Keeping It Together: 15 minute cleaning

This is the beginning of a series, probably never-ending, about how I keep our busy household functioning.


Until Isaac completes his degree, doing anything related to everything is up to me. That doesn’t mean he won’t or can’t help sometimes, but overall his schoolwork consumes all the available time in his days. Four out of the five weekdays he is in class from 9 am to 7 pm, his nights are spent doing homework, and he works on the weekends. After some trial and error I’ve put together a great way to keep my sanity and be able to have a clean and happy home.

Having a clean and tidy house is a pet peeve of mine. And when I say “pet peeve” I really mean I am neurotic about it. I’m not sure how it came into being, as I was a fairly messy teenager and young adult. Isaac, our roommate and her boyfriend can all attest to my neurotic cleanliness. So help them if they track mud on my freshly cleaned kitchen floors!

However keeping everything to my liking is time-consuming. My secret? 15 minute cleaning. I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes, decide what it is I want to clean, and hit start. It’s truly that simple.

Let me say  that one can accomplish a lot in 15 minutes. The first couple of times I did it I was astounded by what I did in the allotted time! Of course, there are things that take longer than the time frame will allow, like doing laundry or picking up dog poop (unfortunately) or cleaning out the garage. Those tasks are either done in pieces or saved for days I have more time to devote to them. My regular 15 minute cleaning tasks can include vacuuming, dusting, wiping baseboards, mopping, unloading/loading the dishwasher or finishing up non-dishwasher safe dishes, or filing papers. To clarify, I don’t do all of those things in 15 minutes! Usually just two or three can be done.

Before implementing the 15 minute clean I found myself dreading housework. After working 10 hours the last thing I want to do is spend an hour cleaning the house. But because of my need for things to be clean and organized, I had a hard time relaxing after work if things weren’t neat. (I still have a problem relaxing if things are neat.) In fact, at this moment I’m fighting some anxiety because the house needs vacuuming. Which, the house always needs due to three dogs constantly shedding their hair.

What about you? Are there any tricks you keep up your sleeve to make household chores easier?

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Wordless Wednesday: Everyone

L to R: Dio, Beatrix, and Coal.

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My Pack: Coal

In October of 2003 a neighbor of the barn I boarded my horse trekked down the driveway with a box. Inside were eight adorable black fuzzy puppies. The neighbor handed my barn owner the box of cute puppies. She gave a puzzled look to her neighbor, raising her eyebrows a bit in protest. Turns out the barn owners unaltered seven month old black lab/rottie mix had escaped the yard and had some fun with the neighbors golden retriever. Since the neighbor was in the process of breeding the golden retriever, she didn’t think anything was amiss when the dog came up pregnant. However, when the entire litter came out black the neighbor grew suspicious! My barn owner readily accepted the puppies and set to work trying to find them homes. There was one that wasn’t going to have any trouble at all…

What a tolerant boy.

Coal was a perfect puppy. You know, aside from the accidents in the house, eating any books or magazines left within reach, terrorizing the cats – typical puppy! One thing he did well was sleep (a trait he carries to this day!) the majority of the day, usually under the coffee table. He looked like a “lump of black coal” when he was passed out on the floor. We joked about it enough that eventually Coal was appropriately named for his laziness and color. I made sure to include him in everything which resulted in taking him everywhere. Soon he was extremely socialized, and so easy-going he won the hearts of everyone he met. We had all sorts of adventures and it didn’t take much for me to trust him 100%. I’d take my horse for a trail ride, letting Coal pick his way behind us, never worried he would run away, get trampled or kicked, or engage any animals we may have met on our ride.

He does prefer to be dirty.

Once I had him hanging out in the front of my dad’s house while I was trying to change the headlight of my car. Frustrated, I went back inside to seek my dad’s help. 30 minutes later I shot up from my seat on the couch and rushed outside. I had forgotten Coal was out there! Turns out he was just kickin’ it on the front porch.

He is an easy dog. He is a goofy dog. He is a tolerant dog.

Tolerant dog is tolerant.

See? Goofy. (Please excuse the furniture from my youth.)

When he was seven months old he subluxed (dislocated) both of his hips in a car accident. (Someone was so kind to try and do a U-turn in front of me when I was going 50 MPH. It didn’t end well for anyone.) Months of physical therapy seemed to to the trick, and Coal was back to normal before he was 1.5 years old. For the next several years everything was great; I met Isaac, we moved from Virginia to Colorado, adopted Dio, and explored our new state via hiking and long car rides.

Spry enough at 10 years old to pull me down the embankment to see ducks!

It was then we started noticing Coal was slowing down, which seemed premature for his six years. By this time I had started working at a vet hospital, so I took him into work to get x-rays. As it would turn out neither of his hips were in their sockets! Instead his hips had moved forward and scar tissue had created new “sockets”. (This explained the interesting hitch in Coal’s giddy-up.) There was no arthritis or other issues one would expect to find when dealing with this type of problem. In fact, Coal was so well-adjusted to his “socket” situation that it shocked all three vets who looked at him (one of which is a board certified orthopedic surgeon) that he was able to run and play like normal. Luckily, it only took joint supplements to get Coal back to his former self. We proceeded with caution when hiking or letting the dogs romp, as the orthopedic surgeons words that it was possible Coal would need a hip replacement as he aged echoed in my ears.

Turns out that isn’t really likely; Coal is now 10.5 years old and still going strong! If you were to see this dog run with his siblings and get excited about going for a walk or when it’s time to eat you’d have no clue his hips were all sorts of eff’d up. He still sleeps more than any dog I’ve known, in the most uncomfortable looking positions. Twice a year I take him into my ex-employer to run blood work, have him examined, and discuss any concerns. His eyes are slightly cloudy now, indicating cataracts, and he keeps giving himself hot spots on his tail and leg. Oh, and his muzzle, “eyebrows”, inside of his ears, between the pads of his feet, and some random places on his torso have grayed.

He doesn’t know this yet, but he’s going to live forever…

Adventuring in the Colorado National Monument Park back in 2008.

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Wordless Wednesdays: Isaac and Beatrix

Traipsing through Chatfield State Park

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Fears We Don’t Understand

Yesterday evening Isaac and I were sitting in the living room, he was doing homework and I was watching a movie. (The Rise of the Fellowship, actually. Good, geeky movie for those interested!) Suddenly Coal started trembling at the other end of the couch. Though we couldn’t hear it at first, we immediately knew what was scaring him. The smoke detector in the basement was beeping to alert the batteries were low.

For some reason, unknown to us, it terrifies Coal.

Coal came to me as a five month old puppy, he turned 10 years old last August. Nothing I am aware of has occurred to make him petrified of the beeping smoke detector. The microwave beeps, as does the oven, our morning alarms, the car alarm, even our carbon monoxide detectors when the batteries are low. These beeps get no recognition from Coal. We speculate (that’s what us dog owners like to do, you know) it is the pitch of the beep. Though it doesn’t seem to bother the other two dogs whatsoever.

Isaac rushed downstairs to remove the batteries and stop the beeping. I took Coal outside so he could escape the noise. Even outside he was shaking and panting while pacing in the yard. Once he came back inside and no longer heard the beeping he settled down quickly. Poor thing. I am hopeful the smoke detectors never start beeping when we aren’t home – I’m not sure how Coal would cope!

Has anyone else had a similar experience with a noise or object that scares your pet for an unknown (to you) reason?


Coal on a hike up Ptarmigan Trail near Buena Vista, Colorado.


**This is a BLOG HOP! (Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t quite work with them, though. But if I’m missing something, please let me know.) Anyway, the hop will be open for a week. (2/7/2014 11:59 PM North America – Eastern Standard Time) Click around and find new blogs!

From the Blog Hop host: “I want to hear all about the fun things you have done with your pets this month. Have you learned any lessons that will help you in the future? Did your pet surprise you? Add a link with your story to the tool below and brag about all of your hard work. Every entry has a chance to win a $25 donation to your favourite pet charity and a prize pack for you and your dog!”**

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My Pack: Dio


In May of 2008 Isaac and I adopted an adorable five month old border collie/mini Australian shepherd mix with a crazy poof of hair on top of his head from Denver Dumb Friends League. He was adorable. We took to calling him Dio, after Ronnie James Dio from Black Sabbath, due to his “rock star” mop of hair on his head. He quickly picked up the nicknames Dio Rio and The D.

Dio had a lot of reactivity issues when we first adopted him. In fact, for the first six months he was with us he was pretty detached. Not to say he wasn’t kinda friendly or feeling somewhat comfortable in his new home, it was just obvious the first five months of life weren’t too great.

Putting the dishes away made him run upstairs and hide.

Any person that visited the house was reason to sit at the top of the stairs and bark incessantly until they left.

Most of the time he was hiding under our bed.

Going out the door was terrifying for him.

Oh, the door… Dio would stand in the doorway – peering outside or in, whichever way we were going – and with a great weariness he would carefully walk through. When I say “carefully” I mean TIP TOE. If there was any unexpected noise or movement Dio would fly backward and hide. Shortly after we adopted him we noticed his tail was shorter than it appeared, had a “hook” shape to it. We concluded it was slammed in a door. It took incredible patience to let him figure out the door for himself. We’d stand stock still and wait. Once Dio made it through it would rain delicious treats, and he’d somewhat enthusiastically eat them up, all the while keeping a very close on the door – JUST IN CASE.

It broke my heart to see him so worried constantly.


He had been with us for roughly six months and I noticed he curled up next to me on the couch. (Dio has a way of sidling up next to you without you ever noticing. He is a sneaky dog.)  I stroked his head and he groaned in a relaxed, blissful way. It was a sudden and welcome change from the dog who was okay to share the room with you, but from a safe distance. Flash forward to the present and Dio is a snuggly and affectionate dog! There wasn’t a magic cure, we just let Dio be himself. It took almost a year for him to relax!

It was then we noticed how outgoing he became on our hikes. Dio bounded happily off to sniff and sniff, or waded into a stream or lake, or used every drop of pee he had to mark everything possible. In contrast, the old Dio would have walked behind us, uninterested in his surroundings, all the while keeping his ears cocked for something scary.

Isaac and I already had Coal when we adopted Dio. The two of them became fast friends, and I do think Coal’s easy-going attitude helped Dio adjust. They snuggled, played chase (well, Coal wanted to play chase, but Dio would either bite his hind legs or keep him in a circle. Can’t blame him, he’s a herding dog and all.) Worried that Coal was aging quickly we decided to adopt another dog. Isaac had witnessed how distraught Dio became when Coal wasn’t home. We figured the sooner the better, so all the dogs could become well-adjusted and bond. In April of 2012 we adopted Beatrix from the same shelter, but things didn’t start on the right foot. Did the meet ‘n great with all three dogs without issue (However, see Mandatory Introductions at Shelters by Patricia McConnell as to why they don’t always work.), but once we got home the dynamic changed drastically.

Dio and Beatrix started vying for the position of head dog. There were gnashing teeth, and a couple of trips to the vet (where I luckily worked at the time) for wound care. It didn’t help that Dio was half the size of Beatrix, either. Dio was showing signs of being stressed, and he spent a lot of time under our bed. This is the point where I started reading every and all things regarding +R, aggression, reactivity, and fear in dogs. Thankfully Isaac and I were able to get the situation under control and start working with both Dio and Beatrix to solve their differences. Today things are much smoother and predictable, which might be because I know so much more about dog behavior than I did two years ago.

But I felt guilty for a long time.

Really guilty.I disrupted Dio’s life, and stressed Bea out in an already stressful adjustment period at her new home. In hind sight I couldn’t imagine NOT having Beatrix. She is an absolute delight most of the time. She and Dio have started to re-kindle their friendship, and I often see them playing, snuggling, and sharing the water bowl together.


Playing appropriately together.


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Wordless Wednesday: Coal


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My Pack: Beatrix

Let’s talk about dogs!

There are three, Coal, Dio, and Beatrix. I love them all madly, but sometimes wonder what I was thinking when the idea of owning three dogs seemed like a good one. Their relationship is complicated, and two (Dio and Beatrix) of them haven’t been the best of friends. Each is a good, yet difficult in their own ways. They are my world, and I will do everything I can for them – always.

When Isaac and I adopted Beatrix, a Carolina Dog (also known as an American Dingo), from Denver Dumb Friends League almost two years ago the Terrible Trio, as I like to call them, had a few scuffles as they adjusted. Things settled quickly, but not without revealing Bea had a resource guarding issue. We also found out she had barrier aggression, and loves to chase squirrels, rabbits, cats that have unfortunately wondered into our backyard, birds, leaves, you get the idea… We changed how we dealt with the Trio, made sure no toys or treats or chewies were available to the dogs if we were not actively watching them. In February of 2013 we discovered Bea had the springy legs of a gazelle and could leap trains in a single bound. After several fence jumping escapades, one of which ended up with Beatrix in our neighbors house after following a cat inside, she was no longer allowed to go outside by herself.


Bea’s first night in our home. Please ignore Isaac’s Wooly Willy beard.

Do you know owning a dog is like having a hairy three year old child who will never grow out of the toddler stage? I didn’t always know either. At least a toddler doesn’t poop on the floor only to have its brother eat it. Well, maybe that has happen but I hope not!

So why not combine several very ingrained, complicated issues into one dog, right? What exactly do you do with a dog that has attacked another dog in the same house (due to redirected frustration) four times? Sit on the floor and sob. Feel your heart break because you love her, and the other dogs, and you desperately want to fix the problems but you don’t know where to start.


Bea and Coal tugging it out.

The road hasn’t been easy, but it’s better than it was in the beginning. I can contribute my love of dog behavior and knowledge of positive reinforcement (+R) training methods to Beatrix. If she hadn’t come into my life I’d still be in the dark about how dogs minds work. (Disclaimer: My knowledge also involves a huge learning curve; I am in no way a trainer or even doing things right sometimes. Books, blogs, YouTube videos, and a handful of amazing dog owning friends have shown me the light!) What I have learned has transferred over to how I interact with and train my horse, too. Hell, it’s even helpful with humans!

Let me stop here and say that Bea is actually a good dog. She is easy to work with and quick to pick up on what we’re asking of her. Last summer she accompanied Isaac and I to the farmer’s market each weekend and navigated the crowds of people and dogs without even batting an eye. Each trip we’d stop for a coffee and sit on the patio to chat. Bea would lay down at our feet and quietly watch the traffic from the market. At home Dio and Coal will bark at random noises and rush to the back door, but Bea will come and sit by my feet.

It took almost six months of steady work and patience to get where we are today with Beatrix, and we’re still not even close. Reactivity issues are hard to work through. There were nights I was driving home from work and loathed the idea of having to go stand outside while she went potty when I got home, because it could take five minutes or 30 to come back inside. (She would just stand and stare at you.) Part of +R is letting the dog make the right choice, but you can’t always help them get there – especially when the point of the training is getting them to make the right choice! Image

I didn’t go into too much depth here about Bea’s training journey, but I will in future entries. As will Coal and Dio’s stories. Right now this tired body is going to finish watching Dr. Who and then go to sleep!

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The Man I Married

Lately the days with my husband are spent together watching bad movies or walking our dogs, and are generally lazy. Winter weather in Colorado can be a bear, but we’re able to occasionally hit the trail for a hike with the dogs, or head up to the mountains to visit family. However! This Wednesday everything will be turned on its head as Isaac starts his junior year at Colorado School of Mines, where he’s diligently chipping away at a degree in environmental engineering. If I were a proper wife I’d say it was my pleasure to pick up the slack when school was in session because he’s working hard towards a better future for us. True, and I absolutely appreciate his dedication! But I’m not exactly proper, and honestly I dread the start of the semester.

Seriously Serious!

Life will become the familiar mess of finding time to keep up with all of the things adults must do since Isaac will be engrossed in math problems that give me an instant migraine. Everything else that may need doing falls to me.

Which, okay, fair enough right? He’s buried in homework from six classes and all I have to do is work 40 hours and keep the house clean! Shut up, Miranda, life isn’t so bad! No, it’s not bad at all, just busy. Luckily for me, I like to keep an every evolving schedule of who needs to be where or what needs to be done. I will be happily sharing my Keep It Together methods here, as I have an undying love of being ridiculously organized. (Also, let’s get the fact that I am meticulously and neurotically clean out of the way right now, and that laundry is my least favorite chore next to washing the dishes.)

In the non-Isaac department are animals. We have three dogs, two of which have some, er, issues with each other that are tediously being worked out. Then there is my four year old Arab gelding, who I have recently started under saddle in dressage. (We also have some fish, but they aren’t very exciting.) I am into photography, but am still learning and experimenting. Same can be said for DIY and crafty type projects, though somehow I ended up being decent at that without really trying. I chalk that up to beginners luck.

After spending a bit of time trying to decide where this blog “fits in”, I gave up. Dogs? Horses? Family? DIY? Photography? It’s going to be all of those things plus whatever else comes my way. You know, because that’s how life rolls.

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