You want a furry friend to give you unconditional love. But are you ready to give that unconditional love to a pet? It’s a big responsibility. Read More...

I had a dog when I was younger.

When I was nine, my parents took her to the most wonderful farm in the world where she’s playing and frolicking with other dogs as we speak. It has large, spacious fields and it’s always sunny. Somedays she’s even visited by unicorns, my mom tells me.

I’ve lived the rest of my life without a dog. I’m doing okay. I stopped missing having someone as excited to see me upon my return home. I grew up and grew independent of the need for a canine companion.

Or so I thought.

Am I ready for a pet?

Lately, I struggle. I pine for a pet dog.

I was doing well, but then Facebook happened. Grumpy cats. Gigantic dogs who don’t understand personal space. Baby goats in pajamas. These pet memes and videos get me every time. Every. Single. Time.

Apparently, baby goats, even dressed in footie pajamas, require a special permit to keep in your yard. Plus, the city “will, under no condition, permit goats to live in a twelfth floor of a high-rise.” I live in a city with a “greenhouse” on every corner, but bring up baby goats and you’d think I plan to lend my vacuum cleaner to my neighbor.

Maybe I’m not mature enough for a pet. How does one even know they’re ready for an old, run-of-the-mill dog, cat, or fish? Are you ready for a pet of the more exotic variety, perhaps a bird or turtle?

I researched online to help me decide if I’m ready for a pet. Owning a pet is serious business today, more so than my nine-year-old self remembers. There are quizzes to take that ask such personal questions as:

  • Do you expect to have children within the next fifteen years?
  • Do you live in your mom’s basement?
  • Are you broke?

I’m absolutely positive my parents didn’t take a quiz when they debated whether or not to buy our dog, Cindy (yes, my drag queen name would be Cindy Cloverly). I’m also certain my parents wouldn’t tell some website, even if they could, whether or not they were “broke.”

This is what you need to be ready.

Are You Ready for a Pet?

While you might not need to have “perfect” answers to questions about your finances and living arrangements, you should make sure you know what you’re getting into. At the very least, here are some basics to get ready for a pet:

  1. Have the time and temperament to train and socialize a pet
  2. Make sure you’re financially prepared to care for a pet
  3. Commit to keeping your pet for its life
  4. Ensure everyone in your household wants (and isn’t allergic to) pets
  5. Ensure your home (apartment or homeowners association) allows for and is conducive to pets

Don’t overthink this, though, like the “responsible” parents in Idiocracy. The premise of this all-to-prescient movie is that all the responsible parents postpone having their 1.7 children until the perfect time. The “less-responsible” parents are like compounding interest and each couple has a multitude of kids at exponentially higher rates than the responsible couples.

Of course, in that movie, the president of the United States ends up being a former professional wrestler. Sigh.

A friend of mine once said, “There’s never a perfect time to have kids.” Sure, we dream of the ideal scenario, but we rarely achieve all the variables. We could work towards our fantasy, never get there, and then we never have our pet . . . or kid.

Two key questions tell if you are REALLY ready.

Determining when you’re ready for a pet, kid, or partner comes down to two questions:

  1. Are you ready to receive love?
  2. Are you ready to give love?

If you can answer yes to both of these questions, you’re prepared to give a pet the time, attention, and care it needs.

Are you perfect? No.

Will you make mistakes? Yes.

But if you’re ready to give love, you’ll learn from your mistakes and continue to make a better life for your pet. If you’re ready to give love, you’ll do your best each day to care for your pet. If you’re ready to give love, you’ll make sure your home is conducive to your pet’s needs and you’ll do your best to keep your pet happy, healthy, and safe.

If you’re ready to receive unconditional love, you’ll give love back ten times over and your pet will be your friend, companion, and family for life.

What I’ve learned from these quizzes and lists is that they are created by pet lovers with the best of intentions — and they want to make sure that you’re a pet lover with the best of intentions.

If you’re ready to receive and give love, your intentions are good.

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Do you need caffeine and booze to make life bearable? While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying our drinks, you can create more in your life. Read More...

Neither Socrates, nor Plato, nor any of their peers past or present, ever had a more profound puzzle: is it too late for coffee or too early for wine?

At my old job, the line for morning coffee was as long as that single line at Wal-Mart (even though Wal-Mart knows it has another 24 lines it could open). When I go out for dinner, some fancy people I know get coffee with, or instead of, dessert. I wonder if they have trouble sleeping that night or if they have plans for afterward and I’m not included. If it’s the latter, I hope they suffer the former.

Then there’s wine. The type of wine I drink is predicated on the season. In summer, I like a crisp, minerally white wine or vino verde. Try a glass of vino verde and tell me you don’t drink it like water, too. As the seasons become colder, I migrate from light rosés to medium pinots to thick zinfandels. The type of wine to drink is never the question for me. It’s the time of day to drink the wine that is.

It’s in my DNA. My father has a martini at 3 p.m. every day. He’s not entirely sure when I was born, but no matter the day of week or time zone he’s in, he knows instinctively when it’s 3 p.m.

My sister and I have an ongoing competition to see who can best the other at finding the funniest drinking meme. She’s currently winning with “Exercise makes you look better naked. So does wine. Your choice.” I can’t credit anyone, but it’s neither hers nor mine.

Are you complacent?

These questions are a first-world problem, aren’t they? I mean, these are questions of luxury to some people. In our own country in different times, these were questions asked only of the upper class. Today, it seems, the only reason the middle class survives is because of coffee and wine. In New York City, you can’t swing an Asian palm civet without hitting an underemployed hipster carrying a Ball jar of cold steeped coffee.

As a member of the middle class, I’m happy for this improvement in our quality of life. I’m also concerned about our complacency. If we spend all day, every day tacking from coffee to wine to coffee again, when do we go forward?

I find when I “need” coffee to get me through the morning and wine to get me through, well, the rest of the day, I’m not centered. Let’s be real. Caffeine and alcohol are drugs. In moderation, they’re not bad. In fact, some research suggests both in moderation are good for us. When they become a need or when I drink them in excess, I can tell I’m not living according to my purpose.

Are you lying on a nail?

Les Brown used to tell the story of a man who passed on his way to work each morning an elderly couple on their porch. Their dog lay next to them each morning and groaned uncomfortably.

One day, the man finally said, “Pardon me ma’am, but I walk by your house every morning on my way to work and every morning your dog is lying on the porch groaning. Why is he groaning?” The woman said, “Cause, baby, he’s lying on a nail.” The man replied, “If he’s lying on a nail, why doesn’t he get up?” She said, “Because he’s uncomfortable enough to groan about it, but not uncomfortable enough to do anything about it.”

I wonder if, for bean and grape drinkers, coffee and wine make lying on our nails tolerable. This is a question we should ask at the peak of our craving. At that very moment when we might explode if we don’t get a cup or glass to our mouth soon enough, we should ask why we so strongly crave this liquid to lips contact. Only when we understand our craving can we know if we’re numbing ourselves from our nail.

Did we expect things to be different? Is ours the definition of success we imagined on graduation day? Are we physically here but mentally there? Have we settled?

Are your friends lying on nails?

John Hughes’ movies don’t tell the story of his characters in adulthood. His movies have happy endings, but we don’t know what happened when his characters joined the 9-to-5 grind. For all we know, Jeanie Bueller’s on Xanax, Duckie’s on Paxil, and John Bender’s on Lorazepam.

Jim Rohn said we’re the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. If everyone in our life lives for the weekend, are we dead Monday through Friday? If all our friends are still in detention, we’re likely in detention too.

Find happiness between coffee and wine.

To start working on our dreams, we should surround ourselves with others working on their dreams. We should let these people raise our game and help them raise theirs – challenge them and they’ll challenge us.

We don’t have to leave our friends and family forever. It’s just that in order to live our best lives, we need to find people who are doing more and being more. We can then return to our friends and family and help them live their best lives.

This, also, isn’t to say that we can’t have coffee and wine. It’s just to say that there is happiness between coffee and wine if we look for it.

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Seeing your ripped bod fade before your eyes? There’s no excuse for that! Start getting healthy again. Read More...

Please note, this is a tongue and cheek confessional about my laziness and apathy. Like my pursuit of a singing career, this confessional may or may not be based on delusion.

Much has been said about the differences between straight fat and gay fat. We gay men can be a superficial gaggle of judgment. This is why many of us come equipped with our very own fruit fly. Put another way, this is why many straight women have a personalized GBF (gay best friend).

You see, many XXs have learned that asking their straight XYs for opinions on a hairstyle, a dress or an expensive pair of shoes (a.k.a. an investment) is an exercise in futility. Their straight partner simply wants to keep the peace. Their gay partner, on the other hand, wants them to look fabulous at any costs.

It’s from this vantage point that I confess that I cringe when I see the naked effigy of myself in the mirror. Who is he? From whence did he come?

The downfall of my hot bod.

It wasn’t long ago in the club-thumping 2000s when I could join my people in a shirtless display of diva-house music abandon. It was less long ago that I became too old for this to be my main form of merrymaking. Work and life happened. Working out six days a week turned into working out six days a year.

I just turned 43 and Linda Evans* has been telling me since I hit puberty that “40 isn’t fatal.” My career, my relationship, and my life are all great. There’s no reason why this 40-something qualifies for Celebrity Fit Club.

When I read Why 40 Is the New Age of Fitness, I was assured that my masterpiece of a dad-bod is my choice and not my burden. I’ve adopted a lazy, sedentary lifestyle nourished by processed flour and sugar. I never ride a bike without a helmet only because I never ride a bike. I only buy organic, fair trade, and gluten-free food that never gets within a 10-mile radius of a peanut, but this clearly isn’t serving my waistline.

I argue that most of us Gen Xers (yes, Millennials and Boomers, we exist too) have chosen our physical states. With advancements in technology and medicine and our greater understanding of human physiology, all of the sexy excuses we manufacture don’t negate the fact that many of us have no valid reason for letting ourselves go.

I’m not clinging to my 20s like an aging pop star. I just want to be in the top 20% of my cohort.

I lied in the first paragraph. This is both a confessional and an accountability statement. I can do better and, I argue, so can you. Save for a valid medical condition, and only you can know that, you can get better with me.

Here’s what I’m doing to get healthy and back in shape:

Eat healthy.

I avoided the word “diet” because a diet is temporary and a lifestyle is forever.

With all my weight fluctuations and my exercise physiology degree, I know that a well-balanced, vegetable-based diet that avoids processed foods and includes more fish and poultry and less red meat is the best diet.

I’m seeking clean foods, like something a sun-kissed Greek server would serve me on holiday in Mykonos.

Be active.

It turns out that couch-surfing does not burn calories. In fact, with couch-surfing related activities, couch-surfing increases one’s caloric intake. For most of us, it’s about calories in versus calories out. Let’s get off the couch!

I’m doing high-impact weight training for one hour a day five days a week. This is helping me gain muscle and strength. I started with low weights and am gradually increasing them.

High-impact weight training reduces the risk of injury, both exercise-induced and otherwise. It should also boost my metabolism. This means I’ll increase my caloric burn even when resting. These reasons are why weight training is important for women, too.

I’m running three to five miles a week because I enjoy it. As we age, however, our bodies produce more cortisol with longer aerobic activities. This is why many part-time running hobbyists struggle with weight loss. Adopt whatever aerobic activities you enjoy, even if it’s walking. Just move and be careful to not O.D. on cortisol.

I’ve started yoga, again, too. Yoga and I love each other “like a love song.” Yoga (and I) loves you, too. As we age, our muscles shrink and we lose balance. Losing balance, whether walking, standing or being active can cause injury. Our goal isn’t to go from the couch to the doctor’s table. Though, I guess that depends on the doctor.

Be zen.

We Gen Xers are entering or are in our peak earning years, have teenagers and college students, and have more exes than an NFL chalkboard. All are stressful.

I’m meditating. Oprah’s meditating. Somewhere in the great beyond Steve Jobs is meditating. Why? Because it’s good for us. Meditating reduces stress and taps into our feelings, those gut feelings that help us make better life decisions. Meditation can be a good part of a healthy lifestyle.

In fact, my husband and I follow Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning formula. This practice incorporates all the new-agey stuff many of the world’s most successful people do. Hal’s belief (and I agree) is that if the six practices outlined in his book are the most common practices of the world’s most successful people, surely one must work for us.

Choose happiness.

Being happy, like being healthy, is a choice that makes us healthier. I won’t get angry if I don’t get back into shape as rapidly as I did in my 20s. I won’t go off the rails if I see another wrinkle.

Victor Frankl said that between a stimulus and a response there’s a space, and in that space, we make a choice. If a concentration camp survivor chose to not let his circumstances destroy his happiness, I can do similar. This applies to every stimulus I receive and every response I choose.

This is how I’m proving Linda Evans right. Please support Linda Evans.

* Linda Evans in no way sponsored, endorsed, or even knows about me or this article.

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Feel bad for not feeling sad? When someone dies, don’t feel guilty about your emotions. Read More...

“I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.” – Mark Twain

Jerks die, too.

I was walking home from the grocery store the other day while listening to the latest Tim Ferriss podcast. It was a beautiful day with no clouds in the sky. The air was warm. I was content.

Suddenly, my phone started blowing up. Text message after text message interrupted my listening pleasure. It was a series of announcements that a resident in my building died. “Jim died.” “Jim passed away last night.” “Jim pulled a Jacob Marley.”

I was mildly shocked and didn’t immediately respond. I had to absorb the news. I was surprised to find that I wasn’t sad or even emotional. When I realized my feelings, I responded to each text with, “Thank you.”

I was sad that my neighbor died because it’s sad that people die, but I wasn’t necessarily sad that it was Jim who died. Jim was a pain in the ass. The people who texted me about his death also think he was a pain in the ass. No one was crass enough to dance on Jim’s grave, but people have died in our building before without the word of mouth not seen since Steve Jobs’ passing.

As the evening continued, I wondered what my lack of sadness said about me. Was I a horrible person? Did I not value life? I kept thinking the same thing over and over. I was sad that someone died but not sad by who died.

I wrestled with my lack of sympathy for a few days. I didn’t discuss my dilemma with anyone for fear of being outed as detestable.

Cherish good people.

After doing yoga one morning, a black and white picture of my grandparents on my living room shelf caught my attention. My grandmother is sitting on my grandfather’s shoulders when he’s home on military leave. The scene looks as 1940s as it can. Cars, clothes, and hair, all period. It’s special because it’s a candid moment with my grandparents laughing and goofing off.

I remembered how sad I was when they both passed away. I had to take a day off when my grandmother died because I was such a wreck.

It occurred to me that it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t sad about Jim’s passing. If we’re responsible for our own actions, we’re responsible for the reactions. Newton’s Third Law of Motion says that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, we attract that which we put out. This is also known as karma.

Death holds lessons.

Jim’s passing wasn’t a time for me to mourn. It was a time for me to learn. The lesson for me was to learn to live a life that when it’s my turn to pass the people in my life spread the news with sympathy and not relief. I want people to celebrate my life and not relish my death. My lesson is to live life in such a way that people cherish my contribution.

It’s not wrong for us to not mourn someone’s death. What’s wrong is to not reflect on why we don’t mourn the death. There’s a lesson for us in our lack of mourning. Is your lesson to do or not do something? Is your lesson on the celebration of life? Love? Impermanence? Acceptance?

We’d all do well to ask ourselves these three questions when anyone passes:

  • How do I feel about this death?
  • Why do I feel this way about this death?
  • What can I learn from my feelings about this death?

Every death doesn’t need to be sad, but no death needs to be in vain. There’s a lesson for us in each case. It’s our responsibility to learn the lesson.

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Why do I like dogs more than humans? Because they know how to live and love. Read More...

The other day I went to the grocery store and, as is usual, there was a dog tied out front of the store.

Our eyes met, I immediately forgot about the jelly donut that had consumed my entire being all morning and said, “Hello puppy dog.”

I walked into the store and passed several humans, all with whom I didn’t make eye contact and to whom I certainly didn’t say, “Hi.”

On my way home from the store, I thought this was a curious behavior of mine. Why am I more inclined to say hello to a strange dog than a stranger?

The next morning, I went for a five-mile run. It was morning rush hour or, as I call it, “mourning rush hour.” The new school year had started and this added stress to the commute that wasn’t there the previous months.

Drivers, in general, were driving faster. Having to stop at the stop sign upset them. It pained some drivers to wait for a human to cross the street even though that human was running. I became a defensive runner.

On that five-mile run, I heard two drivers honk at other drivers and saw some adult sign language. It was then that I noticed my internal anger. I wasn’t angry at any particular person.

I just wasn’t feeling the love.

I asked myself, “Why don’t I feel the same sort of happiness about my fellow homo sapiens that I did for that canine? Why aren’t we humans waving good morning to each other? Why does the privilege of taking young people to school make for a bad commute? Why can’t we drive with as much care as dogs sniff each other’s butts?”

This is when I thought we could all learn a few things from man’s best friend. I thought of that Facebook meme that says, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

Assume strangers deserve unconditional love.

Assume everyone deserves your unconditional love and would appreciate a wave or a smile (the human version of licking strangers). Be the first to be friendly. This will make you happier and, over time, your disposition will rub off on others.

Live in the moment.

Dogs only care about the here and now. They’re not depressed about yesterday’s mistakes and certainly aren’t stressed about tomorrow’s maybes.

This is a lesson taught in many of the world’s oldest religions. Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you’re living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Dogs have mastered living in the present. Be the dog.

Enjoy the simple things.

Our fast-paced, high-tech, constant-consumption world hasn’t made us happier. Some argue that being so connected on social media makes us less happy.

You’ll never see a dog missing Facebook. They do get excited by the sound of someone at the door, though.

You don’t need social media or textual relations to be happy. Connect with the people in your life for increased happiness and deeper relationships.

Forgive easily.

Forgive yourself and others as easily as a dog loves you after it’s scolded. Anger is a cancer that eats the soul. It does no favors. It is both a great example and great relief to forgive.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope

Don’t be quick to anger.

I was angry during my manic morning run. The dogs I saw were walking with their tails in the air and sticking their noses out car windows. They were just smelling the world as happy as they could be despite all the chaos around them.

We humans would all have better mornings if we were more like our canine companions. Do yourself a favor and push away anger and focus on joy.

Smother your loved ones with love.

Dog owners know this feeling. No matter how good or bad their day is, when they walk in the door their dog couldn’t be happier to see them. Dogs practically jump on their owners with so much pent up excitement built from the time they hear the key enter the keyhole to the time their owner walks across the threshold.

Be this way with your loved ones each and every time you see them, even if you’re just passing through the kitchen for that last jelly donut. Both your days will be better.

If you adopt even one of these behaviors, you’ll be amazed at how your life improves. If you master them all, you’ll live in a dog’s paradise.

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