Lucy & Ethel & Lessons Learned

This is Lucy (right) and Ethel (left)

We adopted Lucy in April, 2015 and since every Lucy needs an Ethel, we brought home Ethel in June, 2015. It’s been a wild ride since!

Both of the girls were over 1 years old when they were adopted and we don’t know a whole lot about their lives before. We know Ethel was left chained up outside a large part of her life and that at some point she had puppies. Lucy knows the words “upstairs” and “chapstick” so we always joke that she once went upstairs and ate the chapstick. 😉

When we first brought home Ethel, she was fearful and not very trusting. As time went by, she opened up and became very confident and comfortable with us and gradually became very, very, very scared of other people. And buses. And trucks. And birds. And squirrels. And dogs. She’s 80 lbs and has a mean bark, which she uses to try to intimidate anything that scares her. It works, people back away, she’s good again.

I spent a lot of time working with her and she got better, but then it got to the point where I didn’t know how to proceed any further. We started obedience classes with both dogs a few weeks ago and it’s been really good. They both know all of their commands and we’re able to keep them under control while walking. The only thing we’re still working through is Ethel’s fear.

What in the world does this have to do with food and cooking??? I’m glad you asked 🙂

We’re at the point in Ethel’s training that we are now actively seeking out her triggers. In the past, we would turn and go the other way or cross the road when we saw someone. Now, we look for people and we practice walking next to them. Sometimes she behaves, and sometimes she doesn’t. The only way Ethel is going to learn, is to practice. The only way Ethel will advance and improve, is if she fails. When she fails, I have the opportunity to correct her, then reward her once she’s corrected. Every time I correct her, she’s learning that her behavior isn’t acceptable. She’s learning that she can’t take control of the situation. That I’m in charge. That if she behaves, she’ll be rewarded. I don’t get frustrated when she fails or feel like it’s a lost cause. I know that we need those failures in order for her to improve.

Here’s where I draw the parallels…

This week has been rough. There’s been a lot of stressful things going on and I’m at the end of my rope. Just last night, I was asking Justin, “Why can’t just one thing be easy right now? Just one thing that I can control and know is going to be fine?” With all of the things going on, cooking and meal planning has taken a back seat…actually, let’s be honest. I stuffed it in the trunk and locked it up. I haven’t had the time or the energy to work on it. We’re already over our grocery budget for the month, we ate out twice this week because I didn’t make anything. I just couldn’t. My mind was everywhere, but in the kitchen.

I’d categorize this week as a total failure. I don’t even know what I’m going to make for dinner, since everything is frozen and I have to be at work in 4 hours.

But you know what? I learned. I learned not to make an entire meal plan that consists of me having to remember to thaw and prep stuff the day before we actually eat it. I learned that I need to have some super easy things on hand that I can throw together quickly. I learned that on days that I have to close at work, I can’t expect myself to have the energy to come home and spend an hour in the kitchen. I learned that if there is something I need to do in advance, I need to put it on my calendar as a reminder.

It’s kind of like Ethel. She does good sometimes, other times she fails. But each and every time she fails, she learns. She’s learning her behavior isn’t acceptable and won’t get her what she wants. I’m learning that if my plan for the week is too big, then I’m going to fail.

Don’t be scared of failure. Failure is where you learn what not to do next time. I believe you learn more when you fail than you do when you succeed. If you don’t know what not to do, you can’t fully know what to do. If this week, month or even year has been a battle and you feel like a total failure, stop. Take some time to yourself, write down why it hasn’t worked out and what you think would work instead and make the changes one at a time. What’s going to work for you is not the same as for me or any of your other friends. We all have very different lives with very different needs and we have to learn what works for us. It’s going to take some failures to figure it out. When you fail, don’t quit. Take a short break, figure out what went wrong and try again. I promise you’ll figure it out and you’ll succeed.

Cooking is usually not a natural talent. It’s a learned skill that is slowly perfected over time. When something works, make note of it. When something doesn’t work, learn from it. Repeat, repeat, repeat.


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