Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Progress, or Lack Thereof

Things here at Procrastination Headquarters are going about the same as usual, I'm still putting things off that need doing and time is still going faster than ever.  Over the weekend, I tried to decorate some of the urns in the driveway, but I waited too long and the leftover potting soil was a frozen hunk.  I was trying to cram assorted pine, spruce and twig branches into the soil with no luck.  Of course, I picked a very cold, raw day to do this project, and didn't get out there until almost 4PM and sunset.  I decided to ask dear old Carl what to do because he never fails me when it comes to ideas.

Carl has been working on trying to get our old oil barrel out of the basement for over a week.  Since we put in the geothermal heat pump last year, the barrel is simply a waste of space as we have no need for fuel oil in the house anymore.  However, getting the barrel out of the basement is proving to be a monumental task because Carl's Piles of Useful Things are getting in the way and there's really only room for one person to work on it at at time right now.  So he was glad of the break to take on my dilemma of the moment and suggested I use a cordless drill with a large bit to drill holes in the dirt.  What a good idea, and it worked like a charm.

Unbeknownst to me at first, he followed me out of the house to take pictures of his wife drilling holes in dirt.  My, we lead an exciting life, don't we?

Ernie the Urn and My Best Side Again (sigh)
At this point I didn't realize Carl was photographing my diligent efforts.  (I should add here that I haven't finished decorating Ernie yet, so there won't even be a pretty picture of a completed arrangement forthcoming.) 
Why won't this twig fit?  Must drill the hole wider.
And I'm still oblivious to my stalker.
It was at this point that I noticed the camera with a grinning husband attached to it.
So I turned my back on him again.
Yes, there is nothing more beautiful than a bunch of long-legged pine branches stuck straight up and down in an urn, no sirree.  Doesn't get any better than that.  Where's the different  foliage textures and colors, the natural spacing and drape of the boughs?  How about some color?  It was getting dark...heck, I've got time yet...right?  I'll come back to Ernie eventually, hopefully before Christmas is over. 
Luckily the sunset was much more beautiful that night.

Joel and I (and Ann, this past weekend) have been working on clearing out the lower branches from our white pines in the back eight acres.  When Carl and I planted the pines back in 1992, they were planted in rows and too close together and of course, many of the limbs are dying off on the bottom.  Of the original 8000 trees we planted, only around five hundred survived, but it is from these survivors we harvest the pine needle mulch for the gardens.  Clearing out the lower branches makes it much easier to walk through the little woods.   Joel takes a chainsaw and cuts the dead limbs off and then we toss them on the trailer and light the campfire turning it into a bonfire.  Though you get a little cold working in 20 degree weather with a strong northerly wind, having the bonfire to come back to warm up with is nice. 
Quarry Pond frozen already and Procrastinator Karen did not cut back the lilies which will make for rather bumpy ice skating.

 There's Joel, adding more fuel to the fire.  We were done working by around 7PM and though the campfire felt good, I was too wimpy to stand out in the cold and eat, so I brought some hot dogs out and we cooked them over the fire and went back inside to eat them for supper.  This was probably the last campfire cookout until spring.

So, today I went back to see my doctor.  Things are looking a little better, though we really don't know what happened, probably chalk it all up to menopause and hopefully---to sleep apnea.  One thing the doctor did not like is my weight.  I don't like it much either, so she's not alone with that sentiment.  Since I haven't been feeling well, my weight has crept up again.  She gave me some very specific advice, "You have to watch what you are cramming into your mouth and exercise more." 

I assured her I do watch what I cram in, every delicious last morsel of it.  

Then I made a mistake, I said, "My goal is to walk five miles a day, and admittedly, lately I haven't been reaching that goal, but I hope to get back in the swing of it."

She was staring at the computer screen they use for record-keeping nowadays, and at my proud declaration of 'exercise' she turned to me with a bemused look.

"Five miles?  That is nothing.  You need to walk at least ten miles a day to see results.  In fact, 15 miles a day would be better.  I walk at least that on a daily basis just seeing patients in the clinic here."

Whoa.  Ten miles a day?  Fifteen??  Oh, I felt like a failure.  Here I go and say I'm aiming for five measly miles and think that's a respectable number only to get blown off the blacktop so to speak.   Seriously?  I have to walk 15 miles a DAY?  Wow.  See, I fell for the information that said a person should try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day for exercise and I never leave home without the trusty computerized pedometer Joel gave me several years ago. 
When I was feeling better awhile back, in the late winter and early spring, our son David would drop me off about three and a half or four miles from home in the morning on his way to work and Procrastinator Karen would have no choice but to walk home.   On many mornings, I brought our two little dogs, Teddy and Pudding along, too.  If they got tired, I would carry them for awhile.   It worked out very well, really, because there was no way I could cut the walk any shorter if I ever wanted to see home again.  During the rest of the day, I would easily get my 10,000 steps and I felt invigorated.  I will never be skinny, but I sure felt physically fit.  In the summer, I have no problem getting five miles on just working in the garden, so I don't need to walk as much on the road.

But then, some things happened that messed up my workout.  The most alarming thing happened in early March of 2010. 

 Teddy and Pudding and I had already walked two miles and were on our last mile.  On our rural route, we have to go past a house with two big German Shepherd dogs with Nasty, Pointy Teeth (to quote Monty Python).   There is an electrified, invisible dog fence where the poor dogs wear shock collars to keep them in their yard, but for over a year, they would charge the electronic fence, snarling and barking and running along the perimeter of their yard until I would get past.  They would get so frustrated barking and not being able to get at me that at times they would turn on each other and mock-fight in their own yard.  Their behavior gave me the creeps, but they stayed on their side of the invisible fence, so I hoped and yes, prayed, that the batteries in their shock collars would never go dead.  

It didn't matter if I had my own dogs with me or not, they acted just the same if I was alone.  When I did have Teddy and Pudding along, I would pick them up until we got well past the Psycho Dogs' Yard, then I would put them down and we would finish our walk in peace. 

Well, on this sunny morning in March, we approached the yard and neither of the dogs were in sight, so we quietly walked on by.  Some days we would get lucky like that; either they were asleep or locked in the garage, but it was always nice not to have them salivating just a hop, skip and a jump across the ditch away from us.  

On this fateful March morning, we were just past their yard when they were alerted to our presence and came charging out on a dead run like usual, barking and growling fearsomely.  I never made eye contact with the dogs, knowing this would only egg them on, but I did keep them in my peripheral vision all the time just in case today was the day the Energizer Bunny Batteries failed.

We were about 30 feet down the road past their house when I chanced a glance over my shoulder at the two snarling dogs and that's when it happened.  Uttering a frenzied yelp of pain from his shock collar while going through the electronic fence, the male German Shepherd came careening out of his yard and charged out onto the road at me and my two little dogs.  

I have to back up a little here in this story:  Carl and I used to own a German Shepherd named Sparky.   Sparky lived to be 13 years old was a wonderful pet, but I must confess, if he had not been my dog, I would have been terrified to have to face him if I were an intruder. 

And I was terrified of this snarling, growling and wildly barking dog coming straight at us at a breakneck pace.  It all happened so fast.   Teddy and Pudding were so scared they took off running in the opposite direction, but I had the presence of mind to grab their leashes up close to me and reel them in as near as possible so I was between them and the approaching menace.  I knew if either of my dogs slipped their collars and ran, the attacking dog would be upon them in a second and kill them.  I had seen our Sparky kill a raccoon once, they are incredibly powerful dogs.

Faced with an oncoming Hound from Hades, I stood as tall as I could and whirled around and faced him.  I let loose a guttural bellow that even startled me; I didn't just yell, I roared at him.


Thank God Above, this stopped the galloping dog in his tracks.  He did not know what to do with this turn of events.  I was supposed to run away and he was supposed to rip off my leg.  That was his Canine Plan.  He hadn't counted on a Crazy Woman standing stock still in the middle of the road screaming at him like an incensed water buffalo.

He stopped, shocked, about four feet from me.   I could see all the hair standing up on his back and his bright, white canine teeth flashing in the sun; not a pleasant sight, let me tell you.     I knew I didn't have much time.  And just as suddenly, the shock wore off and he crept closer with his head down, growling ferociously and eyeballing me and my two terrified ten pound Shih Tzus who were right up tight to my legs.  I wanted so badly to scoop them both up, but knowing if I took my eyes off the big dog he would be upon us in a split second, I couldn't risk it.  I had to stand tall and not back down.  I know there are warnings out there for just this sort of thing, you should never pick up your dog if another dog is going to attack you because then you will be in the middle of a dog fight.  Well, my Smothering Instinct (yes, I have to admit, I do love these little dogs of mine so very much) kicked in and there was no way I was going to let this demon get to my two pets if I could help it. 

I continued my roaring back at him, but he kept advancing.  Finally, desperation got the best of me and I took several stomping steps toward him, flinging my free arm at him and ordering him to go back home.  When I advanced on him, it unnerved him and he backed way off, and started barking again, but clearly confused.  When he backed up, I did too, but as soon as I did, he came charging again, so I kept up the bellowing and stomping routine until the little dogs and I were about 25 feet away from him.  Finally, after about six minutes of this (and believe me, it felt more like an hour!) he gave up and with a few parting barks, turned around and headed back towards his yard.  Then he gave another yelp of pain as he could not cross back into his own yard again due to the shock collar doing it's thing, shocking him when he got too close to the line. Our would-be attacker headed for the nearby highway since he couldn't go back home.  

I scooped up my shaking dogs and walking backwards until I could tell he wasn't going to chase us again, made a beeline for home.  The adrenaline rush set in then, and I was very shaky for awhile.  This was just too close for comfort.  I contacted the owners and they said I didn't have to worry, he never bit them, and they would look into the fence problem.   I don't know if the problem is solved or not, but I don't want to test those waters again.  I was lucky once.  I might not be so lucky the second time because dogs are smart.

So I was done walking that stretch of road.  But it was nearly summer and I could get my walk in around the farm.  Things were ok until August, when I started feeling odd, for lack of a better word and I didn't get in nearly as many miles afterward.  And now, though I'm feeling a little better, it's winter.  I'm still walking, but I can tell you this, I'm not putting on ten or fifteen miles a day.  Barely five, and sometimes, barely three.  And some days, when I was really down and out, barely one.

My next sleep study test is scheduled for two days before Christmas.  My doctor said it will take about three months to feel the full effect of a good night's rest and I'm hopeful.  She says I should get a treadmill.  I suppose she's right.  But the thought of plodding on a treadmill for 15 miles seems like punishment. I could join a gym. (If I had any money left from the hospital bills, LOL!)  I guess I could become a mall walker.  I don't go to malls very often, but I have seen the groups of grimly determined folks speed-walking down the hallways of the mall in the winter.  They don't look very happy. 

I'd have to drive 13 miles to get to the nearest mall every day....but, wait, I could WALK to the mall and then I'd only need to walk another two miles IN the mall...but I can't bring my doggies.

Pudding, all dressed up for Winter Walkies
Oh, I'll think of something.  But I'm still stunned by the 10-15 miles a day thing.  Wow.  All of you people out there who are in shape, hear this:

I SALUTE YOU!  You are my idols!

Fifteen miles makes my head spin.  Just like last night:

Spinning a strand of Christmas lights
Walking on,



Alison said...

Oh come on, fifteen miles? A day? I refuse to believe that is necessary for you to feel the health benefits. When I was trying to lose weight I started walking about 4 miles a day, and I know it helped. I lost weight and I felt healthier.

I really think that what your doctor said is counter-productive. Maybe 15 is better than 4 or 5, but 4 or 5 is a lot better than none. And none is what you do when you feel discouraged.

I was absolutely spell bound by your account of facing that nasty dog. That is one of my worst nightmares. I would walk more outside if I wasn't afraid of big dogs. You were incredibly brave to face that dog down! Kudos to you. If that had happened to me, I would still be feeling the effects of the adrenaline.

Shirley said...

That was very brave of you Karen!! I don't have that kind of courage!

I hope you will post photos of your finished urn soon!

xoxoxo said...

Sheer terror burns calories too!
Treadmills aren't so bad if you have a tv to watch or a good book to read while doing it.
Stick to the 5 mile plan! 15 is insane. that is approx 5hrs at a normal pace.
Watching what you eat only means giving up hotdogs...if nothing else. Hot dogs are evil!

Zoey said...

15 miles a day is ridiculous! It takes an hour to walk 4 miles at a peppy pace--you would be walking over 4 hours per day to get in 15 miles.

I used to walk 4 miles every day on a treadmill at the gym. I would read while I walked. It was fun until my feet started burning...after about a year, it got so bad I had to give up walking. With no exercise and turning 50, the pounds began to add up the crazy. I think my metabolism died out at 50. At barely over 5 ft. tall, I have to eat like a bird to not gain weight.

I, too, need to find some other form of exercise.

Gool luck to you. I know it's not easy.

Missy said...

Don't blame you for not wanting to go near those mad dogs again. What the health authorities say here is half an hour walk per day at a brisk pace. Don't know how far that is.
We are similar ages and I struggle with my weight now too - never used to until I turned 50. Then kapow!

Karen said...

Alison, thank you for your amazement about the 15 miles a day thing...I was really stunned too. I asked her three times before I left the office if I had understood her correctly and nope, I wasn't hearing things. And your comment about the discouragement is SO very true! I did feel so discouraged because ten or fifteen miles seems like an impossibility. I suppose I could do it, but the time factor would be another problem as I am no marathon runner. And how would I know how many loose dogs would be on a much longer route? Oh, well! Back to the five miles and try to eat less. Thank you, Alison!

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

No fifteen miles for me. You are a much better patient than me. Your dog incident has happened to me too. It is scary and is always best to avoid the confrontation. My dogs were big, but there are always bigger out there.

I loved the spinning lights photo and the one of your little pup. Glad he was not a big dog snack.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, I now have three dogs next door, one a German Shepherd. I have already blocked my dogs access the side of our yard, but aI am really worried about the warmer weather.


Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Keep walking...and CARRY A BIG STICK! I got nipped by a 150-pound German Shepherd as I was walking by -- saved from a full bite because he ran out of leash! Really scary!! Try lifting weights in the winter -- more muscle burns more calories, and you'll have the added benefit of keeping you fit for lifting more ROCKS in the summer :-) 15 miles does seem over the top. 5 miles seems quite reasonable. Might try yoga, too -- not for the mind/spiritual side, but it's just great exercise. Keeps you limber for lots of gardening tasks. Check out eatcleandiet.com Hang in there; spring will come again, and then everyone will feel better :-)

Garden Sense said...

5 miles a day sounds like plenty to me! Those swinging Christmas lights sure make a pretty picture. :)

Sall's Country Life said...

Hey Karen, I agree with Allison in that what your doctor told you is counter-productive! I challenge her to wear a pedometer to see how many miles she actually walks in a day, and then compare that to your daily activity walking...then advise you as to how many miles to walk as an exercise routine. Doctors are not physical trainers, or nutritionists, and should stick to giving medical advice. I've actually been in the examining room to hear a doctor tell my over-weight mother to just keep eating what you like and give her another knee injection. He told her when that doesn't do it, we'll schedule you for knee surgery. It's so frustrating, I know if she'd lose weight she could be more active! Anyway, I think your doctor is factoring in daily activity walking along with exercise walking when she was thinking 15 miles. The most important thing is to move as much as you can as often as you can! "Use it or lose it" is what I'm always telling my mom. Love your story about the German shepherd, I also had a walking encounter with a black lab. Only, I wasn't quick enough to turn and holler at it before he got me right in the tush. It took me a few weeks to return to that particular trail (I was scared to death). Our sheriff actually gave me a can of mace and said to use it the next time he came at me. Well, it did and I just used your method and it worked! But, I never went walking without that can of mace. Happy Thursday Eve!

Beth said...

Karen, I love Carl's idea to use the cordless drill and I look forward to seeing your decorated urn. I am sorry that you are not feeling better but hopefully treatment for sleep apnea will make a huge difference for you. The encounter with the German Shepherd- frightening and amazing and you absolutely did the right thing. I think the dog owner should be more responsible.

Rosemary said...

Always enjoy my visits to your blog. Love the header pic and got a smile out of your drilling the pots and your shock of walking 15 miles I could n't do it either...... 5 would be fine.... if I did it... chubby is my name.
Totally understand re the German Shepherds I have one she is a pussy cat but sounds nasty. Could you call that neighbour so the restrict the dogs when you walk by?

Karen said...

Thank you all for your kind comments; I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the prescription for a new walking plan was a bit extreme. I'll give it my best shot, though. And as far as the dog situation, I did hear from several other neighbors who have had the same dog come after them. I think the advice to carry a big stick or mace or something is probably a good idea if yelling and acting insane doesn't hold him off any more. It is hard to enjoy walking when you're not sure if you'll get back home in one piece, lol. If you can't outrun 'em, you gotta face 'em.

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