Max’s All You Need To Know Guide To Prepping That Beach Bod

Spring is here, and that means it’s time for Max’s all you need to know guide for preparing to rock that beach bod. I know a quarter of the country was snowed in last week, but we live in Texas and its already 90 degrees here. So, shed that winter garb and follow these simple steps to start looking as hott as Max.

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First, let’s all stretch those mutt-scles back out after a long winters nap.

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You may want to take up hairy yoga too. It’s like hot yoga only you get an extra layer of hair all over anytime you hit the mat. Plus, I hear downward dog provides a refreshing face lick.

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Once you’re good and limber it’s time to PUP IT UP!

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Summer is coming.

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You may be tired, but this is no time to paws. Remember: Do or do not, there is no try.

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Also, ball is life.

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Don’t overdo it, though. Dog tired is a thing. And it is fur real. It’s a fur real thing.

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And get plenty of Vitamin D (it stands for dog).

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By this point, you’ve probably worked up quite a pant. It may be time to really wash behind those ears.

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Finally, it’s all about the golden vibe and accessories. They make looking good look good.

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But all in all, while Max is for healthy living, he has definitely taught me that first and foremost you should know you are inherently beautiful.

Thank you Max, for your foolproof guide to the perfect beach bod. But thank you most for reminding me that any bod is a beach bod – it just has to be on the beach. And even if a body is not on the beach, it is still beautiful.

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Balcony Life

Max loves sitting or laying out on our balcony. At our previous apartment, the balcony was so tiny that he could barely fit out there by himself, but he still tried to get out as often as he could. Now, at our current place, he as plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy, and he makes even more effort to constantly be out there.

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Since we are in that little window of time when the temperature outside is actually pleasant, I have been leaving the door to the balcony open whenever I am home. That means Max can go in and out to his heart’s delight. And when I forget to open it, or I close it because it is too noisy, Max notices. He gets a little upset and bothers me until I open it again.

I don’t know why he likes it so much. Perhaps he enjoys seeing all the things going on around the apartment (though the view is not really that great). Maybe the concrete floor and the breeze blowing by make a nice, cool environment. Or maybe there is just something about being outside that soothes him.

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I don’t often accompany Max out there. I usually have too much to do between cooking, eating, working, and watching TV. I like the idea of going out there and sitting with him, but it just does not happen very often.

But when I do follow Max’s lead, I learn again how important it is to go outside and sit and listen.

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Max has taught me that I need those breaks from all that I am doing (especially breaks from sitting in front of a computer or TV screen). And he has taught me that sitting outside and listening is far from a waste of time.

He has taught me to pay closer attention to the beauty of the sounds of life – whether that is birds singing, squirrels rustling in trees, wasps buzzing around, or even the distant drone of cars on the road. All those sounds remind me of the beauty of this world. And as I rest and turn my attention to those sounds, I experience that soothing feeling that Max must experience too.

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Max can be a very hyper, active dog, but in these moments he teaches me how to be still and restful. He teaches me how to better attune my senses to the world around me so that I can better appreciate all that is going on. He teaches me a practice of peace that I desperately need in my sometimes chaotic life.

So, thank you Max for reminding me of the need for rest. Thank you for leading me to be better attuned to the beauty of this world and for sitting with me out on our balcony.

Smelling roses

I use this title because the things Max actually stops to smell are not so pleasant and I don’t think I should follow my teacher in sniffing poop or dead animals. Maybe I just have a lot more to learn (finding some sort of beauty even in the nastiest of things? Embracing waste and death as a natural part of life? Finding a story plopped on top of every blade of grass? Or finding a little blade of grass growing through the plop plopped on top of it?), but I’ll focus on the act of stopping and smelling in general for now.

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When Max and I go on walks I try to cover as much ground as possible. Sometimes I go fast to get back and do things I need to get done.

Actually, make that a lot of times. Most times. Almost all the time.

Even at night, I feel the need to rush and get back to go to sleep so that I can get up on time (never happens, no matter how early I go to sleep) and get going for the next day.

But Max is in no rush. He is cooped up all day and those walks are all he has to get fresh air and enjoy nature. So he gets out and makes the most of it.

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In fact, I think he sometimes stops to sniff just to stay out longer. He can tell when I’m rushing back and wants to prolong his outside time as much as possible. And to be honest I don’t blame him. I love being outside too and prefer it to being inside just about all the time.

Max is quite infuriating when I am in the midst of my rushing. He’s just stubborn and strong enough to be able to stop over and over again before I can pull him on.

But my good ole teacher is just leading by example. Max challenges my pace of life by spending the time to smell things and really take it all in.

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When I do follow Max’s lead, I see the importance of stopping and smelling. On one level I mean just taking it all in, examining the beauty all around me, appreciating the wonders of creation.

I usually do that with my eyes. I see beauty easier than hearing it. I hear it better than tasting it. I taste it better than touch it. And I touch it better than smell it. That may be partly because I have a terrible nose and bad allergies. But there’s something about stopping and smelling that really makes me a part of what’s around me in a way the other senses cannot.

When I smell, something outside of me literally enters my body – something more tangible than waves of sound or rays of light. That can happen with taste too, if I swallow it, but smell necessitates me welcoming foreign particles into my body. In that way it is a very vulnerable activity. I open myself up to something outside of myself (and I don’t always know that it will be pleasant). I become closer to the world around me, literally.

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Max has thus taught me that stopping to smell the roses is more than just an activity to take me out of my crazy life and force me to experience the world around me. It is an act of becoming vulnerable and bringing that beautiful and stinky world into myself.

(Since there is apparently no clip of Gus using his super sniffer on the internet, I am forced to leave you with this instead…I apologize in advance.)

So thank you Max, for teaching me that it is worth it to stop and smell. Thank you for teaching me to open myself up in a basic rhythm of vulnerability (for this happens even when I breathe), and not to ignore the opportunity to unite with the beauty, and stink, around me.

Leaving a Mark

Max leaves many types of marks. There’s the obvious kind he does outside, but we’ll keep this post clean (Though I have to say that lately he has become more of a master in saving up marking material to spread as far and wide as possible…).

The more pervasive mark he leaves is his hair. And it is everywhere. Ev-er-y-where.  Clothes, cereal, you name it – if it comes in a 20 foot radius of my apartment or me, it will have the tell tale white hairs on it soon.

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In fact, that’s become the first thing people notice about me, especially if I’m wearing dark clothing. “So, you have a dog?” (with that knowing smirk). Or, “I see you brought your dog with you…”

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But that’s helped me realize we are all marked and we all leave marks.

We are marked in the sense that the actions of those around us colors our life.  We can neither escape, nor ignore this.  We are inescapably interconnected with everyone around us.  And that is wonderful in most cases, because we can learn so much from the impact of others and altogether our marks on each other and this world can paint a fantastic picture.

Of course, there are also the bad marks left upon us. And even if we paint over them, they are still there. But we can move on from those, seeking the good marks and knowing that our reactions will leave marks of their own.

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Because we all leave marks. Everywhere we go. Ev-er-y-where.  What we do and what we say has an impact. And oftentimes it is indirect. We do something that leaves a mark on someone and then that person leaves the mark on someone else, etc.

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These marks can be bad (like a pee stain on the carpet or shredded bits of toys strewn about) or good (like a sweet loving lick across the face).

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In dealing with Max’s many marks, I have also realized that I hope the marks I leave are not those that someone will have to come around and clean up after me. I hope the marks I leave are those that contribute to the crazy beauty of the world. Whether they be silly or sincere, I hope my marks make a positive difference – like this woman and countless other teachers, parents, etc.

I want to intentionally leave licks on faces rather than carelessly spread around pee stains or annoying wads of hair.

Though I can be harsh with Max concerning his mark leaving, I must admit that the vast majority of marks he has already left on my life are positive. He has left marks of devotion, joyful companionship, playfulness, caring presence, love and many other things that will undoubtedly resurface throughout this blog.

These are not really outwardly visible marks, but that is perhaps the most important thing Max has taught me about leaving marks – the most meaningful and profound marks are those we can’t see – those marks that are inscribed on our hearts and etched in our very being.

So thank you Max, for leaving your mark – for touching my life in the most beautiful way and in so doing, coloring my heart to be more loving.  And thank you for teaching me to be more mindful of the marks I leave all around me.

Stank Breath

Max, like many dogs, has stank breath. And most of the time it’s real bad.  Especially on nights when I dry him off from the rain and he yawns big right in my face as I inhale.  Whew.

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I even had to buy him some special treats that are supposed to help with bad breath. Jury’s still out on those, but regardless I am tempted to get some sort of air freshener installed in his mouth.

But even in those moments when he is right up in my face huffing his nasty breath all in my nose, I see that it is unfair to classify him only by his stank breath.  I look into his eyes and see his innocence and realize that stank breath is not something he can control (though he could pick up fewer special surprises on our walks…).

Moreover, I watch him play and enjoy life and keep me company and realize that there is so much more to him than the stank breath.  His joy and beauty and love are what really define the kind of dog he is.

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So, despite the stank breath, I love him anyway. And he has taught me that we can and should love the stank breath people in our lives.  Those who are different from us or who annoy us or who literally also have stank breath (I suddenly vividly recall a barber from my childhood who not only had terrible breath, but apparently poor eyesight also, causing him to get as close to my face as he could while cutting my hair).

It may be harder to get to know them and get close to them, but they are beautiful and wonderful too.  And there’s so much more to them than that one uncomfortable quirk.

And I bet more often than not, I (and you) are that stank breath person. Sometimes you just can’t help it – you were born a certain way or something happened to you. You can eat a whole case of tic tacs and sometimes you still got stank breath.  But that doesn’t impact your value or personality, so why should it have any negative effect in others.

We are all stank breath people in one way or another. And we are all so much more than that too.

(a song for every season)

Thank you Max, for teaching me to love the stank breath people, including myself.

But for what it’s worth, Max, you might want to look over these tips.

Fascination

I am fascinated by this new method of sitting on the couch…

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But, more to the point, Max and I have now walked every path surrounding our apartment many, many times. I am glad there are many options, but after several months we have exhausted any new places in walking distance.

And that bothers me because I really like new adventures. I like seeing new places and doing new things. About the only thing I could do everyday is watch the sunset and drink jasmine green tea.

Yet, I still have to walk Max and there’s only so far we can go.

But Max has a different outlook on these walks.  No matter how many times we walk by the same patch of grass or the same tree, he is endlessly fascinated by it.  So much so that I often have to drag him away.

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How can he have such wonder at something so mundane? How can the same thing, day after day, still capture his attention?

As I thought more about how he gives himself over to such fascination, I began to realize that there is always new beauty and new adventure in every moment, in every blade of grass or tiny snowflake.

You don’t have to go to Hogwarts to find magic, for it pervades the world.  You don’t have to travel to the Lonely Mountain to find adventure – it bubbles up throughout Middle Earth, even in the Shire. (Though don’t get me wrong, if I had the chance to go to Hogwarts or the Lonely Mountain, I wouldn’t hesitate.)

Moreover, Max has helped me realize that fascination keeps us from being arrested in our routines. We may still do the same things, but they have the potential to be interesting in new ways everyday.  And because things fascinate us, we explore their intricacies, which leads to inspiration and innovation.  For without a fascination with the key of D flat major would we ever have gotten…

(Or, fill in with whatever great composition you prefer.)

Instead of trudging along or blindly pushing past meaningful people, events, and things, fascination leads us further up and further in!

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So thank you Max for not only being fascinating, but also teaching me to take notice of what is around me, to allow fascination to rise within me.  Thank you for teaching me to look for and expect the wonder, beauty, and life that is everywhere in this world we inhabit – especially in the paths I walk everyday.