Sweet Peachy Tea…

For much of my adult life, I’ve stated that every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  For the past 14 years though, I’ve been lying.  Peaches Fern Cohen, has held the highest place in my heart.  Not just in mine though, everyone fortunate enough to know Peaches, recognized that she was special.

Peaches belonged to my daughter, and her mother.  Peaches went home yesterday, to be with her sisters, Leilui, and Luna.

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If I could describe Peaches in one word, it would be Sunshine.  No ray of sun, shining down from the sky, ever touched or warmed me the way Peaches did.  It began with her face, which was sweetness incarnate.  It just wasn’t possible to look at Peaches without feeling her sweetness.  But that was just the first layer.  Beyond sweetness, there was the happy – and her happy was always turned on.

Except for the occasional grumbly stomach, broken leg, fractured spine, paralysis, or bladder reduction, Peaches radiated joy.  In fact, she experienced and survived all of those, and more – a big part of what made her exceptional.   Any one of those medical events might have taken her too soon, but not one of them did.  Each condition made her a little more fragile, but they also increased the worth of her spirit.  Her 14 years is a testament to the commitment she had to her loved ones, and ours to her.

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When I think of Peaches, my mind always sees her first, sitting outside beside the rosemary plant that she loved to smell.  Her face was often pointed to the sky, and it appeared that she was the one radiating warmth toward the sun.  Whenever I would see her like this, whatever toxins might be in my heart or mind, we instantly defused.

If I’m being honest, Peaches had an unusual look about her, but she made it work.  Due to the afore mentioned medical events, her body changed over time, becoming increasingly fragile.  A Pomeranian by birth, by the time she was 8 years old, she looked more like a punk rock Chinese Crested, mutating into a tiny pachyderm.  She used this funky look as both a fashion statement, and a way to make friends.  It wasn’t possible to walk Peaches without a stranger stopping to admire and inquire.  It almost always started with…

“Oh my god, she’s adorable….!”

The funny thing is, it was impossible to describe Peaches to a passerby with any detail, because once they saw Peaches, the person walking her became an invisible bystander.  People just marveled at her.

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One manifestation of the physical changes she endured, was a high arching spine.  This made her look like a little buffalo.  She often fulfilled the buffalo look by lowering her head into thigh of the nearest seated human – as a silent request to get petted.  If the petting hand would dare stop, the li’l buffalo would push her head harder into the human’s leg until they got the hint.

When she wasn’t being a buffalo, Peaches, always held her head high and looked up in wonder and in joy.  In 14 years, I never saw Peaches growl, snap, or display any intent towards another creature, other than kindness.  From her earliest days, she was a kind old soul.

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Every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  The one that rose above them all though, well she went home yesterday.  She is now free to smell the heavenly rosemary, to buffalo God’s thigh, and turn heads wherever she struts.

As Miss Trudy and I each held one hand to Peaches, our daughter was present in spirit.  Peaches lay calm on her belly, getting weaker, but still holding her head high.  Radiating sweetness till the very end, she was still looking up when she took her final breath.  Be well…  rc

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Irony At Easter…


One of the great ironies I see in the social media era is this…

I have a network of friends, liberal, open-minded people, who would fight to their death to protect my human rights. If I were gay, transgender, smoked pot, or preferred having sex with inanimate objects, they would support me. Yet there is a duality in how they view people’s religion – they are against it.

By the way, being against religion doesn’t make one an atheist, it makes one an antitheist, and that’s dangerous. Simply put, if a person is against religion as a collective, or a specific religion, that is a form of prejudice – period. To be against anyone’s beliefs in favor of their own is an undeniable act of bigotry, and cannot be justified, only rationalized. Hint: when you rationalize bigotry, you don’t look so good.

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Religion has been part of our cultural DNA since hunter-gatherer times. If we accept that cultural evolution parallels biological evolution, and that over time it weeds out traits that don’t serve the cause of advancement, then cultural evolution would have weeded out religion millennia ago. This has not been the case. Though religion has changed through the years, its practice is at an all-time high.

Religion, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of culture. All art began as sacred art. All social structure began as sacred law. All wonder, I believe, is rooted in sacred awe.

As millions of people celebrate Easter this week, I am saddened to see so many of my open-minded friends poking fun at the Christian faith in the forms of memes, sophomoric observations, and childish ridicule. We should do better than that.

To all my friends who celebrate Easter, may you celebrate in peace. To all my friends who ridicule the former, don’t be so gutless. Please support those who wish to celebrate in peace, as you would support those who would rather not.  Be well…  rc

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Obedience To Observation…

On the table to my right, rests a rectangular of book of paintings by the artist, Andrew Wyeth. The book is one of the few remaining links to my childhood. Looking at it this morning, I am reminded of the formative nature of things, even those things we may take for granted.

For most of my childhood, the Wyeth book was the centerpiece of the coffee table where I would rest my feet after school each day, and dull my sensibilities by watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, McHale’s Navy, and Hogan’s Heroes.

During the commercials though, I enjoyed flipping through the pages of the Wyeth book, staring at his paintings, reading the stories about them – about him, and imagining those scenes in my head. I’d snap the book shut though, as soon as Gilligan came back on.

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What fascinated me most back then, and what would become so formative for me today is that, despite the diversity among Wyeth’s work, he painted on the same farm, week after week, year after year for most of his career – always finding more within a relatively small space.

The artist, author, and naturalist, James Prosek once said in an interview…

“If you’re not looking, you won’t see it…”

He was speaking about walking in nature while trout fishing. Hearing Prosek offer that sentence, I was taken back to Wyeth, painting on the same farm for most of his life – finding so much without going too far.

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The lesson learned from both artists, born two generations apart, is central to my life today. As I amble through my life each day, I not only take pleasure in stopping to observe small things, I am compelled to do so. Observation has become my obsession. Whether I am walking in the woods, or in the cereal aisle of the local market, I enjoy stopping appreciating the details.

Now in no way am I comparing myself to Wyeth or Prosek.  I’m just a chimp with a smartphone, and too much time on his hands. I am grateful though, for the fingerprints both Wyeth and Prosek have left on my soul.

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Walking in nature each day, in the same place, and taking pictures with the expectation that I’ll find the new, forces me to slow down, and to look more closely at small things. And that is a lesson which can be superimposed over every other aspect of my life… Jhciacb

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Digital Legacy…

Through the ages of man, we remember very few individuals. From the onset of the written word, to the current day, the people we remember, are most often kings, politicians, priests, and performers – anyone for whom there might have been a written record.
Though the occasional commoner might have etched the words
“Dear Diary…”
onto a stone tablet or piece of parchment, for most of the 100-billion people who have ever lived, we have no record of them as individuals.
Today that’s a different story. Anyone with a social media account, whether they realize it or not, is writing Dear Diary… with every post or entry.
Cyber-Archeologists 100, 500, or 10,000 years from now will (potentially) have an archived record, and at least some evidence of every individual who has ever logged onto a computer, made an entry, written a post, or published a blog.
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I find that fascinating – that after 15,000 years of being upright, organized, and looking beyond the moment, most humans have been long forgotten. However, anyone alive today, and savvy enough to chain a few words together, has the potential to be remembered through the balance of the ages.
Though I do keep a personal journal on my computer, it is my blog as well as my Facebook posts which capture my essence – digitally. So, whether I share something each morning or each week, I try to remember what I’m sharing is less a statement of the moment, and more a legacy of my thought – to be remembered for what might just be all eternity… Jhciacb

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The Ultimate Weight Loss, Loss…

Proceed With Caution…

As a fitness trainer, I’ve been associated with roughly 40 people who have lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off. On one level, I feel pride in being part of those experiences. To have aided in such life changes, is near justification for choosing a career path which has been too often maligned.

However, there’s a darker side to the weight loss experience, and one I struggle with, even now. Going back 17 years, and with the exception of just one man I worked with in 2005, each person I have worked with who lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off, has ended up out of their relationship.  Marriage, engagement, boyfriend, girlfriend, or domestic partner, all but one I have helped, would go on to become single.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many, and not just limited to the reckless abandon that one assumes might come with a new waistline.

Before I take this any further, I’ll state that this a singular set of experiences, that are exclusive to one fitness trainer, from a sample of roughly 40 people, and within a unique Southern California demographic.  I don’t mean to suggest that losing a lot of weight will doom a relationship.  However, the experiences I’ve seen unfold, might be a cautionary tale for some.

One: I’m Leaving…

“I’m planning to leave my husband/wife, and I want to be in the best possible shape when I start my new life…”

No sentence you ever hear, will sound as unsavory…

I have been approached with those words, or some similar, at least a half-dozen times since 2000.  My place is not to be judgmental, or even inquisitive, for they might be planning an escape from hell.  My place is only to determine whether I can help the individual with their weight loss objectives, or not.  If they are a viable candidate, I will accept them as a client.

Not too much to read between those lines though.  People who have approached me from this angle, are decisive, motivated, and usually successful in weight loss.  I do my job, wish them luck, and try hard not to get involved.
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Two:  Left Behind…

With most people though, the motivation isn’t abandonment.   The common motivations are usually wanting more energy, better health, increased longevity, more confidence, keeping up with the kids, etc.  If I’ve learned one thing about the psychology of approaching weight loss though, it’s that people can be dishonest when stating their motivations, and often aren’t aware of how dishonest they are being – even with themselves.

Give a middle-aged man or woman a new body, some opportunity (very often in the workplace), and it could be goodbye – if only for a while.  But it can be more complicated than that.  A person can lose a great deal of weight, change their life for the better, be the pillar of fidelity, and it can still go horribly wrong.

Often the other partner, if they are also overweight, but not motivated to lose weight, will feel left behind when their partner succeeds.  A division can form, and feelings of jealousy might manifest.  There can then be a withdrawal from, or even aggression toward the successful one.

The newly fit person might have a new life – the gym life, which will include gym behaviors, and may include gym functions and gym friends.  The couple now has less in common, and live more separated lives which, may go on to be separated lives.  I saw one woman eventually leave her husband, and partially blame me for her departure…

“I can’t stand who he has become…”

I don’t blame her.  I can’t stand who he became either, but my job was to help him lose weight, not carve out the new lifestyle he chose.

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Three:  Sabotage…

I have seen the left behind partner sabotage the successful one.  Repeated attempts are made to bate them into gaining the weight back, or derail the from their success – to keep that common ground.  This is also complex.

If going out for Italian, followed by ice cream, a couple nights per week is a standard practice and a time of enjoyment for a couple, then taking it away can be a legitimate loss for both parties.  For one party though, there is a good tradeoff for that loss – a new body is the reward.  For the other, the evening they looked forward to all week is suddenly gone.  That might be one evolutionary step toward separation of values, which might lead to a separation of other things, each other included.

I had one client tell me, as she was in the process of losing 80 lbs., that each time her husband came home from work, he would drop a King Size Snickers in her lap.  Why would a spouse do this…?

One possible reason is that his wife had begun turning heads wherever they went.  She was a grounded and devout wife – the embodiment of fidelity.  However, his insecurity had convinced him that her new abs were going to lead her astray.  This snowballed to the point of serious friction.  Never once did she stray, but he became jealous and even accusatory.  If nothing else, he no longer believed he was good enough to keep her – despite her assurances.  They are no longer married.

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Four: Separate Lives…

A scene I have been guilty of myself:  A dinner table is set.  The family sits down.  Dad is eating broccoli, brown rice, and skinless chicken breast.  Mom and the kids are eating lasagna with breadsticks.  After a while, the smell of the lasagna gets the better of dad.  He breaks down and finishes what his family leaves behind.  A few hours later, he’s mad at himself for cheating on his diet.  Out of frustration he becomes grumpy with his family.  They spend the evening separately.

Eventually, and solely to avoid the temptation of lasagna, dad begins eating at a separate time of the evening than his family, and/or in a separate room.  This probably isn’t going to work out too well for family unity.  Either dad caves and forsakes the diet for the sake of peace in the family, or it becomes a bigger priority to him to avoid his family at dinner time.  That might be one more evolutionary step toward separate lives altogether.

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Those are just some of the scenarios and complications which might result from a successful weight loss.  I have seen all of those, and many more play out before me.  There are many more angles and possibilities when it comes to the effect of weight loss on relationships.  The point of this isn’t to disclose them all, as much as it is to illuminate to any reader that there can be more than weight lost in the course of weight loss.  There is a darker side, and few people care to talk about it.

Back To Honesty…

Ten years ago, I participated in online conversation, hosted by one of the premier weight loss bloggers in the country at that time.  There were roughly 30 participants.  As I described some of the scenarios above to this group, many participants, all of whom were successful at losing weight, were quick to tell me that they did not have those experiences, or any similar.  Rainbows rained.  Unicorns grazed.  And happy hubby loved the new bod!  Amen.  The problem is, it wasn’t true.

After the chat was over, I was met with a half-dozen emails, confessing that their relationships were in jeopardy, coming apart, or already ended – all due to their weight loss, but they didn’t wish to make that public.  That was the first time I had ever considered that my profession, along with my good intentions, had played a role in couples coming apart.  Though I don’t hold myself accountable for the separation or divorce of any client as a result of helping them lose weight, I now approach weight loss candidates with great apprehension.

Yesterday I interviewed a potential weight loss candidate – she wants to lose 75 lbs. When we spoke on the phone three nights ago, I didn’t ask if she was in a relationship.  I was concerned only with her objective, and with whether I might help her fulfill it.  She will begin working out with me next week.  I hope to have the good sense not to warn her if looks like she’s going to succeed.  I’ll just stand by quietly, and watch as she navigates the minefield of that comes with profound change, and I’ll hope she’s the exception to this pattern…  Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.  Enjoy….