative disc disease in my lower back (which is a fancy name for 3 bad discs).  This means that I have chronic pain and can’t sit for long periods of time.  I manage pretty well though and walking has done wonders to keep my pain at a minimum most of the time.   I’m limited to what I can do physically however,  and running is one of those things because it usually aggravates it. Have you ever been exercising and suddenly just wanted to push yourself a little bit further? Well, last night while counting down the minutes to the end of my workout on the treadmill I did a big no-no:  I went from my usual fast-inclined walk to a run.  Yep, I ran.  For over 10 minutes. 

Want to know what I’m doing right now?  I’m icing my back.  I am paying the price for that little stunt with pain in my lower back as well as down my right leg.  I have a confession to make while I’m at it: this is the second time in the past month that I’ve ran on that blasted treadmill; the last time it took several days for my back to forgive me. 

I think my problem is that I am bored to death with my routine as well as my music.  I most always listen to music when I’m on the treadmill.  I’m sure you’ve felt it:  you’re going along at your pace, eager to get done and wham!  A song comes through your speakers or earbuds that revs you up and gives you that little push you needed to get you through to the end.  My problem is that I’ve listened to the same songs so often that I’d almost rather walk in silence than hear that Michael Jackson tune one more time (and who doesn’t love the King of Pop?  I mean, come on!  It’s that bad!)

So, I am calling on all of my readers (and you lurkers too – hello there!) for some help.  You will not only be helping me, but I think many of us will benefit from this.  I can’t be the only one who gets bored while exercising, right?  If I had a new playlist of songs to listen to it would really help combat my boredom A LOT. 

Here’s what you can do:  leave a comment with one or two of your favorite songs to workout or dance to; even a song that you just like to listen to because of its great rhythm.  The more songs you post, the fresher our set list.  There’s got to be some great songs out there that I’ve never heard before or have forgotten about that would be great to listen to while I walk.  It doesn’t matter if your taste in music is different than mine.  The only thing I care about is music with a strong, get my feet movin’ beat!

I’ll start with a few songs from my playlist to add to the pot:

  • SexyBack by Justin Timberlake
  • Shake your Body by Michael Jackson (an oldie but a goodie)
  • The Right Life by Seal

My sanity and my back thank you!!

My scandalous love affair. With a sheep.

Still reading?  Good! No, I haven’t changed the name to Pervert Wednesday.  Let’s talk socks!

What……?  Did you really think you’d have stuck around this long if my title was labeled: ‘Socks Are Good’?  To make this potentially boring post more bearable to read, I’m going to distract you periodically with photos of cute little animals.  Only a monster wouldn’t stick around for something as adorable as that, am I right?

So, welcome back to Like It Wednesday.  I have never been more excited to discuss socks in all of my life….not just any socks, either.  We’re talking Smartwool.

"Are you talking about us?"

 

I am a sock snob.  It’s true.  I was introduced to Smartwool socks a few years ago when I went to a specialty shoe store at the mall to find some foot-wide shoes for my freaky clown feet.  Before slipping my feet into the shoes the sales associate, for the heck of it (smartest sales person on the planet) opened up a package of wool socks and asked me to put them on.  i figured they would be itchy and uncomfortable like every wool sweater I’d ever owned.  That, and I’d have to use special care when washing them.  Still, I indulged him and tried them on. 

"This post is incredibly fascinating! Somebunny read me more!"

 

All I could say was, ‘Ahhhhhh…Mmmmm’.  (yes, they felt that good).  I could not believe I had been walking around in cotton socks all my life.  I haven’t looked back, since. 

"I wish I could wear socks."

 

So, what’s the story behind some socks and why do I love them? 

Number one: Working out is a pleasure with these babies on.  Smartwool socks have an incredible anti-funk factor.  I can lounge, walk, or hike all day long in these socks, take them off and they don’t stink.  Amazing. All of the moisture is pulled from my skin through the fabric and my feet remain dry and happy.

Number Two: they do not shrink.  I just throw them in the washer with my other clothes, then toss them in the dryer.  They come out good as new.

Number Three:  they make my feet feel wonderful.  Smartwool has many different styles but the kind I tried on that day was the Saturnsphere.  These socks have a cushion in the heel and at the ball of the foot; my feet have thanked me every day for providing the extra ‘oomph’ those socks give, and greatly reduced the number of blisters I used to get from walking.

Number Four: Smartwool socks are durable.  I still wear the ones I bought all those years ago at Freaky-Feet shoe store and they feel just as good as the day I wore them home. 

"What do you mean, they don't stink? That's the best part of a sock!"

 

OK, now for some good news and bad news.  Let’s do the bad news first and get it over with:  these socks ain’t cheap.  At Smartwool’s site, they run about $19 a pair but of course that’s retail. 

The good news: As I mentioned earlier I am now a sock snob; however I am also very frugal and normally, spending a penny over $3 for a pair of socks would send me into panic-mode.  You can buy these socks for a more reasonable price if you know where to look.  I happen to know where to look.

"I'm sad that your post is almost finished.  Why couldn't you have made it a little longer?"

 

Sierra Trading Post has seconds (some may have barely noticeable blemishes) for half the price.  Also, you can go to Shoebuy and check out their Smartwool selection.  They sell their socks in groups of two pair, they have free shipping, free returns, and often offer decent coupons online if you search for them.  Or, sign up for their newsletter and the coupons will come to you.  I will check Ebay on occasion as well.  Prices are usually good but you never know if you’re getting the real thing if you don’t know your seller so always check the seller rating before deciding to bid. 

"That was some brilliant writing!"

 

One quick note about cushion: when shopping for these, make sure you know if the sock is light, medium or heavy cushion – there are different thicknesses for different activities: hiking, hunting, running, walking…they have socks for every occasion.

There.  Done!  Who knew that baby animals would find socks so interesting?  Do any of you have an item or brand that you splurge on?  Do you own Smartwool?  Am I the only one stupid enough to think that devoting an entire post about merino wool socks was a good idea?  Don’t just lurk – leave a comment :)

Remember, all reviews on this blog were written independently and were in no way endorsed by any brand, manufacturer or otherwise.  My comments are personal opinion only, and I only review products I personally use and enjoy.

Lessons from a golden

My husband and I have found the joys of senior dog ownership. When we acquired Mandy she had been at a rescue facility for several months. I don’t think she’d ever been on a leash in her life and she had been so neglected it took months to medically prepare her for adoption. Arthritis, blown-out knees, surgery, mammary tumor, ear infections, hip mobility issues; you name it, she had it. Adopting a senior dog – especially one that was already nine years old – was a gamble for us. We walked into the foster Mom’s home and Mandy trotted right over and plopped down in my husband’s lap, looking up at him with those old-soul eyes and it was all over; she was coming with us.

doesn't that face just melt your heart?

 

Two-and-a-half-years have passed since Mandy joined our family. Almost every evening we take our dogs to the local county park for their walk. They have walked these same trails for years and yet every day they cannot wait to get there. If only I could harness that kind of excitement over exercise. They don’t see it as mundane or uninteresting; they see it as an adventure. They simply cannot wait to be outdoors experiencing life.

We used to walk over two miles every evening; now that Mandy is 11 years old, we walk a little over a mile and she has had quite enough. I always feel bad for Brulee who is now six but still has enough energy to generate electricity. He looks back at Mandy every once in a while as if to say, ‘Would you please get the lead out??’

We’ve been walking in this same park for nearly 4 years. We take the same trails and know exactly what to expect around every corner. It can get a little numbing at times, but the dogs act as if they are experiencing something mystical. Every evening after dinner, Mandy watches for any sign of familiar movement one of us. Then she’s off down the stairs barking at us to hurry up and get her to the car and by god, roll down that window already!  Brulee is more laid back about the process simply following Mandy along letting her do all the directing, however he’s just as excited.

Mandy and Brulee at the park.

 

Our veterinarian told me that for goldens, the age of six is considered senior status. Due to inbreeding and other health issues, golden owners sadly don’t see their best friends live beyond 9 or 10. But Mandy who is now 11 1/2, refuses to let her aches and pains get the best of her. If she’s having a hard day and cannot get off the floor without a lift, once she’s up she is ready to go to the park for her walk. When she’s limping a little bit towards the end of her walk, she makes it clear that she is going to get the job done anyway; she may sit and rest a few times along the way but she’s determined to cross that finish line. She is a survivor.

I’ve learned a lot from Mandy. Not only about how fulfilling it can be owning a senior dog, but also that instinctively, she somehow knows that she needs to get up and move her body every day or else the day will come when that body will no longer want to move.  She holds the secret to life, this white-faced dog: enjoy every morsel of food in your bowl, experience every day like it’s your last, and find excitement in the little things.

Unlike Brulee who knows countless tricks including how to whisper, Mandy has only ever learned one: she knows how to ‘sit’. 

Yet, she is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known.